Despite the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, Scotland’s tech sector remains optimistic about the year ahead, according to the latest annual survey from ScotlandIS.
Launched today, the annual Scottish Technology Industry Survey acts as a barometer for the prospects and outlook of Scotland’s tech sector.
The 2021 survey shows that the sector has remained resilient throughout the last year, with almost half of respondents increasing their sales and profit margins.
Optimism about the year ahead also remains very high, with more than three-quarters (77%) of respondents saying they are very optimistic about the next 12 months.
Across the sector, companies reported that the greatest opportunities for their business over the next 18 months were likely to be in data analytics (51%), artificial intelligence, machine learning (47%) and Internet of Things (27%).
Karen Meechan, Interim CEO of ScotlandIS, said the survey results underline the strength and resilience of Scotland’s burgeoning tech sector.
Despite the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic and uncertainty surrounding Britain’s exit from the European Union, the technology ecosystem has weathered the storm.
“Scotland’s digital and tech sector has shown its mettle this year, with resilience across the board,” she 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” across the sector, Meechan added, helping smaller businesses and fostering closer relationships between the sector, society and the broader economy.
“As a sector, we will continue to grow through collaboration and can look forward to a year of strong growth to come,” Meechan commented.
- Ransomware report lays out strategy to fight growing threat
- DIGIT Startup Q&A | Bara Wahbeh, co-founder and CTO of AKYAS
- Innovation fund to address ‘risk-averse’ culture in Scottish education
Looking ahead, international opportunities remain at the forefront of much of the sector’s growth plans, with 60% reporting that this is something they already undertake. Similarly, much of the remainder noted they have future plans to do so.
New markets including Australia and New Zealand represent exciting new opportunities for Scottish businesses as the industry adjust to Brexit.
Although 2020 was an unprecedented and challenging year for smaller businesses, the ScotlandIS survey shows the past 12 months have also been a mixed picture for larger enterprises.
Nearly half (44%) reported a decrease in sales compared to 17% in the year previous. However, 30% of organisations did report increased sales while 83% of medium-sized businesses expect their sales to increase over the next 12 months.
Employment in the sector also remains robust. Two-thirds of small businesses expect to increase staff numbers, only down slightly compared to last year.
While smaller businesses have shown an increasing demand for more senior, skilled talent, 36% reported that they are likely to employ someone who underwent retraining in the next 12 months. Sales and marketing, however, remains the most in-demand skills set within the sector.
ScotlandIS Manifesto 2021
The publication of the 2021 survey coincides with the launch of ScotlandIS’ 2021 Manifesto for the Scottish Parliament elections.
The Manifesto outlines a series of recommendations for stakeholders across Scotland to embrace in order to accelerate digital transformation and upskill the nation’s workforce.
Notably, the Manifesto highlights the “immense potential” for Scotland’s tech ecosystem to become a pillar of the country’s digital economy.
Three key areas where ScotlandIS expects to see rapid growth over the next 12 months include Climate Tech, GovTech and Space Tech.
“ScotlandIS sees Climate Tech, GovTech and Space Tech as being the three areas whereby Scotland has enormous opportunity,” Meechan explained.
“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.”