My Column

Time to tech it to the next level

  • Date: Monday 6th May 2019
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While we’re not yet living in a sci-fi dream with flying cars and robot servants catering to our every whim, as some 80s movies had us believing, unprecedented change is undoubtedly upon us in 2019.

And perhaps to the outside world Scotland with its many traditional charms is an unlikely place for the tech revolution to take place, but we’re increasingly setting the international pace.   

Scottish industry has always had its sights set firmly on a smarter future when it comes to technological innovation. 

Ever since our own Alexander Graham Bell invented the precursor to the device that’s now more widely used for Tinder and Instagramming pictures of avocado toast, we have always embraced advanced changes in how we do things.

Joking aside, the tech revolution has absolutely arrived here in Scotland. The sector is forecast to grow about 17 per cent over the next five years and most technology firms have enjoyed a sizeable leap in sales since 2017. 

Even a quick stroll around the National Museum of Scotland’s current Robots exhibition can offer a quantum leap, exploring some of the promising uses and gimmicks possible, with one of the robots on show literally blowing their own trumpet.

However, despite an estimated 9,400 technology companies based right here in Scotland, 63,000 Scottish jobs supported by digital industry, and an estimated £6 billion in gross value added to the economy, industry body ScotlandIS has revealed its concern that there is a tech skills shortage in Scotland that needs to be tackled head on.

As the industry body’s outlook for the year ahead survey indicates, recruiting people who are a bit more tech-savvy isn’t the easiest code to crack. Out of the 12,500 people needed each year to fill the required roles, there’s currently less than half of that (around 5,000) graduating from university, colleges and through apprenticeships.

Growing areas include the likes of cyber security and online video gaming, but if there’s no one to evolve with this sector and spearhead its ambitions, then that’s when it’s game over. Embracing constant digital transformation and trying to entice more and more people to learn the requisite skills that will realise that is something the industry needs to find an answer for.

This recruitment glitch aside, it’s promising to see the future appearing brighter for businesses. ScotlandIS hails digital technology as the country’s fastest-growing sector so you might be wrong to not expect R2-D2 roaming the streets of Glasgow sometime soon.

And it’s not just something that can solely support Scotland’s tech industry. Whether you’re a farmer, a doctor or anything else for that matter, there seems to be an abundance of investment across Scotland to get more and more people geeky about gadgets and growth.

I’ve even seen a local plumber create his own app lately, so if they can do it, then there’s no excuse for larger companies.

Although movies like I, Robot and The Terminator have made technology seem a little more daunting over the years amid growing artificial intelligence, it looks like Skynet won’t be taking over your business any time soon.

Learning new skills and re-training could be a good avenue to go down for Scots innovators looking to unlock new growth potential and deliver smarter ways of working day-to-day, especially as we face the ever-changing uncertainty that is Brexit.

Basically, we need to ‘tech it or leave it’ as a country – but I’d strongly urge the former if we’re to seize the moment and capitalise on the vast promise of our fastest-growing sector.

 

SIDE

It feels like change may be in the air in Glasgow.

From the call for a £10bn upgrade to the city’s transport network, to the start of construction on the new £40m leisure development at the city’s St Enoch Centre, there have been some eye-wateringly big numbers bandied about in the last week or so.

The city captured the attention of the nation’s business community – and, indeed, everyone else – when Glasgow Connectivity Commission dropped what’s been described as a “radical blueprint” for two decades of transport upgrades in the city.

Set up by the City Council, the Commission didn’t hold back, calling for a new Glasgow Metro, a tunnel to link the city centre’s two main train stations, an extension for Glasgow Central station, bus priority on the city’s motorway network, and the laying of infrastructural groundwork for an eventual shift to electric vehicles.

Smart investment in our communities is always welcome, but with tangible links between deprivation levels and too often poor public transport in the city, we owe it to the people of Glasgow to connect as many as possible not just to the city centre, but with opportunities. 

The proposals are under consideration and I’m sure many will be watching closely.

Although not quite on the same scale, work got started on St Enoch Centre’s much-anticipated revamp last week. It will see the addition of a nine-screen Vue cinema, alongside restaurants and more retail space. Won’t it be great to see the space given a new lease of life and a new purpose when it opens next summer?

Let’s hope it’s the start of big things to come for Glasgow. The city certainly isn’t lacking in ambition.

 

WEEP

As is the case with our notoriously dreich weather, it’s become something of a national pastime to moan about train delays. The Twitterverse is rife with disgruntled commuters every day who have had their plans derailed.

But the late running of the first of the new Caledonian Sleeper services between Glasgow and London last week really gave its passengers something to whinge about, arriving a toe-curling two and three quarter hours late.

So much so, passengers were even offered a refund.

It’s safe to say, in full view of the nation’s media, the new sleeper service didn’t quite live up to expectations.

It was undoubtedly an inconvenience for customers and cause for embarrassment for Caledonian Sleeper.

But look on the bright side - at least they delivered on ensuring passengers were well rested. After all, they did have time to catch some extra kip.

 

LAUGH

Irn-Bru is renowned for its cheeky advertising. And, although synonymous with Scotland, it’s fair to say the brand has quite a profile on the world stage, too.

Let’s be honest, we’ve all experienced that mixture of excitement and pride that bubbles up when we spot a bottle of Barr’s finest in a chill cabinet overseas.

However, eagle-eyed Marvel fans were surprised to see the soft drink pop up in the latest, record-breaking instalment of the Avengers franchise, making quite the cameo alongside the film’s superstars.

Not that we need any more excuses to go and see this movie – it’s already Bru-ing up audiences of epic proportions across the globe.

 

 

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