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Data Saves Lives

Imagine being able to predict which residents of sheltered housing are at increased risk of a fall or being able to plan ahead for needs of tourists arriving in Scotland’s great cities.

I’m very lucky in that I get to meet some fantastic people doing some truly amazing things to turn knowledge into changes in our world. The team at DataLab are definitely fantastic people and every time our paths cross I hear more exciting things like the examples I’ve just given.

DataLab is one of eight Innovation Centres which the Scottish Funding Council is funding as part of a £124 million investment in partnership with Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise. They bring together the best academic minds with the people and businesses at the forefront of key industries to help turn ideas and knowledge into jobs and benefits for us all.

Dr Stuart Fancey, Director of Research and Innovation, Scottish Funding CouncilIndividually they’re already doing remarkable work, but it gets really interesting and brimming with potential when they work together. We have a live example to share in this blog.

We are beginning to see some of the huge benefits to society from the work of the Innovation Centres involved in medical and health-related areas – the Digital Health and Care Institute (DHI) and Stratified Medicine Scotland (SMS).

Scotland’s a world-leader in medical research but our challenges are huge if we are to continue to offer the best treatment at an affordable national scale – to do this we need to think big and we need to work together. That’s why it’s really exciting that DHI and SMS are working with the DataLab to tackle one of the most important health challenges of our time – caring for people with cancer.

Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Catherine Calderwood, launched the Cancer Innovation Challenge at DataFest17 in Edinburgh in March. DataFest is an event which attracts an impressive international audience, showcasing Scotland’s world class data science capabilities. Data science is becoming an industry that’s predicted to contribute £20 billion to Scotland’s economy by 2020.

The data-centred Cancer Innovation Challenge project aims to help Scotland become a world leading carer for people with cancer by bringing together academia, the Innovation Centres, businesses and NHS practitioners to use data to develop solutions to current challenges in cancer prevention, diagnosis and care.

A patient’s cancer journey leaves a “data trail” from diagnosis, to treatment, to recovery. The Cancer Innovation Challenge aims to help the NHS in Scotland use this data to refine diagnosis, select treatments and improve the experience for patients.

It’s interesting that our perception of data is often of numbers, figures, charts – but there’s data too in people’s experiences and I’m really pleased to see that, as part of this project, patients will be able to record their experiences and this information will be fed into NHS systems to improve care for other patients.

SFC encourages collaboration to gain the very best advantage for the country – we are particularly proud of our university research pools, for example. The Innovation Centres bring together academic, business and industry expertise in the right conditions to really excel. I believe that collaboration across the centres has the potential to produce some ground-breaking innovations in the Scottish economy, health and other areas of public life.

We’re all familiar with the rather harsh cancer statistics – almost half of us will be diagnosed with some form of cancer at some point in our lives. So not only is the Cancer Challenge an exciting piece of collaborative work with Scotland’s finest minds and best experts in all the key areas, it’s also vitally important and will potentially impact on a great many people’s lives.

Dr Stuart Fancey, Director of Research and Innovation, Scottish Funding Council - 11 May 2017