Kate Forbes MSP believes Scotland’s technology industry has huge potential, despite an increasingly competitive international environment.
Speaking at ScotSoft 2018 in Edinburgh, she noted that Scotland’s digital technology sector contributed £2.3 billion worth of exports to the Scottish economy in 2016.
The Minister for Public Finance & Digital Economy acknowledged that key challenges lie ahead as Scotland faces a potentially “seismic” impact on the economy due to Brexit. However, she believes that through increased cooperation between academia, industry and the public sector, Scotland can continue to forge a reputation as a global innovation hub.
According to Forbes, investment in digital skills development, inclusivity and cultivating a positive environment for startups and future industry leaders to flourish will be a key focus of the government, as the digital technology sector continues to grow and innovate.
“Riding the Wave of Economic Potential”
Forbes commented that Scotland must “build on the modest growth” the country has witnessed over the last two quarters and that the sector has proven its value in recent years. According to the Minister, the transformative impact of the tech sector has “opened up new possibilities” in Scotland.
“It’s changed dynamic areas in our cities and opened up new possibilities for our remote and rural communities,” she commented. “So it’s little wonder perhaps, that this will be the fastest growing sector by 2024.”
Although innovation and growth are evident in Scotland currently, Forbes conceded that if Scotland fails to capitalise on its blossoming technology sector it could risk falling behind in an increasingly competitive global environment.
She said: “I know that if this is to be the fastest growing sector then we want to be sure that we’re riding the wave of economic potential to ensure that whether it’s talented academics that are choosing where to go for their studies, they choose Scotland.
“Whether it’s entrepreneurs that are considering what the best place for them is in order to have access to capital, they choose Scotland. Whether it’s talented students choosing what university or college to go to, they choose Scotland.”
Forbes added: “If we can get that right then we are going to continue to be at the forefront of the digital revolution.”
Collaboration and Communication
For Scotland’s success to continue, there must be a shared, common aspiration between industry and government; capitalising on areas within the sector that are disruptive and pioneering in nature.
“For us both to be successful,” Forbes explained, “we need to develop a partnership of shared aspiration that will enable us to ensure cooperation and partnership between industry, academia and the public sector.”
Forbes noted that “the beauty” of the sector is that it doesn’t purely benefit those working in technology roles. Instead, there is great potential for all of Scotland and through innovation and the development of emerging technologies, the whole country can reap the rewards.
Collaboration and increased cooperation will not be an easy task, she conceded. However, it is imperative that industry, academia and government coordinate to ensure economic goals are achieved in the face of perilous political and economic prospects.
“I recognise that it’s easy for a government minister to talk about our vision and tell you what we’d love to see over the coming years. But other government’s have similar ambitions and other markets are becoming more competitive,” she said.
“We are facing the potential of a seismic shock to our economy” with the possibility of a hard Brexit, Forbes suggested. “That’s where, more than anything else, it’s never been more important that we are working together and that the industry feels it is being listened to – and that government is quick and flexible in the support it offers.”
Despite potential challenges, Forbes said her exploration of Scotland’s various sectors thus far has highlighted a great deal of internal confidence and is an industry which conveys to the global community an “open for business” attitude – Scotland is still very much an attractive place work, live and innovate.
“Scotland has the people, the data, the culture, the investors, the infrastructure and the partnership required to make it the very best place to start and grow businesses that can succeed.”