Wayra UK, The University of Edinburgh’s Data-Driven Innovation Initiative, Scottish Enterprise and Cisco
Can Do Collective speak with Charlotte Waugh, Enterprise and Innovation Programme Lead for Edinburgh Innovations (The University of Edinburgh) to find out more about why collective impact was so important for the success of the AI & Blockchain Accelerator.
Based at the Bayes Centre, The AI & Blockchain Accelerator is a collaboration between Wayra UK, Telefónica’s open innovation arm and the University of Edinburgh’s Data-Driven Innovation (DDI) Programme. It is also supported by Scottish Enterprise and sponsored by Cisco.
Launched in October 2018 and headquartered in the Bayes Centre, The AI & Blockchain Accelerator is run in partnership with The University of Edinburgh (UoE) and Wayra, combining the technical & research expertise of UoE and Wayra’s commercial connectedness to London’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. The programme is also supported by Scottish Enterprise who offer Scotland wide businesses support.
The accelerator selects 10 companies per cohort, which range in their maturity from early-stage angel investment to securing initial seed investment. Through a combination of technical expertise and commercial mentorship and introductions, the 6-month programme works with successful candidates to articulate their fundamental proposition and strengthen their business foundations, develop and communicate their core product or service to a range of business audiences, facilitate introductions to companies and investors and provide access to University digital talent.
Throughout the programme, start-ups have benefited from access to a series of high-profile visitors and workshops, including Brock Pierce, who is credited as a digital currency pioneer and has raised over $5B for crypto and blockchain companies. Pierce is also the Chairman of the Bitcoin Foundation and Co-Founder of EOS Alliance, Block.one, Blockchain Capital, Tether and Mastercoin.
Each of the participants on the programme receives desk space for 2-3 employees, a £7,500 stipend to cover travel costs and direct engagement with Telefónica’s networks through Wayra, resulting in new contacts, new avenues for investment, world-class expertise, access to data talent and international reach. In addition to this, they also benefit from the infrastructure offered through their placement at Bayes which hosts the Data-lab and the EPCC Supercomputer. Startups also benefit from direct access to other AI and Blockchain focused companies operating from Bayes as well as accessing academic sector expertise in AI and Blockchain
The Accelerator launched with a mission to make the UK and Edinburgh the “go-to” place for new AI and or Blockchain businesses with high growth potential. To date, 30 start-ups have been accelerated through the programme.
The impact is measured by assessing each start-up when they join the accelerator, conducting a review half-way through and then a full assessment at the end. The first cohort (October 2018 – April 2019) attracted £3.3m worth of investment while participating on the programme and following the accelerator, the 10 start-ups went on to raise a combined investment of £8.9m to date (50% of their overall funding targets). During the programme the participating companies also generated £2.2m worth of revenue and combined, they currently employ 69 people.
The University of Edinburgh is number one in the world for machine learning research, so this collaboration provides an invaluable opportunity for Edinburgh to continue innovating and building on its reputation in this space. Following participation from several EU applicants in cohort one, it is hoped that the programme will go on to attract global talent from across the globe, which will further result in job creation and increased positive recognition for Scotland as a country, and for our Universities innovating in the tech space.
Many of the startups are also driven towards finding solutions that are either business or society focused. Successful businesses supported to date include a technology-driven approach to dementia and a mental health app, connecting those in need with the most appropriate resources. The Accelerator also affords many participating startups with the opportunity to scale their companies much quicker and demonstrate what they can give back to Scotland and beyond.
Sagecity (Cohort 2) commented,
“We’ve really enjoyed the Programme and met some great people and
made friends for life within the cohort, Charlotte and Fabrizio have been good and pushing for the best for us the whole time.”
NetOp (Cohort 2) commented,
“Wayra accelerates all the challenges you are facing as a startup in a small period of time. So it steepens the learning curve and gives you the experience and the tools to overcome them.”
“Great experience that has helped shape Travamigos, we wouldn’t be in the same position without all the help from Wayra.”
About Bayes Centre
The Bayes Centre is the University of Edinburgh’s innovation hub for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence. Located on Potterrow at the heart of the University’s Central campus, it encompasses a community of over four hundred scientists, PhD students, industry experts and innovation support professionals, working together across disciplines and sectors to advance data technology and apply it to real-world applications.
With over 30 organisations who share the award-winning £40m building as a base, it also acts as a one-stop-shop for technical data science and AI expertise facilitating data-driven innovation by partnering with a wide range of private and public collaborating organisations.
Bayes is part of the Data-Driven Innovation (DDI) Programme within the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal and collaborates closely with other DDI hubs across Edinburgh.
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About Edinburgh Innovations
Edinburgh Innovations helps commercial organisations to build innovative ideas using the right technologies, expertise and facilities at the University. For students and staff, they lead the University’s activities in industry engagement and business development, enterprise support and the identification, management and commercialisation of University intellectual property. They seek opportunities, build partnerships for mutual benefit, make the journey easy, and add value at every stage.
Edinburgh Innovations sustainability statement: Edinburgh Innovations is committed to contributing to social responsibility and sustainability at the University of Edinburgh. This includes supporting the University’s Climate Strategy through our working practices. We are participating in the University’s Sustainably Awards programme. We are currently working towards a Silver Award. The Climate Strategy commits the University to become zero carbon by 2040.