Call us on:  01933 510 022 
5 Min Read

Blog: Innovation Cities: Edinburgh

As the capital of Scotland, you would expect Edinburgh to be a central hub for UK innovation. And it’s exactly that. A few years ago in 2016, the city cemented itself as a great location for starting businesses and supporting industry when it won the British Entrepreneurial City of the Year Award. This only added to its credentials, as it was already known to be the second biggest UK financial centre and has one of the best research universities in the UK. So good that 83% of Edinburgh University’s research is recognised as world leading, exploring areas including data science, cyber security, financial technology and stem cell research.

Edinburgh has also created a long history of very successful business start-ups including Skyscanner and Fanduel – both of which are now considered to be two of the 152 unicorns in the world.

Key Industries


TechNation’s 2018 report proved Edinburgh is fast becoming a UK tech powerhouse. The reporting finding digital jobs in Edinburgh have increased over 3 times the UK average between 2014- 2017, pushing the number of digital tech jobs in the city to 38,414. And with 88 Edinburgh tech meet up groups as of March 2018 with over 23,571 members, this could increase even further. Most of these groups can be categorized as software development (42%) or data science & analytics (19%). 9% of these groups also have widely open membership, meaning easy access to expert information from within high level industries.

TechNation’s report also highlights some key challenges preventing the tech industry from developing further in Edinburgh:

  • Access to funding
  • Access to talent
  • Lack of awareness of local tech community

Luckily for Edinburgh these challenges are generally perceived to be the obstacles for the UK’s tech industry, so they are not alone in trying to overcome them. There are various local and national initiatives being put in place and developed which will help tech businesses thrive in Edinburgh.

CodeClan is the UK’s first digital skills academy, and is looking to give Edinburgh a workforce with the necessary skills to be able to support an increasingly digitalised economy. The academy has backing from The Scottish Government, ScotlandIS and Skills Development Scotland. The qualifications being studied towards at the academy are now widely recognised and held in high regard by potential employers. CodeClan’s mission is similar to that of Edinburgh University, which has set itself the enthusiastic target of training 100,000 data scientists over the next ten years who will then have the skills applicable to the region’s other major industries, both public and private sector.

Life Sciences

Being home to more than 2000 researchers in various life science fields, Edinburgh has placed itself among the top areas of the UK for researching stem cells, precision medicine and translational medicine among others. Support for the industry comes from the triple helix model implemented in Edinburgh, in which the public, private and academic sectors all join forces and collaborate on the world leading research projects.

A large proportion of the researchers (more than 600) make up the Easter Bush Research Consortium which focuses on health research for both humans and animals by bringing together a co-ordinated commitment to research and research training. The consortium is well known around the world in science groups but in common culture too; being home to the first ever mammal cloned from an adult somatic cell. You will have heard of her as Dolly the sheep. Dolly lived for 6 and a half years, highlighting the potential success of cloning programs around the globe and inspiring others to begin cloning pigs, deer and horses.


Edinburgh’s reputation as an emerging technology cluster, combined with the city’s thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem and experience in financial services, mean the city looks set to become one of the world’s top ten fintech hubs. This ambition is well supported by early stage funding which has brought together and supported industry strengths in data science, digital security, cyber identity and data compliance.

Fintech Scotland has been set up as an organisation looking to help Scotland develop and energise fintech innovation. With a wealth of knowledge in the organisation from schools, universities, fintech start-ups, investors and incubators, connections are regularly made which create a strong knowledge pipeline through the local industry.

A perfect example of how fintech has the capability to grow in Edinburgh is the company Sharein Limited, which in just a few years has a revenue of just over £700,000 – triple what it was the previous year. Giving good evidence that it will be able to achieve the new target of £3million turnover by 2020. The business acts as a tech and regulatory solution for investing online, walking users through the whole investment process. It is not alone in its success however, with other promising fintech companies popping up all over Edinburgh, supported by incubators like Codebase, the largest tech incubator in the UK.

Innovation support

The Data Lab

The Data Lab is a dedicated innovation centre which seeks to unlock the full potential of data analytics in not only Edinburgh, but in Glasgow and Aberdeen as well. Activities at the centre span across three key areas: collaborative innovation, skills & talent and community building. Researchers at The Data Lab can often be found building partnerships with public sector and academic organisations to fulfil these key areas in research projects being carried out. These projects often last between 3 and 12 months, but vary greatly in size and impact depending on the topic being studied.

The applicability of being skilled in data analytics is really demonstrated to a high level at the lab. Research projects span across a wide variety of industries, helping improve efficiency and mapping out the current market environment. Case studies include development of the Ecometrica water footprint mapping application, which can be used to offer commercial clients an easy way of determining the level of hydration their crops receive. And Brainwave, which was established in 2015 and is an online data discovery which specialises in geospatial data that aims to decrease the time and resources used in solving organisational challenges.

The Data Lab looks at positively effecting the local community through its development support projects. And in June this year it is working alongside UNICEF UK to hold a workshop which focuses on childhood obesity and the challenges being faced by Scottish children. It will use obesity research in childhood to understand how effective it is in helping reduce the problem and where improvements can be made to help the overall situation.

