International network: monitoring and evaluation report 2022-2023

The Scottish Government's international network monitoring and evaluation reports for the financial year from April 2022 to March 2023.


Context for 2022/23

2022/23 was a period of rebuilding and growth for Scottish Affairs Office (SAO) USA. External engagement and in-person engagement increased significantly following the pandemic, and the office focused on reengaging key stakeholder groups and focussing on promoting modern Scotland, increasing diversity in our networks, higher education and alumni engagement as well as our continuing trade and investment and cultural focus.

The office, based in the British Embassy, has four permanent team members and underwent staff updates from 2022-23, including a change of Communications & Engagement Manager, while taking advantage of a temporary additional Relationships Manager position, funded through April 2023.

Major refurbishments continued across the embassy, requiring staff to be flexible when planning events at the Embassy and the Ambassador’s Residence.


SAO USA delivered a huge amount in 22/23, with a number of Ministerial visits as well as set-piece events and new initiatives including an increased focus on alumni. The team delivered 5 Ministerial visits. These included visits to New York City (x3), Washington, DC (x2), Seattle and the San Francisco Bay area. On short notice, the office also delivered the first in-person Tartan Week in New York since the pandemic, re-establishing the high quality programming that is expected. This period also saw enhanced collaboration between SDI and SAO USA, including comms support and a reinvigorated LinkedIn presence highlighting policy, trade, investment and innovation success stories.

The major challenges in 2022/23 included inflationary pressures, US network salary changes for country-based staff set by FCDO, and exchange rate challenges in Q3. While the team achieved extensive deliverables to a high standard, it put significant pressure on the resilience of the team. Moving forward with one staff member fewer, the office will need to be more strategic in what it is able to support.


SAO USA aims to deepen understanding and awareness of modern Scotland, positioning the Scottish Government as a thought leader through its whole-system approach to climate change and renewables, diversifying our audience and encouraging stakeholders to deploy key messages across their wider networks.

The view of Scotland in a historic — instead of future-facing — context, is a major challenge which the office’s communications aim to disprove – while celebrating our proud history and historic links to the US.

  • 2.5% average Twitter engagement rate
  • 5,777 Twitter followers as at 31 March 2023
  • 417 new Twitter followers as at 31 March 2023
  • 10,989 Twitter likes and 2,827 retweets over the year
  • 1,336,800 Twitter impressions over the year
  • 26 posts on LinkedIn. Throughout the year, the office grew its following by over 25%, adding 557 new followers.
  • The External Affairs Secretary Angus Robertson (2022) visited for Tartan Week in New York, FM Visit May 2022 (DC), Minister for Drugs Policy visited a Drug Treatment Facility in Harlem (Aug 2022), Environment Minister visited New York for Climate Week and Trade Minister visited the west coast.

Case study: First Minister Visit to Washington, DC

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon visited the US (Washington, DC) for the first time since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, in May 2022.

SAO USA has invested significant time in establishing high-quality relationships across Congress, the US administration and press over the last few years, resulting in the capability to secure high-profile and meaningful meetings. The team used recent policy and events — such as COP26 in Glasgow, SG’s equality agenda, and the importance of energy security in light of Russia's invasion of Ukraine — in order to broker high-level meetings and highlight SG's progressive agenda.

The team struck a balance of programming from one-on-one meetings, a keynote think-tank speech and several press interviews to amplify the visit both domestically and in the US. The team also recognized the importance of building in business-related activity and proactively organised two roundtables with transatlantic businesses.

SAO USA curated a balanced programme including:

  • Strong political engagement was through a bilateral meeting with Speaker Pelosi at the Capitol (attended and covered by the media), a bilateral with Special Envoy John Kerry, and a meeting with Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman.
  • The First Minister gave a live-broadcasted keynote speech at the Brookings Institute on Energy Security, which led to a follow-up conversation and article.
  • Significant business engagement with Global Scots and key businesses with transatlantic operations. SAO USA also hosted a roundtable focusing on Just Transition as a key theme from COP26 delegates
  • Numerous press interviews including with The Washington Post, The Associated Press and the National Journal.

