Tech firms upbeat on prospects for year ahead

Companies report high levels of optimism

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The majority of Scotland’s tech sector is optimistic about the year ahead, a survey has found.

Tech sector body ScotlandIS’ annual survey of the digital sector found that 75% of respondents were optimistic or very optimistic about the next 12 months. Nearly three-quarters – 74% – also forecasted an increase in their employee numbers.

Parts of the sector had remained resilient in 2020 despite the coronavirus pandemic, with 44% of those surveyed reporting higher sales and 40% increased profit.

However, 40% had seen a drop in sales and 32% a decrease in profits.

Engagement with international markets had increased very slightly in 2020, with 60%  saying they sold internationally – compared to 58%  the year before. Another 23% plan to do so in the future.

Companies reported that the greatest opportunities for their business over the next 18 months were likely to be in data analytics (51%), artificial intelligence and machine learning (47%) and internet of things (27%).

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The most in-demand skills were in sales and marketing, followed by data, and software and web development. On the technical side, cloud computing skills were particularly needed, with 54% predicting that would be a requirement.

Karen Meechan, interim CEO of ScotlandIS, said: “This has been a difficult year as companies have had to adapt quickly to the pressures brought by the pandemic and the uncertainty of Brexit. Yet, while it has been a difficult year, growth within the sector is high and we can look ahead optimistically. Collaboration has been a real strength within the sector, helping smaller businesses and creating new relationships across all aspects of society. As a sector we will continue to grow through collaboration and can look forward to a year of strong growth to come.”

At the same times as publishing its survey, Scotland IS also unveiled its manifesto for the Scottish Parliament election, setting out three key areas it believes have the potential for significant growth: climate tech; govtech; and space tech.

The manifesto gives recommendations to support the sector, including dedicated cluster management programmes for each of those growth areas, a tailored funding scheme for climate technologies, a national digital strategy for education, linking computing teachers to an ‘industry support network’, a lifelong learning programme for employees to upskill, and a partnership between the Scottish National Investment Bank and ScotlandIS.

Commenting on the manifesto, Meechan said: “ScotlandIS sees climate tech, govtech and space tech as being the three areas whereby Scotland has enormous opportunity. As we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, we have an opportunity to build back better, to reshape our society, to deliver highly skilled and fulfilling jobs and to drive efficiencies and productivity gains in our public services and established businesses.”


Sam Trendall

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