With a pioneering history that can name drop the likes of John Logie Baird and Alexander Graham Bell, it’s well known that when it comes to technological advances, Scotland has long punched well above its weight. Most recently, many have looked to the successes of Edinburgh’s Skyscanner and Fanduel, two of Scotland’s highest profile businesses that have achieved ‘unicorn’ status, to evidence of what can be achieved in a country with just over five million residents.
Yet, perhaps one of the most significant but overlooked findings of Technology Scotland’s recent Skills & Recruitment Survey was its snapshot of the make-up of Scotland’s Tech Sector. The survey’s highest response rate came from start up and SME businesses with 10 or less employees – with only two 500+ employee companies represented.
With a vibrant start-up community that has easy access to a highly skilled workforce and the foreign markets, it’s fair to say that Scotland’s Start up tech scene is on the rise. As the pursuit of specialism in the industry becomes more accessible, grassroots organisations are springing up everywhere, with more people willing to have a go at turning their ideas into a profitable business venture, meaning that opportunities to join up with other creatively-minded tech experts have never been so plentiful.
The sector has increased by 43.4% in the last five years up to 2016 and Edinburgh is now the largest technology hub outside London – employing around 80,000 people and contributing around £4 billion to the economy.
Skycanner’s CEO, Gareth Williams, recently commented that “there are around eight high quality universities that excel in computing and the digital sector, in the central belt of Scotland. That provides a rich source of people who have the right skills for a web company like Skyscanner”. This somewhat contradicts Technology Scotland’s findings, in that 70% of respondents noted dissatisfaction in the preparation of graduates for industry. Perhaps the attractive graduate schemes offered by large tech companies to the coming-of-age Gen Z are diluting the talent pool available to smaller businesses.
Nevertheless, with the likes of CodeBase, the UK’s largest Tech Incubator and CodeClan, an accredited digital skills academy, both calling Edinburgh home, Scotland’s SME tech sector is continuing to thrive – with the Country creating several initiatives to help startups and SMEs in its capital and beyond.