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Potterrow Development - Planning Application

2. Economic Case

The University commissioned Biggar Economics to provide an economic appraisal of the proposed Informatics development in 2003. This is the executive summary of their report. The University of Edinburgh is a leading university with a worldwide reputation for teaching, research and commercialisation in informatics, and in medicine and the life sciences. The changes currently taking place in science offer significant opportunities to build on this expertise for the benefit of the University of Edinburgh and the Scottish economy. As many areas of science deal with problems in managing and analysing huge volumes of data, there is an increasing need for a multi-disciplinary approach, with a role for informatics in all areas of science. These changes can be seen in the life sciences with developments such as bioinformatics, systems biology and e-Health.

The facilitation and encouragement of greater interaction between the Division of Informatics and other disciplines at the University of Edinburgh has the potential to generate significant benefits for the Scottish economy.

The Division of Informatics achieved the highest possible rating in the 2001 Research Assessment Exercise and is the only 5*A rated computer science department in the UK. The Division has also been successful in commercialising its research, creating four spin-out companies in the last two years.

A proposal has been developed to bring informatics and associated disciplines such as linguistics together in a ‘building for interaction’ to fully realise the potential contribution that can be made to scientific, economic and social development. The preferred site for the new centre is at Crichton Street in the centre of Edinburgh.

Biggar Economics was commissioned by the University to update an earlier economic impact study of the Division of Informatics and the proposed new ‘building for interaction’. The creation of a new centre for informatics in a flagship building in the centre of Edinburgh will provide a powerful marketing tool in increasing the profile of Scotland as a knowledge economy and the excellence within the University of Edinburgh. The increased profile of the University of Edinburgh and Scotland more generally as a leading international location for informatics could be important for:

Excellence in teaching and research will continue to be the key determinants of academic and economic success in informatics. However, other universities in the UK and internationally are investing in informatics, including the provision of state-of-the-art facilities. If Edinburgh can not match that investment, its competitive position will be eroded, compromising its ability to retain and attract the best staff, students and research.

The economic impacts set out in this report will be realised somewhere since the markets for informatics skills and technologies are growing rapidly. The question for the University of Edinburgh and Scotland is whether these impacts can be delivered in Scotland. The study found that impact of the new development on the Scottish economy could be substantial. The approach taken was to compare the potential impact of the Division of Informatics in 15 years time if the new building went ahead with what might happen if the project was not implemented.

The economic impact assessment found that, if the proposed project goes ahead, the potential economic impacts of the Division of Informatics in 15 years time (excluding those impacts that might be expected to occur if the project did not go ahead) might include:

The study also demonstrated that the proposed new informatics centre fits well with the University of Edinburgh's strategy, the priorities of the Scottish Executive, the objectives of the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council, the economic development strategy for Scotland and the research priorities of leading research funders. At the local level the proposed development is consistent with the economic development strategies of the City of Edinburgh Council and Scottish Enterprise Edinburgh and Lothian.

Given the scale of the potential impacts and the strategic fit of the proposed project, there is a clear economic case for investing in the proposed ‘building for interaction’ to support the further development of informatics at Edinburgh.


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