SAO USA has championed short, high profile visits as an ideal model given the impact that it can have. In addition, the development of press and political relationships allowed for the team to allow build a much stronger comms plan from previous visits.

International Trade

The Science & Technology Trade team aims to identify market/customer opportunities for Scottish Life Sciences and Technology Companies to enter or expand into the US market. This year, the team saw excellent progress in identifying market opportunities despite being short-staffed by 40% most of the fiscal year. Challenges have included finding more competitive Scottish companies to fulfil the opportunities being identified in the market, and the low profile of Scotland in the market as a Technology or Science hub.

The Energy and LCT Trade team aims to position Scotland as a partner of choice for the USA in their transition towards a net zero economy, strengthen our relationships with key stakeholders and continue to support energy supply chain companies accessing the business opportunities in the USA. Challenges included competition with additional international trade agencies and other geographies, and planning uncertainty which delayed outreach for international delegations and program development efforts.

The Consumer Industries Trade team aims to prepare newer exporters to do business in the USA, by reviewing go-to market strategy, pricing, and presentation materials, and to further develop new importer contacts and match Scottish producers with US importers. Challenges included Scottish producers not being export-ready, particularly in the Specialty Food/Premium Grocery segment where many companies are small and family-owned, and the salmon supply issue this past year. While there were several opportunities for salmon in the US that the team uncovered this year, Scottish producers were not able to act on them due to supply constraints.

  • 363 companies supported
  • 189 international trade opportunities identified
  • £275,000,000 forecast international sales as a result of SDI support

Case study: Startup Grind Program in Silicon Valley

In April 2022, the Scottish Chapter of Redwood City-based Startup Grind selected 20 Scottish companies (all in Technology or Life Sciences) from over 170 applicants to bring to Silicon Valley with the initial intent to help them fund raise and learn from their attendance at the Startup Grind Global Conference. The trip was funded by the Scottish Government’s ecosystem fund and the SDI partnership in Scotland was with the Capital Investments team. SDI Americas Science & Technology Trade team worked with the Capital Investments team and the Startup Grind Scottish Chapter’s co-Directors to enrich the program with on-the-ground leadership and support.

This not only helped the cohort with more targeted investors curated by SDI, but also with prospective customers and corporate partners. 47% of delegates were connected with investors before the trip; and afterward 93% were. It also helped delegates learn more about the market and provided valuable tips to enter and scale in the market with the expertise in the team and GlobalScots/Trade Envoys. Before the trip, 60% of delegates were confident in their business' success and afterward 93% were. Delegates created 86 new investor connections throughout the program, of which 19 have led to meaningful conversations about investment, and at least one cohort confirmed investment cheque of £50,000.

Research and Innovation

In 2022/23, SAO USA prioritized encouraging inward visits to Scotland and consideration of meeting with R&D experts across the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and Universities. The office also aimed to mobilise successful alumni of Scottish universities in the US to share modern Scotland’s offer— particularly in areas of space, green energy and hydrogen. The team successfully piloted a new, more targeted model of alumni engagements, which has since been deployed several times.

SAO USA also supported a DC Mayor’s office inward visit, forming 33% of their programme, which included meeting with University of Edinburgh and the Scottish Chambers. The Mayor’s team identified the Scottish leg as the highlight of their programme (which included London) and relationships and conversations continue. The biggest challenge remains finding time for staff to actively support the development of programming, and prioritisation within budgets to support activity.

3 VIP Alumni Events across 3 cities, utilising the presence of Scottish Ministers, senior SG and SDI staff, linking with Scottish companies in the US, with hundreds of alumni engaged.

Case study: Alumni engagement

Promoting modern Scotland’s offer is key to the success of SAO USA’s business plan, but ensuring the office is engaging with new, strategic audiences has long been a challenge.

The SAO USA team identified Alumni as a significant network that had not previously been fully utilised, and which could benefit from sustained engagement and support. The team invested time in mapping these stakeholders across geographies and key priority business sectors. The team then developed events to encourage participation, harnessing the goodwill of alumni on the back of their studies in Scotland.

It was important to have consistent messaging with a focus on access to talent, trade and investment opportunities and policy designed to enable innovation and sustainability.

