Patrick Lamont, Business Events Policy Engagement Manager at VisitScotland Business Events explores Scotland’s vision to become a global AI powerhouse

Since ChatGPT launched at the end of 2022, it has touched almost every industry and sparked countless debates. It was one of the subjects discussed at VisitScotland Business Events’ recent conference, Journey: The Business Events Conversation, with speakers commenting on its potential for enhanced delegate experiences, increased efficiencies, and greater personalisation.

As a land of innovation, Scotland has a long history of contributing to and embracing technological advancement, and its attitude to AI is no different. The country’s aim is to build an AI powerhouse with the goal of developing AI which supports a greener, fairer and more prosperous country for all. Alongside this, Scotland’s ambition is to create a dynamic and accessible environment where innovative thinking around AI thrives.

The Scottish AI Alliance is a partnership between The Data Lab and the Scottish Government, and it’s the organisation tasked with delivering Scotland’s country-level AI strategy. The alliance has developed the Scottish AI Playbook, an open, practical guide to how Scotland does AI. It is a shared and living asset, embodying Scotland’s AI strategy’s ethos of openness, transparency and collaboration.          

AI for positive impact 

A great example of a Scottish business which is using AI to further the country’s sustainability goals is Edinburgh-based satellite data company Space Intelligence. Using remote sensing data to quantify forest biomass, Space Intelligence’s work has the potential to help address the climate emergency because some types of vegetation and land use store more carbon and are more beneficial to biodiversity than others.

Working with NatureScot, Space Intelligence has produced the country’s first-ever nationwide high-resolution habitat maps. The maps provide insight into how Scotland’s ‘Natural Capital’ is changing over time and can help landowners and policy makers with their land-use decision making, including working out where to restore habitats.

Solid foundations 

There are many other examples across Scotland of organisations working on AI for socio-economic transformation, from early-stage detection of cancer to helping increase diversity and inclusion in sports, and from measuring fish stocks to predicting maintenance requirements at offshore wind farms.

Of course, AI already exists in many of the everyday technologies that we take for granted and is already driving change and innovation on a grand scale. Scotland’s AI strategy is different because it looks beyond the technology and focuses on AI’s role in society and what it can do for us. Scotland’s strategy also recognises that the use and adoption of AI should be on our terms if we are to build AI which is transparent and trusted.

The work that the Scottish AI Alliance and others is doing in helping to assure Scotland’s future as a leader in AI technologies is vital. We have world-renowned universities – including the University of Edinburgh, which is one of Scotland’s AI hubs and home to the AI Accelerator Programme – a thriving and engaged private and public sector, and a skilled and diverse workforce, so we’re well-poised to build strong foundations and take on this challenge.

As a connected country, Scotland has a wide array of industry professionals and academics to enrich and support your events. VisitScotland Business Events’ Transformation Protocol is a network of contacts in key organisations across Scotland who have pledged to support VisitScotland elevate business events in Scotland to a new level. When you come to Scotland there is an opportunity to ensure that your leaders meet our leaders, that we can learn from one another and bring the expertise out of the auditorium and into partner organisations.