Publication - Strategy/plan

A changing nation: how Scotland will thrive in a digital world

Published: 11 Mar 2021

This strategy sets out the measures which will ensure that Scotland will fulfil its potential in a constantly evolving digital world.

A changing nation: how Scotland will thrive in a digital world
Supporting Our Digital Technology Sector

Supporting Our Digital Technology Sector

A vibrant tech sector is critical to our recovery. Growing this sector gives us an opportunity to create new jobs in industries with long term growth potential and a positive impact on climate change. It also helps us to further promote our ambitions for a wellbeing economy to balance the demands to sustain the economy, while safeguarding social and environmental wellbeing. This approach allows us to work collaboratively with new and emerging businesses. The success of FinTech Scotland shows the impact possible from vibrant communities of likeminded businesses, and we want to extend this approach even further still.

Image of a woman in a head scarf playing a computer gameWhere we are now

Scotland is home to a thriving tech ecosystem with over 1,500 companies that contributed £4.9bn Gross Value Added (GVA) to Scotland’s economy in 2019, accounting for 3.5% of total GVA. GVA per head for the tech sector is 40% higher than for the economy as a whole, making it a considerable contributor to Scotland’s economy. This success has elevated Edinburgh to the most active tech community outside London, closely followed by Glasgow in 4th place.

The Scottish Government is working with industry and academia to produce a Scottish Geospatial Roadmap, this will define the vision and future direction for Scotland’s geospatial information (location data). The direction will reflect the current strategic priorities but also address how we review these priorities going forward, enabling the Roadmap to become an agile document aligned to Scotland’s Digital Strategy and National Outcomes such as Programme for Government.

Scotland has directly supported over 180 companies whose products and services deliver value from data, either on a business-to-business basis, or directly to customers. These companies have a combined annual turnover from their data activities in Scotland of £600m, which is projected to double within the next 3 years.

There is significant investment in infrastructure to support data driven innovation (DDI) and a high level of ambition – to establish Edinburgh as the Data Capital of Europe and to benefit the wider Scottish economy. Sectors such as Energy, Tourism, FinTech, Health and Care and the Public Sector are already moving to embrace wider adoption of DDI.

Where we want to be

Scottish Government commissioned Mark Logan to undertake an independent review focussed on how our tech ecosystem can be improved to give Scotland the best possible chance of generating a stronger pipeline of successful, scalable businesses. Mr Logan’s conclusions were published in 2020, outlining an ambitious strategy covering Education and Talent, Infrastructure and Funding, to establish Scotland as a leading start-up nation. It has been widely endorsed by key figures across business, technology and academia as potentially transformational. He identified, and we agree, the need for action. The review included the following:

  • Develop a national network of Tech Scalers: We will work to extend significantly the purpose and capability of traditional incubation programmes, combining usual networking and meet-up benefits with formal, world class start-up education tailored to sectors and stages of growth. Access to all services will be provided both physically and in a fully virtualised form, enabling country-wide participation in Scotland’s high-technology economy.
  • Proposals for improvements to teaching and learning in Computing Science and related disciplines, including making learning more engaging e.g. by focusing more on creative projects, and significant expansion of extra-curricular activity, especially those focused on tackling gender bias.
  • At university level, investment in increasing the number of computing science graduates, the incorporation of entrepreneurship into the computing science syllabus, cross-fertilisation of business and computing students, and development of infrastructure to support student start-ups and provide small seed investments.
  • Supporting ‘social infrastructure’ or a ‘market square’ e.g. festivals, conferences, meet-ups and demos. It is argued that the world’s best technology ecosystems depend on their social infrastructure to facilitate start-up education, propagation of best-practice, networking, peer-support and hiring.
  • Working with the investment community to solve funding pressures around early investment and the much larger sums needed as businesses scale and grow.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is set to transform every sector of our economy, from manufacturing to agriculture, by providing reliable data about the world around us. Our investment in IoT Scotland aims to provide SMEs, third sector organisations and researchers with a secure and accessible IoT service to explore sensor and imaging applications, to pilot their ideas and then launch proven, sustainable products and services into the global market. Alongside creating underlying network capability, we’re working closely with a range of partners to create compelling use cases to inspire, educate and enthuse the public sector, businesses and members of the public about sensor technologies. By doing so we aim to drive uptake and demand for services and devices, spurring commercial investment and innovation.

We have invested in projects to investigate use of IoT in rural locations and have encouraged IoT innovation through a CivTech challenge around infection control in care homes, sponsoring Eildon Housing. We are also supporting the provision of cutting-edge sensor technologies for the public sector through the SWAN programme, enabling access to IoT as a managed service.

