Poised to be a climate tech centre of excellence - Stephen Kelly

As the home of last year’s COP26 conference, Scotland has the eyes of the world watching how it is innovating to address the global challenge of climate change, and how the country’s tech sector is benefiting the economy, people and planet.

With the UK leading the way for climate tech investment in Europe, Scotland is poised to take a leading role and become a climate tech centre of excellence – and Edinburgh in particular is home to many of the fast-scaling companies advancing the climate tech revolution. In this booming capital, there’s Topolytics, which aspires to be “the Bloomberg for waste” within the next 10 years, Earth Blox, a SaaS company that uses satellite imaging to help companies detect illegal activities like deforestation and mining, and ACT Blade, which is developing the next generation of wind turbines.

However, over the past decade, Edinburgh has shown itself to be the home of some of the UK’s best and brightest tech companies from all sectors, working across AI, fintech and healthtech, to name just a few. Among them is Kythera AI, which specialises in advanced tools for designing AI in 3D game engines, and PlayerData, who have built a GPS tracking and analytics solution for teams and individuals from grassroots to professional. Both of these companies have been accepted into Tech Nation’s exclusive, world-leading growth programmes for UK tech startups, so I’ve had the privilege of meeting with them and observing the depths of their ambition, passion and drive firsthand.

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This incredible diversity of innovation – and high level of scaling potential – in Edinburgh has not gone unnoticed. Investment has been pouring into the region’s tech sector over the last year and a half, with Edinburgh receiving a record-breaking $187 million in VC investment in 2022 so far already, up from $186m in the entirety of last year, and just $101m the year before (in 2020).

Stephen Kelly, Tech Nation ChairStephen Kelly, Tech Nation Chair
Stephen Kelly, Tech Nation Chair

Contributing to nearly one third of Scotland’s $18.5 billion ecosystem value, Edinburgh’s tech ecosystem is currently valued at $6bn (up from $5.3bn last year); the sharpest year-on-year valuation increase the region has seen to date.

Perhaps most notably, the failure rate of tech companies in Edinburgh is also falling, dropping by over 5 per cent in the last year (from 7.93 per cent in 2021 to 2.45 per cent this year). To have nearly 98 per cent of tech companies survive in a region, amidst all of the challenges presented by the energy and cost of living crisis, is no small feat!

However, now is not the time to let company creation stagnate. Over the past few years, the number of tech startups and scaleups created in the region has plateaued, with the number of tech companies in Edinburgh increasing by only six between 2020 and 2021 (from 605 to 611), and only one new company created this year so far.

Scotland – and Edinburgh in particular – must not forget the impact and importance that their tech companies are having in the world, nor should they underestimate the need to keep innovating to solve national and global challenges.

Edinburgh leads the way in climate techEdinburgh leads the way in climate tech
Edinburgh leads the way in climate tech

We must continue to encourage and nurture entrepreneurship and digital skills in the region. I remain committed to supporting Scotland and bringing others to the region, to speak with more tech scaleups and ensure that tech founders and aspiring entrepreneurs in Edinburgh are supported not only by Scotland’s own vibrant ecosystem but by investors, educators and policymakers across the whole of the UK and overseas.

As part of this, I am delighted that the Tech Nation Board is meeting in Edinburgh this week to see firsthand the region’s inspiring scaleups and tech community.

Stephen Kelly, Tech Nation Chair



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