SAO USA successfully delivered the first of these events to coincide with the Trade Minister’s trip to the west coast in October 2022, following up with two additional events in NYC and Houston.

Events engaged approximately 200 participants overall, and a key takeaway from their planning and development was the only slight drop off of attendees after the RSVP stage. Consistently 85% of those who confirmed they would attend, did, up from a 70% attendance rate for regular events, suggesting a high level of engagement. Strategic photos and content on social media also yielded strong engagement, including a 9% engagement rate for an Alumni Burns event on Twitter, and 75 likes for a post on LinkedIn.

The team’s decision to facilitate peer-to-peer networking opportunities held additional value for those attending and encouraged attendance and participation in future events. Use of digital branding showcasing Scotland’s offer captured the attention of the office’s audience and generated a significant ambassador network, leaving invigorated and ready to engage further in the conversation and with Scotland.

These events lay the foundation for SDI colleagues to engage directly with the attendees after the fact to have deeper conversations with the intention of advancing Scotland’s trade and investment objectives. Feedback from participants has been positive with most identifying that these types of events strike a better balance than those in the softer, more culturally focussed events.


While delivering against the team’s operating plan targets as outlined by the IIP, 2022-2023 marks the team’s first year operating in a 100% non-virtual environment. While attracting foreign direct investment, the goal was to build the team’s pipeline and re-establish SAO USA’s network of strategic partners and engagement with key customers. Balancing the reality of the pandemic was a concern throughout the year. The team resumed business-related travel (air connectivity continues to be spotty at times) and overall, customers were happy to be re-connecting with the team. The return to in-person conferences and “referrals” (from partners, GlobalScots and across the business) continue to facilitate the team’s pipeline growth.

Significantly increased domestic competition from well-financed states, counties and cities has been a challenge. The team finds itself regularly competing against domestic locations for inward investment projects. In April 2023, all US markets emerged from the pandemic but in the first two quarters of 2022, the team continued to see markets navigating the impacts of the pandemic.

  • 25 inward investment projects as a result of SDI support
  • 1,099 planned total jobs
  • 120 planned green jobs
  • 1,099 jobs created/safeguarded RLW
  • £2,246,531 planned R&D investment
  • £1,674,321 planned capital investment

Case study: Mangata Network

In December 2022, Mangata Networks, an innovative satellite-enabled cloud services company, announced that it had chosen Scotland as the location for its research & development activities as well as satellite manufacturing, space systems and core network operations. Over the coming few years, 575 new jobs will be created as part of Mangata’s engineering and operations hub for satellite manufacturing and operations at the Prestwick International Aerospace Park in Ayrshire.

Mangata’s investment is the culmination of a multi-year engagement across operational and senior team members of Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and SDI in Scotland and the US.

What makes the Phoenix, Arizona headquartered Mangata project so relevant is the transformational nature of the investment. While securing 575 RLW jobs is an immediate success and contributes to IIP and operational objectives, the investment facilitates a platform to attract the breadth of the small satellite ecosystem. This investment solidifies Scotland on the global stage of small satellite research & development and manufacturing.

While landing a project of this scale required inputs from across the business; going forward, to capitalize on the “potential” of this project to transform the Scotland space sector ecosystem, you’ll likely see the sphere of gravity shift more towards members of Team Scotland attracting additional new investment in field locations. The Mangata investment will resonate across field locations around the globe, not just in North America.

As a final unintended consequence of this investment, it has opened the door to the “art of the possible” when it comes to attracting transformative foreign direct investment projects. Seeing Team Scotland come together to win this complex project has established a blueprint for the attraction of future transformative projects. Scotland’s Interests

The pandemic years demonstrated the value of strong established networks, a consistent and regular digital presence and the need to continue being creative in approach to delivery. After the pandemic interrupted normal interactions, the team invested significant time in both re-establishing pre-pandemic relationships and newly engaging in-person with stakeholders with whom relationships were developed virtually. Recognising the power of these networks, SAO USA ensured that all events and engagements were branded accordingly and that messaging was clear – an invitation to engage and promote everything modern Scotland has to offer the across policy, business and higher education. Providing a consistent message backed by evidence allowed the team to mobilise an ambassador network for modern Scotland that had never existed before.