In 2019 we launched Scotland’s 5G Strategy and established the Scotland 5G Centre to facilitate investment in, and deployment of, 5G in Scotland. The Scotland 5G Centre offers a central support and development function, to help ensure that 5G activities across the public sector, academia, and industry are targeted at delivering the right outcomes in the right sectors at the right time to rapidly advance Scotland’s connectivity in line with national priorities.

The Programme for Government 2020/2021 announced the launch of a national network of Innovation Hubs through the new S5GConnect Programme, supported by £4 million of Scottish Government funding. The first of these Hubs will be located in the Forth Valley and more will be announced throughout 2021. The Innovation Hubs will work with SMEs to embrace 5G, develop use cases on a private 5G testbed network, and provide the skills to use 5G technology as a business enabler. Collectively, our aim is for the network of Hubs, whilst operating in alignment with the new national network of Tech Scalers – to act as a catalyst to place Scotland at the forefront of next generation wireless communications services.

Scotland’s commitment to enabling access to superfast broadband for all, closing gaps in mobile provision and supporting the networks that underpin the IoT provide the foundations supporting a green economic recovery. However, we can do more to ensure the quality and resilience of the networks on which businesses rely. We can encourage further investment in international connectivity to reduce our dependence on the London-Amsterdam corridor, ensure resilience throughout our networks and develop our renewable-energy powered datacentre capacity in ways that create economic opportunities, enhance performance and minimise the environmental impact of the power consumption they require through, for example, reusing waste heat.

How we are going to get there:

  • Support an Innovation Ecosystem: we back the Logan Review’s recommendations and are providing £7 million funding in the first year to drive implementation. We will work with public and private sector partners to progress its key recommendations around education, entrepreneurship and investment. This includes the introduction of a national network of Tech Scalers and the creation of an Ecosystem Fund that will make strategic investments in the organisations and activities that support our start-ups to succeed. Examples include investing in key tech conferences, the creation of new start-ups and extracurricular support to develop the next generation of tech talent. Collaboration Icon
  • Attract national and international investment in testing, developing and commercialising new products, processes and services based on the potential offered by 5G and the Internet of Things. We will deliver this in partnership with CENSIS, Scotland’s Innovation Centre for Internet of Things technologies; the Scotland 5G Centre, Scotland’s national hub for accelerating the deployment and adoption of 5G; CivTech®, our public sector technology incubator; and Scottish Enterprise, the body responsible for economic development, enterprise, and investment in business.  Leadership Icon
  • Create a programme of data-driven innovation: We will work with The Data Lab, our universities and the digital technologies industry to maximise the economic and environmental opportunities presented by the high-quality data sources available in Scotland. Data Driven Icon
  • Establish Scotland as an attractive location for Green Data centres. This requires us to work closely with and stimulate the datacentre market, capitalise on Scotland’s abundant natural resources in renewable energy, and attract investment in both international and terrestrial fibre connectivity. We will deliver this in partnership with the Scottish Futures Trust, Scotland’s centre of infrastructure expertise; Scottish Development International, the international arm of the Scottish Government, Scotland's enterprise agencies and wide range of other public and private sector partners. Technology Enabled Icon
  • Develop the GovTech sector: We will capitalise on Scotland’s competitive advantage in the growing international market for GovTech. We will work in partnership with ScotlandIS, with the newly formed CivTech Alliance and others to support and develop and promote this sector across the world. Innovation Icon
  • Ensure equality of opportunity for all: We will work to increase diversity at all levels of the workforce in the digital technologies sector; and in so doing, ensure that the sector harnesses talents from across ScotlandInclusive Icon 
  • Launch Scotland’s AI Strategy in March 2021 to ensure that Scotland maximises the potential economic and social benefits of AI. The strategy will build on the foundations created by our data infrastructure and give benefit to people in Scotland as its core guiding principle and be informed by open and meaningful dialogue with the public and all stakeholders. We aspire to set the global standard for responsible ethical and trusted development and application of AI, and ensure the benefits and productivity gains from AI are felt across the whole of Scotland. Leadership Icon 
  • Implement the Strategic Framework for a Cyber Resilient Scotland, to ensure our digital ambitions are secure and resilient from the outset. Secure Design Icon
  • Enabling Infrastructure: We will work with the private sector to improve international data connections for Scotland and stimulate investment in strong connections between cities to support the growth of a green and resilient digital economy. Technology Enabled Icon

Alignment to our National Performance Framework

Actions

We will;

  1. back and progress the Logan Review’s recommendations;
  2. attract national and international investment in our tech sector;
  3. create a programme of data-driven innovation;
  4. establish Scotland as an attractive location for green data centres;
  5. capitalise on Scotland’s competitive advantage in the growing international market for GovTech;
  6. increase diversity in the digital workforce;
  7. launch Scotland’s AI strategy;
  8. implement the Strategic Framework for a Cyber Resilient Scotland.
  9. improve international data connections for Scotland;
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