Between the lines: Scots well placed to be tech hub

No MATTER what the outcome of the general election, Scotland must now have fresh aspirations, through displaying its world-class technological expertise, to be top choice as the European hub for overseas investors and multinationals alike.

Cortex reside in Edinburgh's Waverley Gate. Picture: TSPL

That position in the global marketplace has now been significantly enhanced following the move by the world’s largest marketing communications multinational, by revenues, to choose a small technology company, Cortex to run its digital development business out of Scotland.

Nestled alongside Microsoft, Amazon and Interactive Scotland at Edinburgh’s Waverley Gate – across the street from the new Princes Street Apple store – Cortex has become an agency of WPP, market valuation more than £20 billion, on revenues of £11bn and billings totalling £46bn as of last December.

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Now it has landed its first client. Dyson, the UK company well-known for its inventive, engineering-led products headed up by Sir James Dyson, has chosen the tech outfit, working closely with fellow WPP agency Hogarth Worldwide, to develop and produce the website platform that resulted in the successful online global launch of its 360 Eye robot cleaner.

Dyson estimated the site would attract 150,000 users in the first 24 hours of launch. In reality it turned into a surge of 1.5 million in the first day but such was the quality of the Scots-based tech development work that there were no website outages.

Founder and managing director Peter Proud and his team have developed their cloud-based I/AM – short for Integrated Agile Marketing – debut product enabling no fewer than 37 iterations of languages for the Dyson site, and handling of very large levels of traffic from around the world but centrally controlled from a single point.

The product has been developed as a result of a strategic partnership with Microsoft utilising the software giant’s Azure enterprise-grade cloud computing platform. Proud told me that Azure’s elastic nature enabled Dyson to meet aggressive deadlines, on a scale to meet any unexpected demand and make updates quickly and easily.

Cortex, with other blue-chip clients in the pipeline and now accelerating its jobs tally from 40 to an initial 100, joins other bright tech stars like Skyscanner, FanDuel and Iomart, all backed up by Scotland’s Entrepreneurial Spark, billed as the world’s largest free business accelerator, and Codebase, the UK’s largest and Europe’s fastest growing tech incubator.

The ICT Industry Advisory Group reminds us we’re part of a fast-growing and equally fast-moving industry host to unprecedented global demand, accelerating the rate at which new products and services come to market. It’s no accident that Cortex developed the Dyson website in five weeks – normally such a global site would take 12 weeks before pressing the button.

In the digital world geography is not an impediment with capital requirements relatively modest and rapid time-to-revenue for an innovation-based business.

For Scotland, no other international market provides such opportunity for its economy to grow high-value export-based jobs and simultaneously attract the keen eye of the international investor. Here, any tech offering must also fill a gap in the market, be feature-rich, responsive and in multiple languages.

Cortex is representative of such new technologies able to meet accelerated timelines with consummate ease.

Scotland, as a global brand, is now in prime position to gain that much-desired competitive advantage and catch the eye of a new generation of overseas investments from across the pond and beyond by showing it is agile enough to negotiate what has become an increasingly complex digital world.

Bill Magee is a technology commentator and writer based in Edinburgh