Scotland's Digital Future: supporting the transition to a world-leading digital economy

Assesses the role that Scotland's public sector is playing in stimulating the digital economy and proposes actions that could be taken.

4 Supporting the Enabling Technologies or Capability Sector

Current position

Through the Technology Advisory Board ( TAG), Scottish Enterprise and its partners have identified a series of near and medium-term market opportunities for Scotland in the technology and engineering sector. These are:

  • Digital Health & Care - the ability to improve patients' and clients' care and outcomes (and providers' productivity) through the use of appropriately structured service delivery, integrated ICT data systems and digital devices.
  • Big Data - deriving value from the huge amounts of unstructured data. Big data opportunities exist in most sectors, but in particular energy, retail, financial services, life sciences, engineering, manufacturing and the public sector.
  • Smart Mobility - the ability to access applications, provide information or reach customers on the move.
  • Smart Sensor and Sensor Systems - the combination of a sensing element with processing capabilities (embedded intelligence) provided by a microprocessor.
  • Smart Built Environment - the ability to improve public and private civic services through the use of appropriately structured service delivery, integrated ICT data systems and digital devices.

Market forecasting intelligence and industry analysis has been used in each of these areas to assess the current structure and relative strengths and weaknesses of Scottish business, the strength and dynamics of critical links and relationships across key value chains and the quality of the supporting business environment ( Annex B). This has produced a strong evidence-based view of the unique areas of competitive advantage for Scotland and the strategic priorities for development and action required to support and accelerate growth. TAG Working Groups have now been established to drive focused development activity in each of the first four areas ( Annex C). In addition, initial analysis has been undertaken of the enabling role of digital technologies across Scotland's industry sectors and some of the potential constraints in deploying these ( Annex D).

The initiatives outlined in Annex C will develop the capability sector by:

  • increasing the pace of innovation through the provision of shared resources;
  • increasing the scale of overall innovation through collaboration co-design and co-development across academia, companies and agencies;
  • increasing the market focus of innovation through agglomeration around well-proven global opportunities for the sectors;
  • increasing the market reach of innovation by creating and promoting technology demonstrators that give confidence to the market;
  • strengthening supply-chains and clusters through shared market and capability information.

Consultation between public agencies, companies and Scottish universities confirms that the emerging commercial focus on enabling greater exploitation and tailoring of data assets underpins the future productivity and profitability of several sectors (as diverse as oil and gas, health and care, financial services) as well as the need to open up service opportunities around public sector data. Scotland has assets and opportunities in this area that could be further exploited and Industry has signalled that a Scottish Funding Council ( SFC) Innovation Centre would be of benefit in realising Scotland's potential.

Scotland has a long track record of attracting high quality technology jobs. This continues to this day, with recent successes including Amazon, Avaloq, HP and Wipro, projecting almost 3,000 new jobs. The Technologies (TAE) and Creative Industries team in Scottish Development International ( SDI) provides support for companies in this sector looking to develop or enhance overseas opportunities and provide a platform to facilitate inward investment. It provides specialist international development support on a one-to-one basis and also runs a number of activities such as exhibitions, missions and learning journeys that are designed to provide a platform for companies to access overseas business as well as providing a showcase of Scotland's capabilities.

Digital exports are supported by both SDI's Accelerated Export Support Programme (Export Explorer) and the digitally focused Smart Explorer programme, a European Structural Fund sponsored initiative that provides in-depth support to new exporters with the capability of achieving £500,000 of export sales over a 5-year period. Smart Exporter provides a range of free services designed to help companies meet the challenges of expanding overseas - from market awareness advice, to strategy development assistance and technical support.


Our ambition is for Scotland to be a recognised global player in each of these identified capabilities and a leader in developing the global market opportunities. Our reputation for innovation will attract further investment to strengthen our sector and will open up an increasing share of market opportunities.

This will be achieved through continuous renewal of the sector's capabilities and skills combined with increased agility in adapting to emerging market opportunities. As a result, the sector's own productivity and export performance will improve continuously, while simultaneously helping to raise overall productivity through providing and supporting smarter ways of working and living.

To achieve this will require associated action on issues which are wider than the sector, but certainly apply to it such as encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship, access to necessary investment capital for these sectors so that technology companies prosper and stay in Scotland and action to develop the specialist skills necessary through Scottish schools, colleges and Universities.

The partnership approach between industry, academia and the public sector will ensure that developing opportunities are identified and realised quickly and public sector interventions are responsive to changing needs.


4.1 The business case for a Scottish Funding Council ( SFC) Innovation Centre focused on data innovation should be co-designed and developed by public and private sector partners. If this case proves robust and the relevant quality thresholds can be met and SFC investment is approved, the development of such a centre would provide a major spur to the sector and help strengthen Scotland's future competitiveness in the digital space.

4.2 Scottish Enterprise should lead work to improve Scotland's capability and capacity for innovation in the field of communications technology. Partners should be invited to consider whether it is in the national interest to further develop indigenous capability or whether Scotland would be better served by 'buying-in' global capability and focusing attention on adopting and adapting such technology for our specific needs.

4.3 The Glasgow City Council's Future Cities Demonstrator Project should be recognised as an initiative of national significance and action taken to ensure that we learn lessons that can accelerate the development of smart cities across our country.

4.4 Scottish Government should convene a group comprising public and private sector members to scan the horizon on an annual basis for opportunities and threats to economic performance which may arise from demand or supply issues relating to future connectivity, resilience and security expectations and requirements.


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