Realising Scotland's full potential in a digital world: a digital strategy for Scotland

Scotland's refreshed digital strategy sets out our vision for Scotland as a vibrant, inclusive, open and outward looking digital nation.

Chapter 1

"Digital isn't optional. Digital transformation is a global phenomenon, happening at pace across our economy and is a core driver of productivity and inclusive economic growth."

Keith Brown, Cabinet Secretary Economy, Jobs and Fair Work

  • 98% of scottish businesses have internet access
  • Scotland's digital sector contributed £4.45 billion to gva in 2014.
  • Employment in the digital sector was 64,100 in 2015.
  • Total digital sector exports were £4.24 billion in 2015.

Digital Scotland:

  • Stimulates innovation, welcomes investment and promotes its digital technologies industries
  • Develops internationally competitive, digitally-mature businesses across all sectors of the economy

Our economic goal is to see Scotland ranked in the first quartile of countries in the world on productivity, wellbeing, equality and sustainability. It is therefore critical that Scotland is at the forefront of the global digital economy.

We want to harness the benefits of digital technology across our economy and deliver a step change in productivity. Some of our businesses are already embracing new technology, particularly in life sciences, financial services, creative industries and sustainable tourism. But too many businesses are yet to fully embrace technology and make use of data which could enhance innovation and productivity.

"I set up my business to create personalised, bronze cast clan crests for the North America market. Digital Boost provided me with advice and support to help grow my business. The continuation of Digital Boost is a win-win for businesses like mine, more of whom will now be able to learn the skills needed to succeed in an increasingly digital world."

Gavin Bain, Owner, Celtic3D

We will work with leading industry figures to provide leadership that will inspire and raise the digital ambitions of Scottish businesses. Then, as part of the second stage of the Enterprise and Skills Review, we will focus on practical action that enables companies to attract digitally skilled staff and recognise and harness the benefits of disruption in their markets.

We welcome the commitments within the recent UK Digital Strategy on the part of leading organisations, such as Google, BT and Accenture, to extend new and existing skills programmes across the UK. We will work with these organisations in a collaborative spirit to support the best possible realisation of these goals across Scotland.

"Scotland can be that 'innovation nation'. We have all of the raw materials: talent from our world- class education institutions and from our established businesses; increasing levels of risk capital investment from both Angel and Venture capital. We are at an important turning point for the Scottish tech ecosystem; there is a growing maturity within the sector with the recent global successes of Skyscanner, FanDuel and FreeAgent, but a risk that skills in company building and scaling are lacking in order to build more companies like these, at an international scale."

Jamie Coleman, Codebase

We will support businesses to grasp the opportunities of digital to develop new products and services, promote e-commerce, reduce costs or open new markets at home and abroad. The open sharing of digital capabilities between our agencies will allow an ever-increasing number of businesses to benefit from the support they offer.

We want to create some of the best conditions in the world for the digital sector to flourish. Our start-up community is already developing a great reputation, with particular strengths in financial technology, data and digital health care. The best-selling entertainment product of all time - Grand Theft Auto V - was designed by Rockstar North in Scotland, whilst companies such as Skyscanner have demonstrated the potential of recent start-ups to scale rapidly and achieve global success.

However, there is no room for complacency. Most, if not all, industrialised economies recognise their own digital sector as an engine of growth, meaning that our businesses and the universities that underpin them are now competing for international talent. This requires us to communicate our academic and business strengths with confidence across the world, and to demonstrate that Scotland is led by a Government which promotes international collaboration and uses the levers at its disposal to support its indigenous digital businesses.

"We welcome the Scottish Government's investment in digital education and its ambition to nurture a world-leading entrepreneurial and innovative nation. We are committed to continue to invest in free digital skills training available to everyone, so that no matter where you live in Scotland, you can start a business, launch the next big idea, or find opportunities to excel in what matters most to you."

Ronan Harris, Google Managing Director UK & Ireland

The European Commission estimates that a fully-functioning Digital Single Market ( DSM) could add €415 billion to the EU's GDP. Scottish companies are well-placed to contribute to this growth, and to benefit from the opportunities which the DSM will create. However, Brexit puts these opportunities at risk, and also presents a serious threat to both research funding from Europe and access to the key skills and talent upon which businesses across our economy increasingly depend.

