Scotland’s tech innovation hubs are more important than ever

BLOG2nd Nov 2021

Since 2019 our lives, whether it be personal or work related, have completely transformed. The one constant across all of our changes has been our increased reliance on technology.

Need to work at home, want to home-school your children, contact your family living across the world, order an item that needs to come the next day? No problem.

And what about the bigger picture? Shopping, banking, entertainment, climate change; tech is completely transforming our habits and lifestyles and excitingly, Scottish tech businesses are increasingly playing a significant part in this.

Crafted over the last few decades, we now have a fantastic tech eco-system here in Scotland. Our universities across our cities are producing and nurturing talent, we have a mature investment culture with investors understanding the importance of tech, and of course Scotland is a great place to live. It’s no wonder that brilliant businesses are establishing themselves across the country.

However, although investors and the government understand the importance of tech, these businesses face all the same difficulties as others when it comes to finding their feet or expanding into bigger markets. Sadly, there are some fantastic business ideas that simply fail to get off the ground, whether that be to do with lack of investment or struggle with management skills. On top of this, due to the pressures caused by COVID, for many it has been difficult for businesses to achieve their growth targets.

That’s why innovation hubs and accelerator programmes are more important than ever. ONE Codebase, STAC, Halo, The Scotland 5G Centre, to name but a few, have undoubtedly taken inspiration for how the larger tech cities in the world have grown their capabilities and helped their native companies succeed.

Scotland can look to the Valley (USA) and to Kitchener Waterloo (Canada) to see how hubs and accelerators can really work for companies. Rocketspace in the Valley (actually founded in 2011 by a Scot, Duncan Logan) lists Hootsuite, Uber and Spotify as alumni from its hub and start-up support programmes.

Rocketspace is so much more than a cool office serving great coffee and a ball pit to play in (not sure there is a ball pit). Truly successful hubs and accelerators are more than just an office space for an ambitious company. It’s a huge ambition fulfilled to shoehorn a quote from Aristotle into an article, but the great man is credited with the old adage that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts and that’s what these initiatives hope to provide. In addition to the several ‘parts’ a hub or accelerator can provide (premises, mentorship, investment, connections), there are also the synergies of companies working together and learning from each other’s successes and failures to add to the ‘whole.’

Kitchener Waterloo (KW) is a great example in how hubs and accelerators can rejuvenate a tech community. Ottawa has certainly not done things by halves in the last 10 years and has recovered well from several high profile falls from grace such as RIM (Blackberry) and Nortel. Communitech in KW (a public-private innovation hub) was founded in 1997 and supports 1,600 local companies and is responsible for 25,000 tech jobs. Velocity, the University of Waterloo’s incubator, has launched more than 300 companies (including Avidbots and Vidyards) to date and provide space (it has a 37,000 square foot building) where founders can work and learn together.

These are just some examples of how tech innovation hubs have helped innovative businesses succeed. They demonstrate the good practice our tech hubs here in Scotland are adopting to enhance our tech eco-system and provide the platform for businesses to gain access to support, advice and ultimately thrive. For us as a team, we continue to work with the hubs and the exciting businesses they support and are looking forward to focusing our efforts on continuing to serve tech-focused companies.

If you would like to know more about this area, contact Head of Tech, Brian McMurray, or your usual AAB contact.

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