MORE than 23,000 people in Edinburgh are involved in tech meet-up groups, helping the Scottish capital to become one of the UK’s fastest growing centres for technology startups.

According to data compiled by Tech City UK, a government-backed organisation which aims to help digital companies to grow through a series of programmes, research and events, some 23,571 people are sharing their skills through 88 Edinburgh tech meetup groups, helping to put the city on the map as one of Britain’s most active tech centres.

The study also revealed that that Edinburgh will become more focussed on AI in the future, and that the city boasts a strong availability of software engineers.

Gerard Grech, Tech City UK’s chief executive visited Edinburgh as part of the organisation’s listening tour and met with startups including ShareIn and Machines With Vision to talk about what the new firms need to help achieve their ambitions.

Edinburgh is home to billion pound tech businesses such as Skyscanner and FanDuel and the city’s strengths in software engineering, data analysis, artificial intelligence (AI), and deep technology is attracting more companies to the city, according to the data on meetings supplied by

Grech said: “Edinburgh is one of the jewels in the crown of the UK’s tech sector as seen in the success of its very own $1 billion unicorns, Fanduel and Skyscanner. The tech community here is boosted by the great universities in and around the city and it is great to see that data science and analytics – one of the hot trends in tech right now – is becoming a significant shared skill in the city.”

Software engineering is the main skill being shared across Edinburgh tech meetup groups, with around 12,000 people claiming to possess programming skills. Data science/analytics was the next most shared skill, with around 6,000 people claiming to possess expertise in this area, followed by web development (around 3,800) and UI/UX design (almost 2,000).

The abundance of skills in Edinburgh has led to a surge in the number of tech companies in the city. Some 363 tech startups were incorporated in Edinburgh in 2017, according to last year’s Tech Nation 2017 report. Many of these new companies are focused on Artificial Intelligence, with several venture-backed London AI firms — including autonomous driving startup FiveAI and AI robot developer Emotech — have expanded to Edinburgh to capitalise on the city’s talent pool.

AI companies are attracted in part by the city’s university, which boasts the UK’s longest established centre for AI. The Department of Artificial Intelligence (DAI), which was incorporated into the School of Informatics in 1998 at the University of Edinburgh, is widely regarded as one of the best AI research facilities in the world.

Local companies are able to easily draw on the university’s students for new roles. Situated less than a mile from the main campus, Skyscanner counts dozens of Edinburgh graduates among its employee base.

Skyscanner, CEO and cofounder Gareth Williams, said: “While we have ten offices across the world, including London and Barcelona, Skyscanner started life in Edinburgh. The thriving digital tech scene in Edinburgh is hugely supportive and collaborative, with a strong sense of camaraderie.”