The Linlithgow-based Digital Xtra Fund, which supports extracurricular activities at the school stage that help drive digital skills, has opened applications for its next cohort of tech initiatives – its eighth since it launched in 2016. The Scottish Government will in 2023/24 again be matching industry support that also includes Chroma Ventures (the investment vehicle of Chris van der Kuyl and Paddy Burns of Dundee games developer 4J Studios), JP Morgan, Accenture, Cirrus Logic, the Nimar Charitable Trust, and Telefonica Tech-owned IT firm Incremental Group.
The Fund also says it is currently in negotiations with several companies to increase the level of funding awarded before successful applications are finalised in May. Kraig Brown, Digital Xtra Fund’s partnership and development manager, said: “We have some amazing support from the corporate and public sectors, in particular the Scottish Government, who realise what a pressing issue this is for young people, employers, and the economy overall. We are looking for more partners, primarily from the corporate sector, so we’d love to speak to as many people as we can in the coming months.”
Rebecca Court, Incremental Group’s head of marketing and a former Digital Xtra Fund panellist, said the Fund carries out “such important work” across Scotland, adding: “The team’s commitment to addressing the alarming digital skills gap while also focusing on increasing diversity and inclusivity in the tech sector, a sector that continues to be underrepresented by women, is key to everyone’s future success. It is vital the corporate sector and government recognise that when we support grassroots initiatives, especially for young people, it is win-win for communities, industry, and Scotland as a whole.”
Mr Brown also said: “Yes, our aim is to inspire young people to learn digital skills and yes, we hope they choose to pursue a career in tech, but that’s not the main reason we do this. We do this because we need to support young people and even more so when times get tough, particularly the most vulnerable or disadvantaged… Digital Xtra Fund believes providing essential skills for their future in safe and fun environments is key.”
The Digital Xtra Fund says it has to-date secured almost £1 million to deliver coding and computing clubs and tech initiatives nationwide, while it is during the current 2022/23 academic year supporting 35 initiatives covering 24 local authorities and on target to engage more than 7,400 young people, of which about half will be female
Jamie Hepburn, Scotland’s Minister for Higher Education and Further Education, Youth Employment and Training, said: “Following last year’s investment from the Scottish Government, we will be continuing to support the Digital Xtra Fund with another £100,000 this year to enable young people to learn digital technology and coding skills through extracurricular activities. The work of Digital Xtra Fund and partners provides young people a path into exciting careers in tech and entrepreneurship, and we are delighted to be supporting the work of this organisation.” Applications for the latest round close on April 6 2023.