“We were two middle-aged women who decided to start a tech company,” said Sarah Morton to cheers at the annual ScotlandIS Digital Tech Awards on Thursday night in Glasgow.

Dr Morton, a social policy expert who co-founded Matter of Focus in 2017, was among the entrepreneurs feted at the glittering ceremony at the Radisson Blu hotel in the city.

Her company specialises in helping public sector organisations – including children’s charities and health and social care partnerships – track the real-world outcomes of their work.

With 15 employees, the firm, based in CodeBase in Edinburgh, is pioneering a new way of measuring the effectiveness of social policy, giving vital data insights for organisations in a range of fields.

The firm was among nine winners, scooping the Public Sector Innovation award – sponsored by Futurescot – at the 13th annual ceremony, where the best and brightest of Scotland’s tech ecosystem gathered to celebrate their achievements.

Dr Morton, who has a PhD in social policy from the University of Edinburgh, said: “We’re absolutely delighted, because we’re a little bit of a weird company. As I said, when I accepted the award, we were two middle aged women who thought, “Yeah, we can set up a tech company.”

“And we’re a B Corporation, which is a company that’s assessed on a triple bottom line – people, planet and profit – so we hold our values very tightly. And it’s an international standard of scrutiny to prove that you do that, not just say that you do it.”

She added: “So, it’s lovely to be recognised in these awards in the mainstream tech sector for the work that we’ve done.”

Dr Morton explained that the cloud-based platform they developed was born out of the frustration that their previous spreadsheet methods could not be easily operationalised.

But after developing a bespoke product the firm now has an extensive client list in Scotland – including Midlothian Health and Social Care Partnership, the Thistle Foundation and Future Pathways; it also sells its software into global markets which have a similar outcomes-based approach to social policy, including England, Wales, Australia and Canada.

She added: “So, we’ve been working with some health and social care partnerships, who are really trying to show how working in partnership makes a difference for people in terms of health and social care. That’s not really a simple thing to demonstrate.

“So what we do is we help them set out what’s called the Theory of Change, or how do they think working in this way makes a difference for people. And then we use that framework in our software, and get them to pull and streamline all the data and evidence they have across the partnership into that one framework.”

Among other companies celebrate success on the night were cybersecurity firm Blackwired, which was awarded Digital Tech Business of the Year in the startup category, Dayshape for scale-up and xDesign for enterprise.

Iain Johnston, a former army officer and managing director of Blackwired, whose cyberattack prevention model based on the US Marine Corp’s, Combat Hunter programme ‘Left of Bang’, said: “This is a fantastic honour for us and a real vindication for what we’re trying to do. It’s been a bit of an up and down journey but we’re really striving to make a difference in what we do. This award is a real recognition of that.”

Other standouts on the night were Citizens Advice Scotland, which took home the “Tech for Good” award for developing a creative and low-cost solution that helped it continue to support 171,000 vulnerable people during the pandemic, and the unsung hero winner, Tandy Nicole,  a consultant and Scottish Government advisory board member who is behind the grassroots initiative Womennetic.

Karen Meechan, left, with unsung hero award winner Tandy Nicole

She said: ““It’s an honour to receive this recognition – I am very grateful to those that nominated me. Everyone, no matter their gender or background, should have the chance to pursue a career in the technology industry, and I am proud to play my part in helping to make that a reality.” 

Farrpoint’s hands-on approach in applying IoT technology to protecting Scottish peatlands also secured them the award for “Product/Service Innovation”, as one example of the cutting-edge innovation taking place across Scotland’s tech landscape and demonstrating the role tech can play in environmental engagement.

Karen Meechan, CEO of ScotlandIS said: “Scotland’s technology industry is a key contributor to our economy and society, and every year I am overwhelmed by the efforts of our winning companies. These are stand-outs in a sector that is full of organisations focused on creating opportunities and driving innovation. They make Scotland a true leader in the field and I would once again like to congratulate all of our winners and runners-up.”

The full list of Scottish Digital Technology Award winners for 2023 is: 

  • Product/ Service Innovation: FarrPoint
  • Tech for Good: Citizens Advice Scotland
  • Data Trailblazer: 2i Testing
  • Public Sector Innovation: Matter of Focus
  • Digital Tech Business of the Year – Start-up: Blackwired
  • Digital Tech Business of the Year – Scale-up: Dayshape
  • Digital Tech Business of the Year – Enterprise: xDesign
  • Best Wellbeing at Work: Calnex Solutions
  • Unsung Hero Award: Tandy Nicole
ScotlandIS Digital Technology Awards 2023 winners

The judging panel consisted of experts, champions, and influencers from across the digital technology industry.