‘We cannot achieve our goals without entrepreneurs’ – Kate Forbes on vision for new ‘tech scaler’ network
From the very start of my ministerial career, I have had responsibility for the Scottish tech sector – and I can still say what I have said from the start, which is that this is the most exciting portfolio in government.
Scotland’s tech sector is already a significant success story; start-ups and businesses which are scaling up and growing employ more than 135,000 people. We want to create more success stories like these.
That is why I have agreed to award a £42m contract to Codebase, a leading tech support organisation, to establish Scotland’s network of ‘Tech Scalers’, to help our tech founders and entrepreneurs scale-up their businesses.
The Scottish Government wants to encourage the tech industry’s growth as part of wider ambitions to transform our economy over the next decade and boost enterprise.
So we have made this investment – one of the largest ever in supporting the tech sector – to ensure new and existing start-ups have access to high quality commercial education while aiming to attract leading entrepreneurs from around the world.
Codebase already run a very successful operation helping to develop start-ups in Scotland and across the UK, having themselves began as a start-up – their growth and success story is a shining example of what we want to achieve.
Codebase will establish seven Tech Scalers, which are centres for teaching entrepreneurship and providing support, in partnership with universities, local authorities and businesses, in Aberdeen, Dumfries, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Stirling.
Tech Scalers will supply the infrastructure that new companies need – not simply in terms of premises, but in terms of support and education. They represent an investment in people – who we know are the single most important factor in the success of companies.
They will offer courses for companies right across Scotland at different stages of development – from new start-ups onwards.
High growth businesses, meaning companies with the potential to expand to significant size and achieve high valuations, will be given free access to Reforge, the San Francisco-based company that runs Silicon Valley’s most prestigious education programme for tech start-ups. This is a key example of how the Tech Scalers won’t simply encourage learning from peers and successful entrepreneurs within Scotland – they will also look much further afield.
Companies led by women and minorities – significantly under-represented among tech start-ups – will be prioritised for entry to the incubators. Those companies will also be given extra support which recognises the greater challenges they face in raising investment and developing peer networks.
For new companies at all stages of their development, we are determined to provide one of the most supportive environments in Europe.
This is also an important part of the wider vision for entrepreneurship set out in the National Strategy for Economic Transformation. That strategy made it clear that we need our entrepreneurs to succeed and flourish – not just in the tech, but in every sector of the economy.
The Scottish Government envisages, for example, that the focus of the tech scaler programme will shift over time so that it becomes a broader programme for start-ups in any sector which are looking to scale up.
That is important, because we know that encouraging small and scaling up businesses can have a significant effect on overall economic prosperity.
New businesses are an important source of innovation – something that will be vital if we are to raise prosperity, while also addressing the climate crisis and other key issues.
And so when you consider some of the goals the national strategy sets out – not simply around productivity and innovation, but also around promoting wellbeing – we simply cannot achieve those goals, unless we create an environment which enables and encourages more entrepreneurs. Supporting entrepreneurship is one of the most important interventions any government can make in the economy.
That’s why the new role which Mark Logan is taking up – as Chief Entrepreneur – will be a vitally important one.
It is why the Scottish Government will do everything we can to create a more entrepreneurial nation. It is why we are investing in these tech scalers now.
We can develop Scotland’s tech sector. We can make Scotland a more entrepreneurial nation. We can help to create a fairer, greener and wealthier country.