Industry believes that the number of people employed in digital technology roles across Scotland has the potential to rise to 150,000 over the next five years. We will work in partnership with the industry to help achieve this goal, by:

  • Promoting Scotland's strengths on a world stage and proactively encouraging venture capitalists to focus on our country
  • Collaborating with digital industry experts in developing Government economic policy
  • Catalysing communities of talent to grow and develop in our cities and other key locations, so that entrepreneurs, innovators and technical experts can exchange ideas and develop new solutions together
  • Safeguarding the ability of Scotland's universities and digital businesses to attract the best talent from around the world, despite the threat to freedom of movement presented by Brexit
  • Leveraging the data resources of the public sector to stimulate inclusive economic growth
  • Making a sustained capital investment in the connectivity and platforms required to support business growth and innovation across Scotland
  • Enabling investment through, for example, our Scottish Growth Scheme which will deliver guarantees and loans to high growth, innovative SMEs which are more likely to be digitally active, such as Fintech start-ups
  • Working with industry to tackle both short and long term skills shortages, widening the talent pipeline and increasing the number of pathways into the workplace
  • Building on the success of our Innovation Centres in bringing together the public sector, business and academia to realise the potential of Scotland's world-leading research in informatics and data science


Actions to support digital transformation across the wider economy:

  • Launch a new Digital Growth Fund to address the current under-supply of digital skills
  • Extend our Digital Boost programme to give advice and support on digital issues to businesses in every part of Scotland
  • Develop a common, single sign-in and authentication process for businesses seeking access to online support services and information
  • Use the enterprise and skills review to better integrate the digital capabilities of our Enterprise and Skills agencies
  • Establish an independent Expert Advisory Panel to provide guidance and share their insights on how Scotland can deliver inclusive growth and take advantage of the growing collaborative economy
  • Update our comprehensive study of digitalisation amongst Scotland's businesses during 2017, and measure the changes in our Digital Economy Maturity Index
  • Promote the uptake of "Cyber Essentials" as a baseline standard to support the digital security of all organisations
  • We will use City and Region deals to maximise the role that digital innovations and infrastructure can play in delivering both economic and inclusive growth, building on the examples set in Aberdeen and Inverness
  • Increase adoption of digital technologies within manufacturing through the delivery of our action plan "A Manufacturing Future for Scotland"
  • Support Scotland's Creative Industries Partnership to drive innovation amongst our creative industries, particularly through the better use of data; engaging with emerging technologies; the development of digital public spaces and enhancing partnerships with Innovation Centres


Actions to support growth in the digital sector:

  • Introduce a pilot project in Edinburgh aimed at growing rapidly scaleable digital businesses which can compete on a global stage
  • Develop specific options to promote and support a thriving Fintech sector, working with the Scottish Financial Enterprise's Fintech strategy group and with SDI on attracting inward investment into the sector
  • Forge partnerships and ambitious initiatives between public sector and industry to capture the economic benefits which data driven innovation offers to Scotland's businesses
  • Represent Scottish interests in the development of the Digital Single Market, and to mitigate as far as possible the impact of Brexit - in partnership with industry, and through the delivery of this strategy
  • Make it easier and more attractive for small digital businesses to take advantage of public sector procurement opportunities and to work with us
  • Appoint a global digital ambassador to promote Scotland as a place to build and locate digital technologies industries
  • Open up the non-personal data held by the public sector to enable innovators to develop new insights and services by linking it to other sources of data created by our use of smartphones, social media, websites etc.
  • Support delivery by the Scottish Cities Alliance of the £24 million collaborative smart city projects from the Scottish European Regional Development Fund Programme for 2014-2020
  • Collaborate with the Smart Cities Scotland programme, and the opportunities it presents to attract investment, hi-tech businesses and talent to Scotland
  • Use the Universities Innovation Fund to forge new collaborations with digital thought leaders from around the world


Email: Alan Rodden

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