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EFI to house new fintech centre

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World-first collaboration between University of Edinburgh, FDATA and Fintech Scotland receives £22.5m from UKRI and will be a cornerstone for EFI's fintech proposition...

The new Global Open Finance Centre of Excellence, an independent collaboration between governments and regulators, the financial services industry and academia, has been awarded a £22.5m grant from UK Research and Innovation’s Strength in Places Fund.

The Centre is a world-first which was devised and created by the University of Edinburgh, the Financial Data and Technology Association and Fintech Scotland, with the aim of using financial technology to deliver social and economic benefit to all corners of the globe. Edinburgh Futures Institute will house the new centre when the Institute opens its doors.

UKRI’s investment will be used initially to create a global economic observatory, using real data to understand for the first time how consumers and businesses earn, spend and save across the world. This will deliver a research and policy offering to governments around the world as they try to emerge from the Coronavirus pandemic.

Finance hub for open-banking revolution

The Centre will focus on Open Finance – the most significant global trend in financial services and technology – and will draw on expertise from across Scotland’s universities, financial services and financial technology sectors.

Open Finance is based on the right of a consumer or business to securely share their financial information electronically with regulated organisations. The practise is expected to lead a transformation of the global financial services industry.

A centre of excellence in Edinburgh

The Centre will be physically located in the Edinburgh Futures Institute – the Old Royal Infirmary – currently being restored with entry date planned for 2022.

GOFCOE will be a cornerstone of EFI’s Fintech proposition, a central pillar of the Fintech hub and ecosystem. This will involve a ‘data sandpit’ that will give fintechs and policy makers access (ethically and safely) to consumer and business banking data in order to do innovation and research. The aim is to shorten innovation processes and enable faster development of better products for customers.

EFI’s Director of FinTech, Dr Gbenga Ibikunle said:The new Centre aligns well with our approach to EFI Fintech and is a committed partnership which brings established research expertise here at the University of Edinburgh together with other Scottish Universities and industry partners with a real opportunity to change the industry for the better. The strong support for the Centre shown by UK regulatory bodies – including the Competition and Markets Authority, Financial Conduct Authority, Information Commissioners Office, and Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation – is a good indication of how important and timely this initiative is.”

Data innovation at the heart

The new Centre draws on strands of expertise and experience from across the University. Researchers will work with regulators to establish ethical standards, train new talent to expand the sector, and build local, national and international partnerships. The Centre’s capabilities are based on the University of Edinburgh’s 30-year track record of hosting high-performance computing facilities, secure data infrastructure, and world-leading expertise in computer science and informatics.

Data hosting and analysis will be held within a secure environment managed by the University of Edinburgh’s Parallel Computing Centre. Strict access controls will ensure that only relevant information is shared across approved parties involved in related project activities.

EFI worked closely with the bid team to support the initiative over last year and half, securing the £50K seedcorn funding used in phase one. EFI will continue to support the Centre with research, project development and data design expertise.

The GOFCoE bid is an offshoot of the University’s Data-Driven Innovation initiative – which aims to make Edinburgh the data capital of Europe and is the University’s key deliverable as a partner in the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal.

Professor Lesley McAra CBE, Director of EFI, said:We are delighted that this important Centre will be a part of the EFI eco-system. The Centre aligns with our participatory approach to education and research in a challenge-led environment and in particular with our aim to support inclusive economic growth across the Edinburgh City and the wider City Region. We hope that the Centre will reshape the face of financial services for communities and citizens in the context of the transition from lockdown into Covid-19 recovery.”

The University of Edinburgh’s Senior Vice-Principal, Professor Jonathan Seckl said: “Using real financial data for social good and allowing governments, companies and people to make better economic and financial decisions is at the heart of the Global Open Finance Centre of Excellence.

“Never has there been a time of greater need for data-driven insights into the economy. The award from the Strength in Places Fund will allow us to make a unique contribution to the economic recovery from Covid-19. The Centre will be a world-first, providing leadership, coordination, research and capability to develop the benefits of Open Finance and to safely unlock the potential of customer data as a force to improve lives.”

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