The AI Accelerator is delivered by The University of Edinburgh’s world-leading innovation hub for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence, the Bayes Centre, as part of the Bayes Centre DDE Innovation and Edinburgh Innovations, the University of Edinburgh’s commercialisation service. It gives data-driven scaleups the opportunity to harness the power of AI and bring about transformative change. From AgriTech to FinTech, AI technology can bring efficiencies, create new propositions and disrupt markets. It can help save lives and the planet.
AI-focused entrepreneurs and businesses scaling up from across the UK and the world can apply to take part in this 6-month Accelerator to benefit from the expertise and talent on offer in Edinburgh. You do not need to be linked to the University of Edinburgh or based in the UK, but you will of course have an interest in engaging with the AI and data ecosystem in Scotland. The next AI Accelerator programme will be focused around 3 key themes:
Applications are now closed, register your interest here for future activities
Who can apply? Tackling climate change spans every industry. You could be using AI to solve waste management issues or improve energy efficiency. You could be in transport, in agriculture or financial services. What’s important is that your product or service has a clearly demonstrable use in addressing the climate emergency.
How can we help? All the Data-Driven Innovation hubs have their own focus on different aspects of climate change and on the technologies that can be leveraged to help. For example, the Space Innovation Hub is core to the Bayes Centre. The Roslin Innovation Centre have a focus on addressing food security. Linking the hubs across the University is the Edinburgh Earth Initiative, which supports University collaboration and co-ordination to manage and mitigate the effects of climate change and can support linking into expertise across the institution.
How have we helped other ClimateTechs? To find out how our programme has helped other AI driven ClimateTechs see here.
Who can apply? From enabling drug discovery to improving the quality of life for an ageing population, there are many ways in which data-driven innovation can support the health of the world’s population. Companies applying under this theme could be working in areas from medical devices to health education. If your offering is designed to have a positive health impact, we’d like to hear from you.
How can we help? The University’s Usher Institute aims to transform health in society. Bringing new healthcare products to the market is difficult with complex regulations and a long sales cycle. Along with the main programme of activity, we will engage with mentors and run sessions to help with your industry specific challenges.
Who can apply? This cross-cutting theme aims to support companies who are using AI technology for societal benefit. Your solution could be aimed at improving the ethics of automated decision making, it could be designed to reduce inequalities in access to education or money or it might be helping people in a humanitarian crisis.
How can we help? The Edinburgh Futures Institute is home to the Centre for Technomoral Futures and the Centre for Data, Culture and Society. Whether you’re a socially focused fintech or about widening access to creative industries, you’re likely to find like-minded people in EFI.
Q: Do applicants need to be focussed on any particular sector, technologies or applications of AI?
A: We are interested in a variety of sectors, especially in companies who are purpose driven. Applicants do need to fit into the three thematic areas, however these themes are broad. You must already be using AI at some level but you could be looking to use the accelerator to further develop the AI element of your product, or more likely, you could already be strong in the AI elements and looking for support on the entrepreneurial and commercial side.
Q: Will the AI Accelerator programme develop AI for me?
A: No. You will definitely be introduced to people and opportunities which could help develop your AI, but this is a more holistic business development programme. Some of our activities are relevant to all scaling business (eg. leading a team, funding strategy), some more specific to AI driven companies (eg. MLOps, AI regulatory landscape).
Q: What are the criteria for company size and stage?
A: We are looking for scaleups, so you will need to be an incorporated company, ideally post-revenue having already attracted some funding and with fully dedicated founders. However there are no hard limits here; bootstrappers and pre-revenue companies are also welcome to apply, and may be selected if they can demonstrate growth potential.
Q: Are there any restrictions on international applicants?
A: We are keen to welcome applications from international businesses who are interested in engaging with Scotland. You must be aware that workshops and meetings will run on UK time. Some sessions will be face to face and you will be expected to attend in person. For certain sessions, we will attempt to make provision for people who are unable to attend in person, but this will not always be possible.
Q: What will the selection process look like?
A: Fill in the application form online. After applications close, we will invite shortlisted companies to a selection panel in June (12th or 13th TBC), where you will pitch your business for inclusion in the programme. There may also be a follow-up interview. We plan to let applicants know the outcome around the end of June.
Q: Can I save and return to the application?
A: Unfortunately not. However you can download the questions and get everything ready offline.
Q: How long will it take to complicate the application form?
A: Many of the questions will relate to information which you will already have, however we recommend you give yourself at least an hour to an hour and half to complete to give yourself the best chance of success.
Q: What is the split of face to face and online activity?
A: We expect to adopt a hybrid approach, with some activities being run online only and some face to face only. We will design the programme to have F2F weeks and online weeks, so that people who are travelling can maximise the value of their travel and we expect to have around 10 F2F weeks over 6 month period. Activities will be a mixture of workshops, 1-1s with mentors and coaches and informal sessions with the rest of the cohort. We also expect to have two trips to London.
Q: How many companies are you looking for?
A: We can take up to 12 companies.
Q: What time commitment is needed?
A: Activities will normally run on a Wednesday and Thursday, although occasionally on different days. We expect founders to be able to commit around 5-6 hours per week, although this time doesn’t always need to come from the same person. We will take 2-3 weeks off at Christmas-time and plan to have a one or two rest weeks.
Q: How does the free office space work? And what are the other benefits of access the Bayes Centre?
A: We will provide companies taking part with free access to bookable hot desks and meeting spaces within the Bayes Centre. This will provided for the duration of the programme and potentially for an additional 6 months after. Note, depending on how big your team is, we may not be able to provide a desk for everyone, so you may need to prioritise based on who will be taking part in accelerator activities.
The Bayes Centre also has regular community events which you will have access to. There are around 35 different organisations resident in Bayes Centre as well as more itinerant population such as AI Accelerator participants and alumni, PhD students and academics. All are focused on data science and AI, so the community events are a great opportunity for networking.
Q: What role do partners and supporters have in the accelerator programme?
A: NileHQ are a long-term strategic delivery partner. They will deliver workshops and provide mentorship on a range of design topics such as UX or storytelling. Much of this engagement will be bespoke based on participant’s needs. Many companies participating in previous AI Accelerator programme have benefited hugely from working with Nile.
As well as using professional trainers, mentors and consultants we also get adhoc support from a range of other corporates, smaller companies and individuals, whether it's delivering a session, taking part in 1-1s or engaging in a fireside chat.
Huawei UK are also supporting the AI Accelerator again. There are many potential opportunities depending on your business – from accessing tech to providing a testbed for your product. And if you want to practice your pitch to a large corporate, they don’t get much bigger!
Keen to participate in the next round or want to learn more about the AI Accelerator programme, please get in touch.
Delighted to partner again with the Nile HQ team. A multi-talented strategic design consultancy, HQ'd in Scotland, distributed worldwide. They solve problems worth solving.
Huawei is a leading international tech company and one of the world’s biggest investors in R&D. Huawei UK is proud to be supporting the AI accelerator for the first time.