SCOTLAND’S businesses can compete in the global technology race, so long their ambition is matched with the support required to create a truly ‘digital nation’.
That is among the findings of the new Tech Report Scotland 2022 by international law firm Addleshaw Goddard, in association with the University of Strathclyde’s Fraser of Allander Institute. The report interviewed tech industry leaders and surveyed more than 400 Scottish-based businesses across all sectors.
It revealed that sentiment is positive to progress made since the publication of the Tech Report Scotland 2020, but additional investment and infrastructure is essential to take advantage of the opportunity that has been created.
Other key issues that emerged included: improving skills & education; the opportunity presented by net zero; data ‘enlightenment’ and the growing awareness of the value of personal data; and the emergence of the metaverse.
David Anderson, co-lead of Tech in Scotland at Addleshaw Goddard, said: “Industry leaders believe significant progress has been made since 2020 – something that has been both driven by the pandemic and yet hindered by the health, economic and global supply chain challenges that have accompanied it.
“However, the time is now to capitalise on the Scottish Government’s initiatives and substantial investment. Building a robust infrastructure capable of supporting the massive shift to fibre broadband and facilitating access to 5G and the cloud is absolutely fundamental to Scotland’s future success. We also need to encourage international investment, with industry leaders acknowledging room for improvement in our engagement with other major trading partners.
Lynsey Walker, co-lead of Tech in Scotland at Addleshaw Goddard, added: “Among the interesting topics thrown up by the report, it’s clear that the development of the metaverse has the potential to transform the global economy. Much as the move to online retail changed our shopping habits, this next stage could further change the way we live and geography becomes less important – there’s no reason Scottish entrepreneurs can’t be at the vanguard of this change.”
“Putting current concerns about the overall economy to the side – the optimism of senior executives in relation to technology change was a theme consistent throughout. The opportunity is there, the policy support is there, demand is rising – now we get on with it.”
There are now 13000 tech jobs created every year in Scotland and tech and the digital arena is no longer an industry or sector distinct from others.
The 400 Scottish businesses surveyed, in conjunction with the Addleshaw Goddard quarterly Scottish Business Monitor produced in association with Fraser of Allander Institute, which highlights business sentiment across Scotland, crossed industries including healthcare, financial services, accommodation, transport, construction, and manufacturing.
Key findings from the survey indicate that:
· 40% of businesses had accelerated their plans to make a major part of their business digital following the pandemic.
· 72% of tech companies reported increased sales across 2021 compared to 44% in 2020.
· 79% of tech industry firms are reporting a positive business outlook
· 76% of tech firms planning to recruit graduates
· 31% of tech firms focusing on cyber security business opportunities
· 61% of Scottish businesses investing in communications tech innovation since 2020
· 31% of Scottish businesses investing in new ways or providing services since 2020
· 75% of Scottish businesses reporting a permanent change in the way their business operates since 2020.
· However, 56% of tech firms reported engagement in international markets, a small dip from 60% in 2020
The acceleration of digital plans was most evident in the transport and storage sector (53%), followed by the information and comms (47%) and the accommodation and food services sectors (40%).
Karen Meechan, CEO of Scotland IS – the membership organisation for Scotland’s digital technology industry – who contributed the foreword to the report said: “This report highlights the challenges our sector faces but by building the right transformational infrastructure and working collaboratively, we can create a digital Scotland that is good for the people, the economy, the environment and the government.
“The report also highlights the ambition that is inherent in our sector and the determination, leadership and innovation that is core to our success and gives me hope that someday soon Scotland will be a truly digital nation.”