  • 319 GlobalScots in the US network, with 22 new members in the 22/23 fiscal year.
  • 25 networks country wide with significant footprints in Washington, DC, New York City, Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, Houston and the San Francisco Bay area.
  • Active networks across regularly engaged across 11 states

Case study: Tartan Week 2022

Tartan Week aims to honour the profound contributions of Scottish Americans in the US, as well as the strong ties between our two countries.

This was the first Tartan Week program since the pandemic — and it was mobilised in around 9 weeks, instead of the normal lead-time of 6 months.

The program came with the challenges of re-establishing a robust program after a long break, rebuilding relationships with organisations after a long period without in-person engagement, a challenging budget situation for the project and a need to develop a Cabinet Secretary level programme to that would run alongside the wider events.

The team was able to deliver a six-day programme of events straddling Washington, DC and New York, including Tartan Day celebrations and both Political and Business engagements.

Our office hosted a Global Scot VIP Cocktail Reception followed by a Tartan Day Reception with over 200 participants, in partnership with the White House Historical Association. This allowed SAO USA to engage their networks directly, including those that had only been virtual connections, established virtually throughout the pandemic.

SAO USA partnered with the Scottish Business Network to host a luncheon for a room of 70 business ambassadors and key interlocutors in the US. The Cabinet Secretary’s speech highlighted A Trading Nation, the Inward Investment Plan and the Trade Vision documents all published by SG in the last 2 years.

The Scotland House Alumni Reception hosted 190 alumni contacts to grow engagement and support the Higher Education sector. The team reflected on this model and have since changed to a more targeted alumni approach.

The annual Tartan Day Parade included approximately 2,600 people, who marched their way up 6th Avenue for masses of spectators along the route, led by Grand Marshall and award-winning Scottish actor Karen Gillan.

Medium to long-term impact

Investment in people has been SAO USA’s main approach over the last few years. Virtual working allowed the team to build relational momentum at a faster pace without travel, but this does have its limitations, and it was important to return to in-person engagements where possible. These relationships allow the team to mobilise networks that had previously been passive or lacked direction. SAO USA identified the value of these networks and acted as a voice to promote modern Scotland’s offer in the US across trade and investment, policy and higher education. This long-term investment in relationship building was the groundwork necessary to secure meetings with high-level US politicians including Speaker Pelosi during First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s visit in May 2022. This visit was the first time SAO USA successfully secured meetings with leadership across the US House and government administrations in one programme, a direct result of strategic networking and sustained relationship building. SAO USA’s mid-point goal was to create a network that would actively and consistently carry clear messaging about Scotland’s offer to their organisations, local area and beyond. The team managed and maintained this network by developing the office’s first CRM, which streamlines contact processes and maintains institutional knowledge even throughout periods of staff turnover.

Lessons learned for FY2022/23

In 2022-23, the SAO covered a huge amount of events and visits, which has an inevitable impact on resilience at a corporate and personal level. This was in part due to many key interlocutors pivoting back to in person events post-pandemic, and the team wanted to demonstrate its commitment to remain a strong support both to Ministers and to wider partners — whether these were diaspora groups, business organisations, culture or higher education. Further key lessons include continuing to develop strong relationships with UKG in the US at official level, being able to tap into networks and events often allow us to promote Scotland’s messaging to new audiences. In response to the increased volume of work (and decreased staff complement in 2023-24) decisions were made to invest time in streamlining the office’s programmes in line with business planning objectives, including through the establishment of more practical and modern internal systems such as the development of a CRM, as well as making strategic decisions about declining or offering alternative support to engagements where there is particular stress on resources. The office will prioritize assisting stakeholders in three key areas moving forward:

  • Remain relevant to modern Scotland by providing real-time messaging, encouraging our stakeholders to innovate their programmes year to year
  • Consider diversity & inclusion, not only in our programming but particularly as regards stakeholder organisations – this will help future-proof both organisations and ambitions (age, gender, race) and better reflect modern Scotland.
  • Encourage them to model their events to be self-sustaining, reducing the reliance on grant support from SAO USA (freeing up our limited funds for other activity).



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