Edinburgh bioQuarter

There are over 7,000 staff employed across Edinburgh bioQuarter, a leading health and science campus for forward thinking businesses of all ages and development stages. The highly collaborative environment has investment support by Scottish Development International and Scottish Enterprise. And see’s the industry work closely alongside academia and the NHS, collaborating and improving overall patient care and treatment methods which are implemented in NHS facilities all over the UK.

The campus’s stem cell researchers recently had a huge professional win when they partnered with doctors to investigate different methods of stem cell to repair body tissue for the liver, lungs and joints.  The project has £4million behind it and using the findings, researchers will have the ability to design new therapies that mimic the human body, ultimately stimulating repair mechanisms in damaged tissues.

In the next few years the campus will see some big changes and investment.  In 2018 the Royal Hospital for children and young people and Department of Clinical Neurosciences started opening after it’s £150million investment.


CodeBase is the UK’s largest tech incubator and sits at the very heart of Edinburgh’s tech market, allowing it to become home to more than 100 tech companies who have raised well over half a billion pounds in investment. The spaces provided are designed and set up with tech start-ups in mind, meaning they provide the perfect environment to inspire ambitious entrepreneurs. They even have the capability of accommodating between 2 and 100 employees, ready for potential start-up growth over time.

The tech incubator aims to go the extra mile for the businesses and entrepreneurs it is home to. Not only providing space, but also offering the best practitioner-led peer support network in the UK and the possibility of investment from important UK investment businesses and organisations.

Barclays and CodeBase recently teamed up to launch Scotland first Eagle Lab, housed in CodeBase’s Edinburgh location. It looks to combine the Eagle Lab modelith CodeBase’s incubator experience. The facility will provide rapid prototyping of hardware and IOT products meaning the new start-ups will be able to implement to their hardware changes as quickly as they can with their software developments.

SkyScanner Ltd

With over 60million people using SkyScanner every month, it is more than likely that you have used it in some way to book a flight or holiday. Formed in 2003 by Gareth Williams, Barry Smith and Bonamy Grimes, the search engine was initially William’s idea when in 2001 he grew frustrated whilst trying to compare prices for skiing holidays. After partnering with Smith and Grimes the three produced a simple spreadsheet which has now developed and grown into an unbiased and sophisticated search engine which compares thousands of flights, hotels, holidays and car rental prices.

The growth of SkyScanner has been so astronomical that today the business operates from 10 offices around the world, employing over 900 staff and have established partnerships with 1200 global partners. This attracted attention of large conglomerates and as a result it was bought by Chinese tourism group Ctrip for just over £1.4billion in November 2016. Even though they have been bought by a company from outside the UK, it is clear that SkyScanner wants to stay true to its origins in Edinburgh and Gareth Williams still has a place in the company as Chair.

Edinburgh’s future

The University of Edinburgh regularly holds events to promote future innovation in the area. One of these is the Future Innovation Showcase, which looks at low carbon technologies and how they will impact our future. It features electric vehicles, e-bikes and other start up industry innovations from local entrepreneurs and student led initiatives.

The £50 million Centre for Tissue Repair is scheduled to be opened in 2020. An investment which hopes to increase the number of stem cell scientists in Edinburgh by both educating new researchers and attracting experienced and established industry names. It does so with the aim of becoming one of the largest stem cell research concentrations across the globe.

Whilst the University of Edinburgh regularly makes headlines for innovation, the city’s other university, Edinburgh Napier, is now joining in with its support for Innovation. The university recently created its first innovation prize, called the Bright Red Sparks competition where winners will receive a share of £12,000 prize money and £17,000 worth of legal support.

Heriot-Watt will also be opening its state of the art Discovery and Innovation Centre in 2019. The building will become the Universities flagship building and is described as a discovery laboratory, with the goal of being “a world-leading institution that harnesses creativity”.

MPA in Edinburgh

Reminova’s Dr Chris Longbottom, Professor Nigel Pitts and Dr Jeff Wright


MPA client, Reminova Ltd, is located in Edinburgh. Founded by a group of dentists with decades of experience, they started work to render “drill-and-fill” dentistry a thing of the past, developing a revolutionary new remineralisation treatment which reverses the damage caused by enamel decay and repairs the enamel. Effectively restoring the tooth.

Reminova was formed in 2014 and has grown steadily ever since. Given the ambitious nature of what we are trying to achieve, the team did not have time to investigate the detailed regulations around the R&D Tax Credit scheme. We benefitted from grant funding early on in this project, which complicated our claim and caused us to seek support from MPA.
Their team are well versed in the rules set by HMRC around R&D claims, as well as tax laws and patent box, so they were able to understand what we are trying to do, and how this could be applied to the R&D tax credit scheme. They have been of great assistance in securing us this funding, which will help us in reaching our goals.

Dr Jeff Wright CEO at Reminova

The availability of grants and funding options for companies such as Reminova allows them to continue researching and developing the technologies crucial to make their ideas a reality, which in this case could play a significant part in advancing the dental industry globally.

For more information on how you can fund your next innovation, get in touch.