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The business sector that could blow Britain's NHS and defence budget

Andy Moore
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In Scotland, there is an equally carnivorous data appetite. (Source: Getty)

Hungry? Why not dine out on Big Data? Go on, you know you want to...

And if the first byte is not enough, just go straight to the main course. But be warned: it may give you indigestion.

The biggest claim on the Big Data menu is that it will be worth £322 billion to the UK by 2020, along with its tasty side-dish, The Internet of Things (IoT). Yum.

Adding a touch of spice to this jaw-dropping data feast is that its combined sector value to the UK economy could be more than double the NHS, Education and Defence budget. Combined.

One key company in the data entree is Ecometrica, which provides a comprehensive software platform for corporate sustainability and data management. It recently won a £14.2 million contract to deliver Forests 2020. This is a project to help protect and restore up to 300 million hectares of tropical forest by improving forest monitoring across six partner countries through the advanced use of satellite data.

Another inward investor that’s doing innovative work in this area is Spire Global. This American satellite-powered data company has a UK base where staff work on products for global ship tracking and high frequency weather data. Its data offers deep insights into parts of the world where collecting data is notoriously difficult.

Up to £20 billion in UK economic benefits

In Scotland, data has an equally carnivorous appetite, keeping those across industry, academia and partners resplendently-fed and watered. It is expected to feed the economy with up to £20 billion in economic benefits, according to David Smith, sector director for technical and engineering at Scottish Enterprise.

With Scotland’s universities running 41% of the UK’s data science master’s courses, over 3,000 students graduate each year in a computing and informatics discipline, with over 150 companies focusing on delivering value from data

Data turnover for businesses in Scotland is around £1 billion

The turnover of businesses from data is around £1 billion, employing around 5,550 people in data-related activities. David Smith enthuses:

“We have started to see a real upsurge in the number of digital-based firms, and a number of businesses have grown focusing on data and extracting value from data, or building platforms to manipulate data.”

“We estimate that over the next five years there is potential to get anywhere within the region of multi billion of benefits for the economy from the use of data across different sectors.”


Gathering data from the skies

More food for thought: Glasgow has built more satellites than any other city in Europe in the past two years, demonstrating Scotland’s expertise in small satellite systems (smallsats) and the data that you can get from them. It’s estimated that more than 250 small sats will be launched into space in 2017 – four times the number of all other satellites combined.

#DataChangesEverything…like a good feed

Capitalising on the UK's data sector potential and the work of these pioneering companies, this week’s DataFest17 promises a ‘feast of data innovation’, co-organised by Sainsbury’s Bank, Scottish Enterprise, The Data Lab and Innovation Centres.

The event provides opportunities to learn from renowned international speakers and access case studies, as well as the chance to network with local and international talent, industry and academia.

Discover how we support data science.

Bon Appetit!

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