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The strength of Scotland’s burgeoning data science community is presenting the country with the opportunity to be a global leader, according to the owner of a consultancy specialising in the sector.

Michael Young, Chief Executive of MBN Solutions, has borne witness to a rapid acceleration in the industry. Just two years ago 90 per cent of the company’s business was outside Scotland, and that is now split 50/50.

This has helped the company grow revenue 25% in each of the last three years.

And Mr Young said the technical revolution which is putting data at the core of every business strategy will only accelerate further as smaller, more agile companies make inroads.

“If businesses aren’t utilising their data and bringing the right people on board to help them make key businesses decisions, they will be left behind,” he said.

“Start-ups are challenging established companies and there has been a massive surge of these companies who are using data and tech to go to market and scale rapidly.”

MBN Solutions was formed by Mr Young in 2007 as a recruitment business, but later dropped the word “recruitment” from the name in response to the way the company had adapted to the dynamics of the data market. He cites collaborations with government agency DataLab and academia as a key aspects of the business.

“We have been working with Scottish Enterprise, speaking to inward investment businesses all across London and Europe because they want to utilise the talent that is here in Scotland,” he said.

Mr Young highlighted that of the 24 data science MSc courses in the UK, 14 of them are in Scotland, and he called on closer ties between academia and companies focusing on data.

“For years there was a lot of people going through these courses in Scotland but would have had to move out of Scotland for employment,” he said.

Now, the success of the courses is making Scotland a target for global businesses seeking European bases.

These companies will gather in Edinburgh next week for DataFest, an event running from March 19 to 23.

Mr Young said: “People I met last year [at DataFest] are coming from places like San Francisco and opening offices in Scotland. They see the collaborations with universities and the infrastructure. They can get people to build and scale their business here.”

And he said that while he always believed data would become a fast-growth area, the acceleration has been something to behold.

MBN employs 25 staff, with the core in Glasgow, and expanding its current presence in London is another priority. “I think we need a physical presence there,” he said.

“We’re looking to scale up in London, relocate a couple of people from Glasgow. It’s a priority for us in 2018. We’re building in Scotland nicely. The business is there, we just have to ensure we’re ready.”

 

First seen in the Herald Scotland

By Kevin Scott