8. A Vibrant Tech Sector
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.
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, whilst 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 that vibrant communities of likeminded businesses can be and we want to extend this approach still further.
The Logan Review
Scottish Government commissioned the Mark Logan Review to focus 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 recently published his conclusions, outlining an ambitious strategy covering Education and Talent, Infrastructure and Funding, to establish Scotland as a leading start-up nation. It has been 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:
- A national network of Tech Scalers to significantly extend the purpose and capability of traditional incubation programmes, combining the usual networking and meet-up benefits, with formal, world class start-up education tailored to sectors and stage of growth. Access to all services would 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 seed investment and the much larger sums needed at series A level.
Potential Actions to ensure a vibrant Tech sector:
- An Innovation Ecosystem: we back the Logan review and will work with public and private sector partners to progress its key recommendations around education, entrepreneurship and investment. This will see the introduction of a network of Tech Scalers backed by an initial £4m investment 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.
- Expanding training: we will look at opportunities to expand specialist training to provide reskilling opportunities for people whose employment was impacted by coronavirus and need support to transition to new careers. We will also work with the Scottish Tech Army, to explore the potential for volunteering to provide a route back into high quality digital jobs
- 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.
- Create a programme of data-driven innovation with The Data Lab, our Universities, and the digital technologies industry, to maximise the economic and environmental opportunities presented by the high-quality sources of data that we have in Scotland.
- Promote Scotland as a European centre for Green Data Centres. This will require us to capitalise on Scotland’s abundant natural resources to promote Scotland as a European centre for green data centres to improve international and terrestrial fibre connectivity stimulate the market and incentivise commercial investment. We will deliver this in partnership with the Scottish Futures Trust, Scotland’s centre of infrastructure expertise; and Scottish Development International, the international arm of the Scottish Government and Scotland's enterprise agencies. This development will provide employment opportunities for, and make use of the talents of, digital infrastructure engineering and management graduates emerging from our universities.
- GovTech sector: we will capitalise on Scotland’s competitive advantage in the growing international market for GovTech. We will work in partnership with ScotlandIS, the newly formed CivTech Alliance and others to support and develop and promote this sector across the world.
- Ensure equality of opportunity for all to increase diversity at all levels of the workforce in the digital technologies sector; and in so doing to ensure that the sector harnesses talents from across Scotland.
- Launch Scotland’s AI Strategy in early 2021 to ensure that Scotland maximises the potential economic and social benefits of AI. The strategy will have 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 open, ethical and trusted development and application of AI, and ensure the benefits and productivity gains from AI are felt across the whole of Scotland, and that displaced workers transition into gainful employment.
- Launch a revised Cyber Resilience Strategy in late 2020, to include refreshed actions relating to the cyber security skills pipeline, and to our growing cyber security industry.