6 Big developments in Scottish business and investment you need to know about

Scottish innovation is alive and well, with a new generation of entrepreneurs creating products with the potential to meet some of the world’s most pressing challenges. Innovation was the theme at this year’s Scottish International Week 2023 – a common thread weaving together Scottish leaders worldwide. Throughout this week-long event, leaders gathered to celebrate, innovate and unite under a collective vision – empowering Scottish businesses for the future.

The online and in-person conference, which was the biggest since its 2017 launch, included 20 events on the main agenda, with dozens of others taking place on the fringes. Among the four major focus areas discussed during the week were: Talent, Digital, Games, and IoT. These themes produced numerous big takeaways which, according to Scottish Business Network chairman Russell Dalgleish, demonstrate how much potential there is in both Scotland and its diaspora.

“I’ve long believed that Scotland’s diaspora, particularly those who are active in the business sector, is one of its biggest strengths,” he said. “This year’s Scottish International Week demonstrated how big of an advantage it is, particularly when it comes to encouraging investment and partnerships with domestic entrepreneurs and enterprises.”

If Scotland is to make the most of the advantage that its diaspora offers, Dalgleish says, it must take heed of the lessons from six of the event’s biggest takeaways.


1. Growing, global ambitions

According to Dalgleish, one of the biggest takeaways from the week was how determined Scottish entrepreneurs are to make a mark not just on their home cities and country but on the entire globe.

“During the week, there was clear evidence of a growing desire by Scottish founders to address global rather than local challenges,” says Dalgleish. “This global first mindset was strongest amongst early-stage companies.”

If those entrepreneurs are to meet their global ambitions, then international networks will be vital. Here, the Scottish diaspora will be critical.


2. GovTech increases in importance

One area where conference attendees identified significant opportunities is in the GovTech sector. While it’s difficult to pin down an exact definition of GovTech, from an entrepreneurial perspective, it’s probably best to think of it as technology companies providing innovation through products and services to the government, to improve public sector service delivery.

According to Dalgleish, that’s hardly surprising given how invested Scotland’s been in the sector for some time.

“GovTech was a prominent subject discussed during the week and Scotland’s global leadership position was acknowledged,” he said.

In particular, he pointed to the success of the government’s ongoing CivTech programme. Dalgleish also noted that the recent launch of a dedicated Govtech cluster is attracting global interest.


3. Scotland’s culture of collaboration a cause for celebration

In popular culture and much of the public imagination, innovation is the result of brilliant individuals putting in long hours of lonely hard work. In truth, however, innovation is really about collaboration. And, according to Dalgleish, the embrace of collaboration during Scottish International Week should be a cause for celebration.

“In talks covering culture, politics, business and education much was said about how the unique Scottish culture of collaboration across sectors makes Scotland a welcoming environment for international companies looking for a European base,” he said.


4. Could Scotland become an AI powerhouse?

Given how rapidly artificial intelligence (AI) tools such as ChatGPT and Midjourney have made their way into the public’s consciousness, it should hardly be surprising that it was the dominant technology theme of the week.

Here too Dalgleish believes that Scotland’s heritage in the sector could serve the country well.

“Edinburgh’s long history in machine learning and AI in particular (Edinburgh University’s School of Informatics this year celebrated 60 years of research and development in the sector) positions the country well for the future,” he says.


5. Insight and support from the global diaspora

Another big insight to come from the week was how invested the Scottish business diaspora is in ensuring that Scottish businesses are successful.

“The global Scottish diaspora contributed content and insight to the week,” says Dalgleish. “That’s important because it acts as a support network for Scottish companies with international ambition. During the week, introductions were made from Scotland to the world which we will now watch flourish over the coming months.”


6. Diversity is an imperative     

One of the most impactful parts of this year’s Scottish International Week was the Black Talent Conference. Held at Heart of Midlothian Football Ground, the conference shed light on the need to provide more support to ethnic minority groups to ensure their talents were best utilised.

In the aftermath of the conference, Dalgleish announced plans for a programme to help address this issue through improving candidate/employer engagement.


A solid foundation for growth

“As a longtime advocate for Scottish business as a global force, Scottish International Week provided much cause for optimism,” said Dalgleish. “It’s clear that Scottish innovators and entrepreneurs, both domestic and abroad, are hungry to make their mark on the world.”

“It’s only by building on Scotland’s long history of innovation and penchant for collaboration that this vision will become a reality,” he concluded. “But if we can build on the advances made during Scottish International Week then that reality may be closer than ever.”