Edinburgh driving the success of Scottish tech, report shows

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Edinburgh’s tech sector contributed nearly £4bn in revenue to the economy last year and employs almost 60,000 people, according to a new report from Tech Nation.

The city is responsible for creating three of the UK’s leading tech unicorns – travel comparison site Skyscanner, fantasy sports platform FanDuel and data consultancy group Wood Mackenzie – and these “huge successes” have helped contribute to the number of local jobs in digital tech increasing by more than three times the UK average between 2014 and 2017. 

It is listed in the top ‘Top UK cities for scaleup tech investment from 2015-2018’, according to Tech Nation’s Bright Tech Future Jobs/Skills report, securing £95.3m in investment over those three years. However, a deeper dive into the figures reveals that London is outperforming Scotland’s capital – which has the 14th best university in the world for computer science, according to the Times Higher Education supplement – by almost 100 times, securing £9.06bn in the same period.

Indeed, the vast gulf between London and virtually every other location listed in the UK breakdown (with Cambridge in second spot on £582.87m and Abingdon in third on £438m) is clearly illustrated in the report, where places like Basingstoke, Solihull, Leamington Spa, Luton, Newcastle, Market Harborough, Cardiff and Wakefield all outperform Edinburgh on the investment metric. It should be noted that not all the UK tech investment deals cited by Pitchbook, who compiled the figures, have location information available, so real deal sizes are likely to be ‘far higher’.

Scottish tech companies overall have raised £43.2m in funding so far in 2019 and a total of 213 digital tech firms have been born in the region in the past three years, the report shows. The regional figures for Scotland were released just a week after the headline report from the UK Government’s Digital Economy Council showed that for the first seven months of this year, £5.5bn has been invested into British tech companies, up by 50 per cent on the same period last year.

The breakdown further reveals that one in five job vacancies advertised in the Scottish capital are in the tech sector and Edinburgh offers the highest salaries for people filling these roles, after London. The average tech sector job in the Scottish capital pays £42,500, almost 15% more than the average non-tech job in the city. 

Scotland’s attractiveness to tech workers can be seen when cost of living data is taken into account. Looking at spending power, Edinburgh is the best place for an analyst to work in the UK, while Glasgow tops the list for project managers. 

Digital Secretary Nicky Morgan said: “Scotland’s tech scene is leading the way in the development of cutting-edge cyber security, clean growth technologies and it has already produced three of the UK’s leading billion dollar tech companies, helping to strengthen the UK’s reputation as Europe’s leading tech hub.

“I’m pleased to see the world-class tech talent in Edinburgh come together to discuss how we can continue to make Britain the best place to start and grow a digital business, and I encourage bosses to nominate their staff for the inaugural Tech Nation Bright Tech Future Awards.”

George Windsor, head of Insights, Tech Nation, said: “Edinburgh has established itself as a thriving tech hub not just in Scotland but across the whole of the UK. The Tech Nation report reveals it has played a key role in the success of the UK’s booming tech sector, contributing billions into the economy and the city and punching well above its weight to beat UK averages for job creation, salaries and digital tech turnover.” 

Tech Nation was due to its Bright Tech Series tour at CodeBase, home of the UK’s largest tech incubator, today. The event will be hosted by Tech Nation’s Head of Insights George Windsor and Hazel Gibbens, Scotland’s entrepreneur engagement manager.

Tech Nation is working closely with the Digital Economy Council and DCMS to recognise the critical role that tech workers who don’t hold executive roles play in creating the UK’s most successful growing tech companies. To do this it has launched the Bright Tech Future awards, aimed at the 99% of workers in the tech sector, rather than the founders and CEOs. To find out more about the awards and to nominate up to three team members, go to this awards website.