Tech accelerator plans to put Scotland on the map - Paul Wilson

As well as talent, a coordinated approach is needed to compete and win, ​writes Paul Wilson

It is well recognised that China, with its low-cost manufacturing solutions, gave rise to what we now term globalisation and consumerism.

Then came Trump and his tariffs targeted at China to stop the nation in its tracks as a technology superpower and its related ambitions to compete and win in technologies such as smartphone OEMs, semiconductors, and AI.

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Automation is quickly neutralising low-cost labour with manual processes in manufacturing replaced by robots. Additionally, procurement has become more focused on carbon footprints. The net result of trade tension, Covid, and ESG is a swing back to nearshoring of supply chains. This is boosted by very significant investments by the US and EU into semi-conductor capacity in the region.

Paul Wilson, CEO and Co-founder, Smart Things Accelerator Centre (STAC)Paul Wilson, CEO and Co-founder, Smart Things Accelerator Centre (STAC)
Paul Wilson, CEO and Co-founder, Smart Things Accelerator Centre (STAC)

So, as we enter the technology cycle of drones, robots, EVs, sustainability tech, health tech, IoT, and AI, how is Scotland positioned? In 2020, our STAC team assessed that we were not positioned to compete.

STAC founders recognised that Scotland had the right talent emerging from its education system and high-quality entrepreneurs addressing real-world problems. However, it was clear that there was room for improvement before we could compete and win repeatedly. Compared to winning tech hubs like Waterloo in Canada, Scotland lacked a coordinated approach involving academia, and public and private sectors. This absence of a cohesive and highly qualified ecosystem held back the growth of tech startups in this sector.

To bridge this gap, STAC was created. It added a company-building accelerator program to leverage the talent pipeline from universities, becoming a focal point for entrepreneurship. This initiative aimed to become a lobbyist, voice, and facilitator of development support, to nurture internationally competitive tech start-ups. With an advisory board including industry luminaries like Jim Rowan, CEO and President of Volvo Cars, and backed by corporates like Intel, we set out to move the dial.

Fast forward to October 2023, and STAC has seen notable success. With three cohorts and 35 startups, Scotland is witnessing the emergence of a formidable IoT, or “smart things” cluster. Pre-STAC, IoT brands such as Utopi, Beringar, Kingdom, Current Health, Krucial, Novosound, and Integrated Graphene were scaling impressively, building teams, launching products, establishing markets, generating revenue, and attracting investments. Our so-called ‘STACers’ are following suit, launching products, securing customers, and attracting investment, further driving the positive momentum.

STAC's plans include expanding co-working spaces, equipping them with specialised labs and event spaces that will house over 30 companies with 250 desk capacity to create one of Europe’s largest IoT spaces, while our STAC Invest and STAC Jobs initiatives will facilitate investment and talent acquisition respectively for startups. The goal is for all STAC companies to develop products, build teams, and make sales during the 18-month support program. The aim is to grow the portfolio to over 70 companies in 2024 while providing expert mentorship guiding firms towards international competitiveness.

The strategy for the future involves celebrating achievements, raising awareness, and positioning Scotland as world-class in this area. This will involve emphasising the designed in Scotland brand and establishing an international launch pad strategy for North American and Asian market launches. With some big announcements in the pipeline, we plan to put Scotland increasingly on the global map.

Paul Wilson, CEO and Co-founder, Smart Things Accelerator Centre (STAC)

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