Scotland’s national economic development agency has today unveiled ambitious new plans to accelerate the country’s green economic recovery.

Scottish Enterprise’s business plan for 2021/22 predicts that adoption of new technologies and the skills to use them could add more than £25bn to Scottish economy over next 10 years, and says technology, digital and low carbon sectors are ‘key to the future of Scotland’s economy’.

The agency, which has been ‘central’ to getting emergency support to Scottish businesses during the pandemic, is to spend £400m over the next year on activities to safeguard and create jobs for communities across Scotland.

With recent economic statistics confirming Scotland’s economy may not return to pre-pandemic levels until early 2024, Scottish Enterprise’s focus is to build on signs of recovery and accelerate growth for Scotland.

Underlining a strong commitment to green and fair growth, the plan confirms that businesses will be required to ‘demonstrate their commitment to net zero and fair work’ as part of accessing Scottish Enterprise support.

The plans also reveals that the agency will use a digital approach to provide extra online support to more companies, allowing it to work with ‘a broader business base.’

Additionally, it will encourage more businesses to invest in digital adoption in order to help them be resilient in the face of future challenges and support their future growth.

Linda Hanna, interim chief executive of Scottish Enterprise said: “There is no doubt that the events of the past year have created significant challenges for our economy.  Alongside our partners, we’ve been working hard to respond to the needs of Scottish businesses, while at the same time, focusing on the long-term goals of a greener and fairer successful Scottish economy.

“As we continue to feel the impact from the pandemic and Brexit, Scotland’s unemployment levels are expected to rise.  That’s why our plan for the year focuses on working with businesses and industry to safeguard and create jobs.  Good jobs, green jobs and jobs that can improve the health and wealth of the nation simultaneously.”

Key measures to be delivered in the coming year include:

Up to 10,500 planned jobs paying at least the real living wage, including green jobs
Up to £425m planned R&D investment by businesses/projects
Up to £360m planned capital investment by businesses/projects
Up to £230m growth funding raised by businesses
Up to 1bn planned international exports
Up to 240k tonnes estimated CO2 savings by businesses/projects

Hanna added: “Jobs for the future are equally as important as those for today. We have an opportunity to reshape our economy so that post-pandemic Scotland flourishes with industries that are globally competitive and sustainable for generations to come.

“Our plan aims to help harness the economic potential of digital, net zero, health and advanced manufacturing and we will be doing all we can to maximise opportunities like COP26, both in terms of accelerating our transition to a net zero economy and in opening up global market opportunities for Scottish businesses.

“We know there are challenging times ahead.  Scotland’s economy may not return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024 but now is the time to look to the future with hope and ambition as we grow a fairer, greener Scotland for all.”

Tech start-up case studies

The new report pledges to continue supporting start-up and spin-out companies, many of which are in technology, digital and low carbon sectors, as they “create high-quality jobs and attract investment into Scotland while retaining a focus on growing in Scotland and increasing exports.”

Scottish Enterprise, which is working close with the Scottish National Investment Bank to ensure businesses benefit from its financial support, says “investment in early stage businesses is crucial to the development of Scotland’s future success in job creation and delivery of our economic priorities.”

The business plan highlights four successful Scottish digital and technology start-ups it has backed in the past year.

Xergy: The new tech start-up secured a £425,000 grant from Scottish Enterprise in January. The funding will enable Xergy to further invest in the development of its revolutionary digital platform, Proteus, that can ‘transform business operating models and boost profits, by reducing costs and increasing efficiencies’.

LumiraDx: The life sciences giant announced a £78m investment in its current Scottish operations in March, which could see up to 750 jobs created over the next three years. It was supported with funding of £15m from Scottish Enterprise.

Emergency One: The Cumnock-based manufacturer of fire, rescue and emergency vehicles launched the world’s first electric fire engine in October 2020 with the help of a £500,000 grant from Scottish Enterprise.

Arcola Energy Ltd: It was announced in March the hydrogen technology company will bring up to 135 jobs to the former Michelin site in Dundee over a three-year period, after securing a £1.5m investment from Scottish Enterprise.

The plan also revealed that 73 per cent of Scotland’s businesses adopted new digital technologies
during Covid-19 and anticipates that working from home in UK will increase fivefold by 2025, enabled by advancements in technology.