Scottish Government commits £45m to boost national tech credentials
Finance secretary provides update on plan to create ‘tech scaler’ facilities
Scottish Government finance secretary Kate Forbes has confirmed that £45m of funding has been made available to take forward plans drawn up to bolster Scotland’s national technology credentials as a country.
Two years ago, Forbes asked former Skyscanner executive Mark Logan to review how Scotland’s technology sector could contribute to the country’s economic recovery in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. He produced a report that made a number of key recommendations focused on creating a technology ecosystem that “supports and nurtures technology businesses in Scotland, from the early start-up phase through to fully scaled maturity”.
In a parliamentary statement this week, Forbes said that in addition to launching a £1m Tech Ecosystem Fund last year and investing in equipment for schools, the government is also close to awarding the contract for the creation of five Tech Scaler hubs.
The hubs, which were included in this year’s Programme for Government, will be located around the country and will aim to help a total of around 300 start-ups get off the ground.
The government also intends to appoint a chief entrepreneur officer in a role created to “help ensure entrepreneurship ambitions are embedded in policy development”.
“The Scottish Government is committed to the most radical reforms of the Scottish entrepreneurial system since devolution. Our ambition is to establish Scotland as one of Europe’s leading start-up economies,” said Forbes. “These game-changing tech scalers will deliver one of the most sophisticated and comprehensive state-funded environments in Europe for the creation and growth of start-ups. Tech scalers will put Scotland on the global start-up map and we will promote their services relentlessly to attract the world’s best talent to scale up their businesses in Scotland. A key ambition in our strategy to transform the economy is to help establish Scotland as a world-class entrepreneurial country, founded on a culture that encourages, promotes and celebrates entrepreneurial activity.”
Logan, whose report envisioned the tech scalers as forming the “national backbone” of the strategy, welcomed the news that the plan is progressing.
“These coordinated initiatives are part of the most significant strategic investment in Scotland’s high-technology industry ever seen in Scotland,” he said. “Together, they create the perfect environment for starting and scaling technology-based businesses, with the many opportunities for our people that will result from that. It’s a very exciting time for the sector.”
In her announcement Forbes noted that the government is soon to launch a teacher upskilling pilot in partnership with one local authority and has made funding available to so those outside mainstream education can improve their digital skills.
A £1m Digital Start Fund, for example, is aimed at supporting people on benefits or in low-income jobs to undertake tech-related courses while £500,000 has been invested in creating a range of coding courses to create a ‘digital skills pipeline’.
Karen Meechan, chief executive of tech trade body ScotlandIS, said the announcement “marks a further step-change in the Scottish Government’s support to grow the nation’s tech ecosystem”.
“The investment in new teachers and reskilling is particularly welcome given the recruitment challenges that many are facing in the sector. We look forward to working with the Scottish Government to deliver these proposals as soon as practical,” she added.
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