The following announcement from Scottish Government was published today building on the recommendations of last year’s Scottish Technology Ecosystem Review. In September, Digital Xtra Fund expressed its support for this Review and in particular, it’s recognition of the importance of extracurricular activities when engaging young people with tech (Recommendations 7 and 25). Shortly thereafter, Scottish Government committed to implementing all 34 recommendations.
Scottish Government has been a significant supporter of Digital Xtra Fund and our grants programme since the Fund’s creation in 2016. Their support continues to be a vital part of achieving our goals and objectives. This announcement, and the recently updated Digital Strategy for Scotland, has the potential to ensure Scotland is a global tech centre. However, sufficient digital talent, creativity, and an entrepreneurial mindset are keystone to achieving these plans.
We are very excited by these developments and hope this latest announcement ensures we will continue to work with Scottish Government to support the hard work of schools and organisations across the country engaging young people with technology both in and out of the classroom.
A leading expert in scaling digital businesses has been appointed to oversee work to establish Scotland as a world-class technology hub.
Mark Logan, former Skyscanner executive and Professor of Computing Science at the University of Glasgow, will advise ministers on implementing the recommendations stemming from his independent review of the Scottish tech ecosystem.
The programme will be delivered with £7 million Scottish Government funding in its first year (2021-22). This will include a £1 million fund to make strategic investments in organisations and activities – such as tech conferences, meet-ups or training programmes – that create the best possible environment for Scottish start-ups to succeed.
Procurement for a network of growth-focused entrepreneurial hubs known as “tech scalers” will open for bids later this year. It is anticipated that there will be five scalers in different parts of the country by 2022, with the aim of supporting around 300 high-quality start-ups over the next five years.
Progress will be supported by a gender-balanced advisory board composed of some of Scotland’s most successful entrepreneurs and digital leaders including:
- Lesley Eccles, founder and CEO of HelloRelish and co-founder of gaming platform Fanduel
- Roan Lavery, co-founder of online accounting firm FreeAgent
- Sarah Ronald, founder of Nile HQ strategic design agency
- Stephen Ingledew, executive chair of FinTech Scotland
Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said:
“Mark is one of the most respected figures in Scotland’s tech scene and his experience, passion and global profile will be invaluable in our joint mission to elevate the tech ecosystem to world-class level.
“The expertise and industry perspective of the advisory board will also be instrumental in ensuring we create the conditions and infrastructure needed to incubate a stream of start-ups that reach sustained profitability and can do so at scale.
“From attracting young people into computing science courses to supporting a community of high-growth businesses, this programme of work will be critical in determining the future contribution of Scotland’s tech sector to our economic recovery.”
Online travel business Skyscanner was Scotland’s first “unicorn” – the industry term for a tech company valued at more than $1 billion. Professor Logan joined the firm as Chief Operating Officer in 2012 until its acquisition in 2017.
Professor Logan said:
“It’s very exciting to witness the shared sense of mission and ambition across government, industry and the education sector in bringing the tech ecosystem review’s recommendations to life. I’m pleased to have the support of such an experienced board as we strive to make Scotland a leading technology economy.”
Mark Logan’s Scottish Technology Ecosystem Review was published in August 2020 and the Scottish Government has committed to implementing its recommendations.
A full list of board members will be published ahead of its first meeting in May 2021.
The £1 million Ecosystem Fund is expected to open for applications in summer 2021.
A document setting out the Scottish Government’s initial expectations of tech scalers will be published shortly and used as a basis for discussions with potential bidders.
Work to develop the technology sector will contribute to the successful delivery of Scotland’s updated digital strategy which was published this month and complements the artificial intelligence strategy published earlier this week.