In this video Kate Forbes, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy, delivers a statement to the Scottish Parliament, about transforming Scotland’s tech sector.
In August 2020, the Scottish Government published the “Scottish Technology Ecosystem Review”, which is a blueprint to establish Scotland as a leading hub for tech start-ups. The report was written by Mark Logan, the former Chief Operating Officer of Skyscanner, which was one of Scotland’s first tech companies to achieve a valuation of more than £1 billion.
Professor Logan’s report was greeted with acclaim on publication. It was described as an “exciting route map for how the government and the private sector can work together to build Scotland into a global leader.
Last October, the Scottish Government invited suppliers to tender for a contract to establish a national network of five ‘tech scaler’ hubs in Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Inverness.
The hubs will provide Scottish companies with commercial education sourced from the best providers in the world. That education will be complemented with physical co-location, first-rate mentoring and vibrant peer communities. Through state-of-the-art remote technologies, all of that will be available virtually in every community in Scotland.
Those tech scalers are a game changer. The government has established a new organization named Scottish Teachers Advancing Computing Science (STACS) which helps driving improvements in equipment, teacher training and the curation of best practice. Working with Toni Scullion and Brendan McCart, the government has invested more than £1 million pounds to add to schools’ existing stocks of computing hardware.
The Scottish Government also invested a further £500,000 in the digital skills pipeline, a bespoke set of modular courses running from beginner level all the way through to advanced coding. They provided grant funding of £150,000 to CodeYourFuture, a truly exceptional organization that supports refugees with the skills and networks necessary to progress in education and employment.
The Scottish National Investment Bank has agreed to support the all-female investor group, Investing Women Angels, to establish a new investment fund focused exclusively on women and minority founders based in Scotland. That makes Scotland one of very few European nations with a bespoke seed investment fund focused on stimulating the growth of female-led companies, delivering yet another of Mark Logan’s recommendations.
STACS ensures that there is greater choice for young people in their formal subject choices and informal extracurricular activities. It is a teacher-led organization, which starts with teachers. It aims to provide support and expertise to and promote skills among computing science teachers across Scotland.
Many young people in Scotland are choosing to work and study simultaneously, and a number of tech businesses are already taking advantage of that apprenticeship model. According to the government, work has also started on expanding the young person’s guarantee.
The Scottish Government is progressing a number of recommendations specifically around investment and investment funding, to avoid the situation whereby, for a Scottish start-up to expand, grow and develop, it needs to access funding elsewhere. Although no one would dispute that Skyscanner has been a success, some of the recommendations looked at, for example, establishing a series A funding partnership between the Scottish Government, Scottish venture capitalists and external investors; investment vehicles specifically for certain groups, such as female founders.
In the opinion of Kate Forbes, the government has much to do with the 95 per cent of access to broadband that already exists. Clearly reaching the goals of the R100 program it needs to ensure that every property has access to broadband. They will progress that and ensure that it is delivered despite the fact that it is a reserved area and they are stepping into the breach to do that and the work is progressing.
The tech ecosystem fund has supported multiple events for and by women, with more than £160,000 of funding given to Women’s Enterprise Scotland, Female Founder Squad, Mint Ventures and other organizations providing learning and peer networking opportunities and helping to overcome some of the challenges faced by women in tech. There is a clear gender gap in business participation in Scotland. Closing that gap and unlocking the full economic potential of women in enterprise will have a transformative impact on Scotland’s economic performance.
According to Kate Forbes, being able to provide extracurricular activity that creates equity of access to opportunities to learn is so important. The young women are being role models as female founders and in celebrating female computer science teachers, which is critical to all of this. Right now, Education Scotland has a dedicated team that is working with schools and early learning centers specifically to deal with early gender stereotyping and to ensure that that engagement carries on throughout primary school and high school and ultimately into the university years.
The Scottish Government is keen to see more small and medium-sized enterprises embracing the opportunities of technology, and that needs to go hand in hand with cybersecurity. In the past, they have provided financial support, such as vouchers, to help SMEs to do that. She has referred to some of the cyber apprenticeships that all goes hand in hand with promoting best practice across the public, private and third sector.
1:00 Update on Scottish Technology Ecosystem
4:30 Establishment of Scottish Teachers Advancing Computing Science
6:00 Investments in tech sector by Scottish Government
11:00 Q&A Session
16:00 Steps taken by Scottish Government to increase lagging productivity growth
22:24 When new start-ups, apprenticeships and entrepreneurial learning will be delivered?
28:30 How will the government ensure equal opportunities in access for children in more deprived communities to benefit from technology?
34:24 What Steps are being taken to ensure women’s tech businesses play a leading part in transforming Scotland’s tech sector?
36:20 What action is the Scottish Government taking to address the chronic gender imbalance in computer science?
38:25 Providing Cyber Security