New targeted national inward investment strategy highlights opportunities for digital

A new ‘targeted’ national inward investment plan has highlighted the opportunities to internationalise Scotland’s economy – with a focus on nine key sectors including software and IT, digital business services, health tech and fintech.

Tech markets have been put in pole position due to the country’s global strengths in digital and data and also their relative “resilience” in the face of downward pressures from the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, the new plan, unveiled by Scotland’s trade minister, represents a “fundamental shift” as the Scottish Government seeks to ‘build back better’, with detailed plans on the sector approach published in the 84-page strategy on Tuesday. Previously, inward investment efforts were much more wide-ranging, with no special emphasis on attracting specific industry sectors or developing clusters.

Priority will be given to investors who can build local supply chains, provide new skills and invest in research. There will be an emphasis on the creation of regional clusters to encourage the spread of investment across Scotland.

The Scottish Government will focus resource on strategic investments, aiming ultimately to allocate up to £20 million a year. It is estimated the plan has the potential to increase GDP by £4.2 billion, boost exports by £2.1 billion over the next two decades and add up to £680 million a year to government revenues.

The revised approach seeks to deliver 100,000 jobs over the next decade.

Unveiling Shaping Scotland’s Economy: Scotland’s Inward Investment Plan in parliament today, Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation Ivan McKee said:

“For the last seven years Scotland has attracted the most inward investment of any UK nation or region outside London. The time is right to build on these strong foundations.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for greater resilience in our economy and to build back better. Scotland’s Inward Investment Plan therefore represents a fundamental shift in focus.

“Our robust analytical approach has identified nine opportunity areas where Scotland’s genuine global strengths, often built on our academic excellence, align with global investment opportunities and offer the most potential to maximise economic benefits across the nation.

“We will build regional clusters of expertise around specific strengths, making Scotland a more attractive proposition for potential investors and ensuring all parts of the country benefit.

“I am acutely aware that I am launching this plan at a time of huge uncertainty, with COVID-19 continuing to inflict economic harm. We also face Brexit at the end of the year and whether it is no deal or a bad deal, all the analysis shows that it will harm many key parts of Scotland’s economy.

“Now, more than ever, we need to have a plan in place for inward investment that targets effort and resource strategically to shape Scotland’s economy for the future.”

Independent research suggests that the sectors identified are also likely to be among the most resilient to the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19). The nine areas of opportunity identified in the plan are energy transition, decarbonisation of transport, food and drink innovation, software and IT, digital financial services, digital business services, space, health technology and the transformation of chemical industries. The sectors are identified as ones where Scotland has ‘global strengths’ and which offer ‘significant future prospects’.