Techscaler was launched in November 2022, as a ‘nationwide network’. Initially operating from six cities around Scotland – Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee, Stirling and Inverness – the programme now also offers co-working spaces in the South of Scotland in partnership with HometownHub, with further hub locations still to come. 

Regionality is one of the key differences between Techscaler and most other incubator/accelerator offerings in the UK, so it’s worth unpacking some of the ways in which this distinctive approach adds value – to participating founders and start-ups, potential investors and Scotland’s national tech community as a whole. 

Scotland is a relatively small country. Its mainland covers roughly 42,200 square miles – slightly larger than Iceland and a little smaller than Bulgaria or the US state of Louisiana, extending 274 miles from north to south and 154 miles from west to east; although there are 539 miles from its most northerly island to its southernmost point. 

But, as we know, within this overall area lie significant economic, cultural, historical and topographical variations. Scotland packs a lot of different stuff into its relatively compact land-mass. For example – one short, hour-and-fifteen-minute flight connects Glasgow (home of small satellite manufacturers such as Alba Orbital) with Saxa Vord (the first licensed vertical launch spaceport in the UK and Western Europe) which is on Unst, one of the Shetland Islands.  

What this means is – if we think regionally, we can make a pitch to investors, or founders interested in launching their start-ups in Scotland along the lines of ‘Not only, but also’. Not only do we have world-leading universities doing cutting edge research in fields such as energy and transition-tech – but we also have the topography to test the outputs of this research in situ, the climate and terrain to make the best use of emerging wind and wave innovations. All within geographic and travel distances which are, by the standards of countries like the US, just a short hop, skip or a step from one location to another. 

This is why the Techscaler programme has been designed to leverage maximum value from our distinct regional communities, drawing them together and creating the conditions for new and exciting collaborations. 

The opportunities this presents could involve drone designers and academics working on new techniques for agricultural or forestry surveys, video games developers and immersive education technology companies or MedTech companies and NHS Scotland’s Regional Innovation Hubs. If we multiply new ideas by the range of our different, existing regional strengths and assets, Scotland can be much more than the sum of its ecosystem parts. 

As well as the scope for catalysis and innovation that comes from bouncing ideas from one region off the strengths of another, Techscaler is adding value by enabling existing reservoirs of sectoral or manufacturing strength in particular geographic areas, such as EnergyTech in the North-East, to deepen and grow. 

Having a physical footprint, with regional engagement teams on the ground working from each of our seven hub locations, means we can support local start-ups to become the best versions of their unique, regionally-inspired selves. 

Connection to a national network and access, online, or in-person, to our education programmes, funding opportunities – such as the Techscaler MVP Grant – and mentorship offering, can help geographically-dispersed founders to enjoy the same learning and development support as their peers, without having to decamp to one of our urban centres.

In this way, Techscaler is genuinely community-focussed and community-driven. Our teams work with enterprise agencies, local partners and stakeholders to understand the challenges and opportunities faced by founders and start-ups in each of our seven regions and to collaborate on place-based programmes and initiatives to build on existing strengths and address barriers to access and opportunity. 

Most of the staff who make up our regional teams were recruited locally, so our hubs are operated by colleagues with strong connections to their local areas – which translates into a dedicated commitment to delivering in regions, for regions. Regional teams see local and place-based distinctions as powerful, realisable assets which both they, and the Techscaler programme overall, are well-placed to work with, build up and capitalise on.

Scotland has a powerful, globally-recognised and appreciated brand identity. Our country sells itself – speak to strangers from New York to Reykjavik, Barcelona to Lagos, you’ll find they already have a strong and usually positive impression of Scotland. And we know this potent and enduring brand strength already pays dividends by attracting a wide range of people who want to move and make their home here. 

These brand strengths are anchored as much in our regions as they are in urban centres like Glasgow and Edinburgh. What often attracts people from elsewhere in the UK as well as from abroad are perceptions about quality of life, the beauty of our rural landscapes and Scotland’s international reputation for high-quality education, free health-care, and world-leading outdoor pursuits. 

Techscaler adds bespoke business support for tech start-ups and founders to the existing list of reasons as to why someone might want to move and start a business here. Just as regionality offers a ‘not only, but also’ value proposition to potential investors, it also offers the same to individual founders and their families.

Improved broadband connectivity in rural areas, allied to a post-Covid socio-cultural shift towards remote and home-working means it’s now easier to have both a quieter, less urbanised home life away from Scotland’s cities. Throw in the potential benefits of web-based AI, in helping small businesses increase efficiency and manage scale-up costs and it’s clear that founding or working for a cutting-edge tech start-up away from Scotland’s cities can be an increasingly attractive and achievable option for some. 

During my time as VP: Regional Engagement for Codebase, I have met founders living in Stonehaven, Dingwall, and near Stow – all of whom have relocated to these areas for precisely these reasons, because they wanted the quality of life these smaller communities offered, while still being able and determined to pursue their career journeys in tech. 

Techscaler is a national government-funded programme – and national governments, for obvious reasons, have political obligations which require them to ensure equal access to opportunities across the countries they govern. But regionality is more than a ‘nice to have’, it offers tangible economic benefits to the whole of Scotland’s national tech community, wherever they may be based. 

While it remains the case that, out of all of our Techscaler regions, Edinburgh and Lothians is the top location in the Scottish ecosystem with 350 of Scotland’s 876 active high-growth tech companies headquartered there, the inverse of that statistic is that roughly 60% of Scotland’s high-growth tech companies are based outwith Edinburgh, a clear indication of the scope to drive national performance further and faster by leveraging the potential for growth in other regions as well as the capital.  

In terms of their contribution to the national tech ecosystem, we should think of Scotland’s regions as being like separate tributaries, flowing into a single river basin. The strength of flow down each tributary varies, with Edinburgh and Glasgow being by far the strongest right now. But if Techscaler can help to increase the flow along our other tributaries, if not to a comparable level, then at least at a comparable rate – then, from a national perspective, we will see the truth in the old saying, ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’ – as Scotland’s ecosystem as a whole becomes stronger and more internationally competitive.