The legacy of Scottish creativity is interwoven throughout our history.
James Watt revolutionised travel by devising the steam engine, John Logie Baird is the genius behind the first mechanical television and Alexander Graham Bell helped connect us all by inventing the first practical telephone.
Today the country is continuing to make its mark, through tech.
Homemade global successes such as Skyscanner and FanDuel sit alongside international tech giants like Amazon and RockStar Games. Tomorrow’s hotshots beginning to make waves include Roslin Technologies and Skyrora.
It’s no wonder that, despite the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, Scotland’s tech companies raised £345m in 2020 and the number of venture capital rounds increased from 87 in 2019 to 96, according to data from UK growth platform Tech Nation.
And, with nearly 2,500 verified startups calling the country home, it’s great to see how technology is creating opportunities and well-paying jobs in Scotland.
Take the two Scottish startups named among the 10 winners of Tech Nation’s UK-wide Rising Stars programme.
Edinburgh’s tech for good firm Neatebox harnesses the benefits of tech to help disabled people in their day-to-day lives, while Glasgow-based Talking Medicines provides pharmaceutical companies with real-time data intelligence.
And, thanks to the backing of a Tech Nation support package, they are starting to scale, grow and build their networks.
The UK Government is determined to support the country’s startups. We know the main barriers to growth for new enterprises is having adequate access to finance and talent, which is why the British Business Bank has, since 2012, issued more than 4,700 loans worth £36.7m to small businesses in Scotland.
Scottish companies also secured a total of £235m in tax relief from the UK Government for research and development projects in 2018/19.
We are all focused on jobs right now and Scotland’s situation is encouraging.
Job search engine Adzuna’s data shows that over 15% of the 28,295 openings in Scotland in December were in IT-related roles. In Edinburgh, 31% of all open job roles are in the tech sector, making it the city’s fastest-growing sector.
Tech workers in Scotland have exciting possibilities to make a difference and they are well paid in the work they do.
In Edinburgh the average advertised salary for open tech jobs is £59,776 – ahead of the UK average of £53,945.
For specialist roles like solutions architects and product managers, average salaries have increased over 20% from 2019’s figures as companies look to bring on skilled staff to support their growth plans.
It’s a great moment to be looking for a new tech role in Scotland.
This week, members of Scotland’s tech and innovation sector, academics from the region’s universities and representatives of skills organisations came together online to discuss the challenges the region faces when it comes to recruiting talent and convincing young people to go into this thriving industry.
The region’s universities are contributing to this versatile job market, with 15,000 graduates leaving university every year with degrees in digital technology fields.
The University of Strathclyde recently launched an MSc in Technology Policy and Management, bringing together policy formulation, analysis and management of innovation and technology, which is aligned with the Glasgow City Innovation District to maximise opportunities for students to engage with local businesses.
But technology isn’t just about software development, and it’s good to see universities tackling the wider aspects of the industry.
It’s not just in higher education where students are learning vital skills for the future, but also in the classroom.
Skills Development Scotland recently piloted an initiative to bring industry leaders into the classroom to shine a light on topics such as data analysis, cyber security and software development. This unique approach to STEM education is helping to prepare the future workforce for the dynamics of high-growth digital businesses.
The UK Government has also laid the foundations for success in Scotland by creating a business environment ripe for innovation.
The Skills Toolkit gives people access to free courses so they can learn the fundamentals of digital marketing, how to code and the basics of machine learning.
We have committed £300m to help unlock economic growth and boost jobs in Edinburgh and the South East of Scotland. This includes the creation of five new innovation hubs in fields such as robotics and space technologies.
A further £13m of investment in six science centres across the UK includes Dundee and Glasgow.
In October we rolled out a new scheme with the Scottish Government to give thousands of rural homes and businesses access to more financial help to get faster broadband speeds.
The UK Government is also supporting trials into emerging new technologies in Scotland such as 5G.
in Kilsyth, Glasgow and Shetland, trials will look at how technology can support the construction industry with 5G-powered cameras, drones and sensors.
The project has the potential to hugely improve productivity in the construction industry, a big Scottish employer. This demonstrates the wider impact technology can have beyond its own sector, helping existing industries to adapt for a healthy future.
With an eye to the future, we announced our £1bn AI Sector Deal in 2018 and, as part of this initiative, three Scottish companies were selected to join Tech Nation’s Applied AI Growth programme, including Edinburgh startups Continuum Industries and Machine Labs.
The past few months have been truly difficult, but I think those great Scottish pioneers of the past would have good reason to be proud, that the spirit of creativity and innovation continues unabated.
By continuing to invest in and build up a resilient, thriving tech sector we will, together, bounce back stronger.
Caroline Dinenage is the UK Minister for Digital and Culture
— to www.insider.co.uk