Half of Scots tech firms expect stronger sales and profits despite Brexit and Covid

Scotland’s technology sector has weathered the pandemic with almost half of firms increasing their sales and profit margins, an industry survey suggests.

Releasing its annual barometer for the country’s tech sector, membership organisation ScotlandIS said companies remained optimistic about the year ahead despite the continuing fallout from coronavirus and uncertainty following Brexit

Some 77 per cent of respondents were said to be “very optimistic” about their prospects for the next 12 months.

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Companies reported that the greatest opportunities for their business over the next 18 months were likely to be in data analytics (51 per cent), artificial intelligence, machine learning (47 per cent) and the “internet of things” (27 per cent).

Companies reported that the greatest opportunities for their business over the next 18 months were likely to be in data analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning and the 'internet of things'. Picture: AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

ScotlandIS, whose members employ about 60,000 people, also announced the launch of its manifesto for the Scottish Parliament elections. It offers a series of recommendations for stakeholders across Scotland to embrace digital transformation and to upskill the nation’s workforce and citizens.

Karen Meechan, interim chief executive of ScotlandIS, said: “Scotland’s digital and tech sector has shown its mettle this year, with resilience across the board.

“This has been a difficult year as companies have had to adapt quickly to the pressures brought by the pandemic and the uncertainty of Brexit. Yet, while it has been a difficult year, growth within the sector is high and we can look ahead optimistically.

“Collaboration has been a real strength within the sector, helping smaller businesses and creating new relationships across all aspects of society. As a sector we will continue to grow through collaboration and can look forward to a year of strong growth to come.”

International opportunities are at the forefront of much of the sector’s growth plans, with 60 per cent reporting that this is something they already undertake and much of the remainder looking at plans to do so. New markets such as Australia and New Zealand are coming to the fore as businesses “adjust to Brexit”, the organisation noted.

While 2020 proved to be a difficult year for smaller businesses, it has been a mixed picture for larger enterprises. Some 44 per cent reported a decrease in sales, compared to just 17 per cent in 2019, though 30 per cent of businesses did manage to increase sales and 83 per cent of medium-sized businesses expect their revenues to rise over the next 12 months.

The survey also suggests that employment in the sector remains robust. Two thirds of small businesses expect to increase staff numbers over the next 12 months, down slightly compared to last year.

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While smaller businesses have shown an increasing demand for more senior, skilled talent, 36 per cent reported that they are likely to employ someone who underwent retraining in the next 12 months.

Meechan added: “ScotlandIS sees climate tech, GovTech and space tech as being the three areas whereby Scotland has enormous opportunity.

“As we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, we have an opportunity to build back better, to reshape our society, to deliver highly skilled and fulfilling jobs and to drive efficiencies and productivity gains in our public services and established businesses.”

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