We have data scientists on hand who have a mixture of business skills, which helps tease out what is possible for businesses through their data.

We live in a world where data is everywhere. This means that we are no longer locked into the tech sector, but have also seen data emerge in more traditional industries that have adapted to the ‘sharing economy,’ with taxis moving to Uber-type models, and hotels moving to AirBnbs. The potential for disruption through data is quite profound, as more and more of our jobs become data-facing and the circumstances in the times of the pandemic underline how much we rely on data and the digital agenda for our day-to-day relations.

With this increase in digitised activity, it’s now very difficult to have a business activity that doesn’t leave a digital footprint. This accumulation of data-driven activity has been gaining pace as we move towards digital technology, creating an opportunity for real innovation.

Wales has been doing quietly well for some time in this respect. Indeed, the Office for Artificial Intelligence reported last month that the tech sector in Wales has created new jobs at a higher rate than anywhere else in the UK, with ONS data indicating an 83% rise in employment since 2010. Tech Nation has also identified Cardiff as one of the nine cities outside of London with over 20% of its workforce in digital facing roles. It is important that this uplift spreads across Wales, rather than being locked into Cardiff. The data agenda and artificial intelligence have the propensity to become a new resource. It’s almost as if we are seeing a new industrial revolution taking place. It is therefore important that Wales is firmly placed on the agenda.

This is what we seek to do at Cardiff University’s Data Innovation Accelerator (DIA). We developed the DIA as a response to the amount of interaction we seem to be increasingly having with a range of companies in Wales. We wanted to formalise these interactions around data and bring knowledge and expertise into the business skills and innovation fora. The DIA works with businesses in East Wales to help them realise the potential of the data they possess. There are many ways that businesses can use data to gain insight and foresight, and we have skills that are readily available to businesses.

It can sometimes be difficult to frame the questions your business wants to solve through the data you have. Through the data health check reports that we provide to businesses, we can advise what is possible for an organisation to achieve, not only with the data they already have, but also, potentially, the data sources outside that they can use in conjunction. We have conducted health checks for all types of different companies, from retail to manufacturing. We have data scientists on hand who have a mixture of business and technical skills, who can help tease out what is possible for businesses through their data. We are part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, so we channel our activity to make economic benefit. We also invite companies to collaborate on a project with us following their data health check to create new insights for them to take forward, whether that’s synthetic data that they can experiment with themselves, or solutions to a particular problem.

How companies successfully use their data all depends on the sector that they’re in. At one end of the spectrum, you may have very intensive data-focussed companies that are

effectively building a moat around themselves: They’ve got something unique and they have data that is increasingly of value on their aggregate business or service. At the other end of the spectrum, you can have a company in retail that is only recently using data to understand patterns and trends in transactions or customer relationships. The first step is to use data to pull out knowledge and think how can this company benefit from this data that is potentially a real asset.

Data can be huge strength, so it’s worth investing some time and effort in trying to sort it out. There’s competitive advantage that can be gained from data in different ways, whether it be knowing your customer base better, or making your business more defensible by building a product around data that is more unique to your offering. The Welsh Government’s Review of Digital Innovation in Wales reported strongly that the country is at a tipping point in terms of the digital agenda. There’s an impetus for us to embrace this new agenda and move forward as a nation.

The Data Innovation Accelerator is supported by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government

Originally published at BNW