A national network of tech hubs will be established to support the next generation of Scottish startups, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes has announced.
The hubs, known as ‘tech scalers’, will aim to deliver “world-class” training and mentoring services for technology entrepreneurs and early-stage startups.
A key focus of the tech scalers network will be to cultivate a more collaborative environment throughout Scotland’s tech ecosystem; providing entrepreneurs with a haven for knowledge exchange, networking and critical grassroots support.
Outlining the Scottish Government’s response to Mark Logan’s tech ecosystem review, Forbes revealed the government will establish five scalers by 2022 and aim to create at least 300 high-quality startups over the next five years.
“Mark Logan’s review of our tech sector has attracted universal acclaim, having been described as potentially transformational by key figures across business, technology and academia,” she said.
“The tech scaler network is the report’s centrepiece and I am pleased to be putting this recommendation into action to dramatically increase the quality and intensity of support available to Scottish startups,” Forbes added.
Last week, Logan told DIGIT that although Scotland’s tech sector has the raw materials needed to develop a world-class ecosystem, its current state has to be examined critically. The tech scalers network could play a critical role in accelerating Scotland’s tech startup conveyor belt.
“We have a lot of the building blocks, but we have to be honest with ourselves; we know we’re not producing that stream of companies at the same rate as some of the ecosystems we admire out there,” he said.
The Finance Secretary also announced the launch of an Ecosystem Fund that will be used to make ‘strategic investments’ in the Scottish tech sector.
Long-term, the Scottish Government hopes to establish a formal partnership with the technology sector to accelerate the implementations of Logan’s review recommendations.
“Today’s announcement is just the start of our response to Mr Logan’s report and I look forward to working closely with technology companies to create a Scotland where startups can thrive,” she said.
Forbes’ announcement yesterday has been welcomed by a range of industry figures, including Logan himself. Speaking to DIGIT, he said that fostering closer ties between government, industry and academia will help cultivate a stronger tech ecosystem throughout the country.
“I’m delighted by the Scottish Government’s response to the review, and at the prospect of a close partnership between industry, the education sector and government to deliver on its recommendations,” he said.
“In my 30 years in the Scottish technology sector, I’ve never seen so much talent, ambition and potential, and I’m looking forward to working with government to realise that potential,” Logan added.
Jane Morrison-Ross, Chief Executive of ScotlandIS, told DIGIT the announcement marks another step in the right direction for Scotland’s tech sector.
“ScotlandIS welcomes the announcement by Ms Forbes. As the industry body for digital tech, we are invested in, and hugely supportive of, the creation of a Scotland-wide ecosystem to support startups and innovation,” she said.
“We believe a tech permaculture approach is the way forward and a solution intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient,” Morrison-Ross added.
Morrison-Ross noted that a greater focus must be placed on supporting business in rural and remote communities, however. Ensuring the Scottish tech sector is not confined entirely to its cities and large towns should be a key consideration.
“What we would like to see is the tech scalers based throughout Scotland to support our remote and rural economies and to enable talented technologists to live and work anywhere while tapping into the innovation found nationally,” she said.
Elaine Maddison, CEO at Dundee-based Brightsolid, said the move underlines Holyrood’s “substantial” commitment to Scotland’s tech sector.
“With the recommendations from last week’s Scottish Technology Ecosystem Review set to be taken forward alongside a pledge to close the tech skills gap through a raft of training and upskilling programmes, the potential for the sector knows no bounds,” she said.