Edinburgh Eagle Lab: "turning ideas into reality" for AI start-ups

28 March 2019

We visit the Edinburgh Eagle Lab to talk to the start-up founders bringing AI to healthcare – and the lab colleagues committed to helping them grow. 

“You never know who’s going to walk through that door,” says Trish McClay, Ecosystem Manager at Barclays’ Edinburgh Eagle Lab. Located in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle, the lab sits within the vibrant CodeBase co-working space. Through the glass-fronted workshop, you’ll see engineer Hannah Cameron helping visitors navigate the array of technology on offer to help develop their products.

“Some people come in here and are quite sceptical, they expect us to try and make them switch their bank accounts,” explains Trish. “When really we are here because we genuinely want to help them, and make a positive difference to their business.”

Alongside a range of services, including supporting businesses to find investment and networking opportunities, the Edinburgh Eagle Lab also has a specialism – artificial intelligence, or AI – and a number of medical technology start-ups are using the space’s resources to tackle health conditions.

3D-printed Easter Island statues

Mini Easter Island statues created using a 3D printer

Tech company Voxsio has created a chatbot called Alli-chat which focusses on mental wellbeing.  Powered by AI, it helps young people understand mental health – and encourages them to talk about it.

CEO Michael McTernan explains how the Eagle Labs have helped them: “We've had the opportunity to meet visitors who come to Eagle Labs to take part in networking opportunities and go to events. So for us, it's really been about the support and the network that Eagle Labs provide us with.”

Kiki MacDonald – along with her brother Euan, who lives with motor neurone disease – co-founded Euan’s Guide, an online platform helping people with physical impairments discover, review and share information about accessible places to visit.

Kiki said: “We’ve been working with Barclays for a number of years, informally initially. We’ve been really impressed with their commitment to accessibility and the on-the-ground changes in their branches.”

Barclays has helped the team expand its online guide worldwide – and is working on developing AI that would make it easier for users to share their stories. The bank has also been working with Euan’s Guide on disabled access day, in which venues across the UK showcase how accessible they are.

Paul Ralph, the company’s Access and Inclusion Director, put it best: “Digital technology is the most enabling tool humans ever invented.” With support from the team at the Edinburgh Eagle Lab, companies can be sure they’re using it to its full potential.