Continuing our breakfast series discussing the opportunities and challenges for Scotland’s innovation ecosystem, Scotland House hosted experts and stakeholders in Scottish and UK technology for ‘Scotland: Tech Nation of the Future’.
The discussion, chaired by Seven Hills co-founder Michael Hayman MBE DL, looked at what it meant to be a tech nation and to what extent Scotland’s tech sector was thriving.
Aileen Gemmell, Deputy Head of Economic Diplomacy and Engagement, Scotland House London welcomed attendees to the event, before the discussion commenced.
Michael was joined by Melinda Matthews-Clarkson, CEO of digital skills academy CodeClan; Russ Shaw, founder of Tech London Advocates and Global Tech Advocates; and Hugh Campbell, co-founder and managing partner of technology investment and advisory firm GP Bullhound.
What makes a tech nation?
Before looking at Scotland specifically, Michael asked the panel what they considered to be the traits that defined a ‘tech nation’.
Speakers considered that an additional important aspect had to be that the ecosystem in question was looking forward – in terms of the skills people are trained in, the diversity of the workforce, and the infrastructure created.
That infrastructure includes the tools for good connectivity; 5G is one technology currently in the spotlight enhancing this, but physical connectivity – transport – was also deemed important in helping cities around the world reinvent themselves as tech hubs.
The opportunity for Scotland
The discussion turned next to what made Scotland stand out, with speakers praising the Scottish Government’s support of businesses and the unique atmosphere of collaboration in Scotland.
Speakers argued that it was vital for Scotland to celebrate its successes, comparing it to the attitude of entrepreneurs in the US where, “if you don’t shout about yourself, you’re not considered a big deal.”
The discussion considered that Scotland is early on its journey to being a tech nation, and that to accelerate organisations must be out there and promoting success stories – and that Scotland needs cheerleaders.
What success looks like
The panel cited advances in gaming in Dundee, fintech in Edinburgh and bio-tech in Aberdeen as particular success stories so far for Scotland, with speakers commenting that to become a tech nation Scotland should aim for seven or eight thriving tech verticals.
For its size however, it was agreed that Scotland was on the right track, with three unicorns (tech businesses valued at more than £1bn) – putting it in the top half of European nations and even higher when looked at per capita.
The discussion closed on a positive note, with speakers agreeing that Scotland could succeed on its own terms and did not need to compare itself to other tech nations.
Join us at our next debate The Future of FinTech: Growing Scotland’s Role as a Global Hub’
at Scotland House on Tuesday 25 February 2020.