My own business, Krucial, which harnesses space technology to connect Internet of Things (IoT) devices all over the planet, is headquartered in Glasgow. It’s home, but we’re part of a wider landscape, a Scottish phenomenon that is launching our relatively small nation into orbit and once again proving that we can and do over-achieve.
So why would we put our cities in competition with one another? There are more than 850 high-growth tech companies operating across Scotland so we shouldn’t focus on a Glasgow or Edinburgh cluster, but a Scottish one.
I’d define a cluster as a critical mass of people, organisations and support mechanisms designed to encourage collaboration – meaning founders, funders and innovators have the necessary support in place to thrive. A cluster is self-reinforcing: its existence then encourages more people, funding, startups and fresh ideas to the area. Individual places still play their own unique part in making the tech ecosystem what it is – but ultimately the goal is the same, to make Scotland a home of big ideas and opportunity.
Look at the advantages we already have to help boost our tech industry. Our two largest cities are more connected than ever. A 50-minute train journey is all that “separates” them. I easily work across both regularly – in other places looking to be at the forefront of innovation this would be the distance from one end of a city to the other. And that’s before we mention the one hour flight to the financial and tech powerhouse of London.
Between them, our cities have multiple world-class educational institutions, from the University of Strathclyde, my alma mater, to the University of Dundee, home to some of the most exciting video game development work on earth. Scotland has more than 330,000 students in higher education across the country – each with the potential to come up with the next unicorn-worthy idea. We have innovation centres across the country – such as CENSIS (Scotland’s Innovation Centre for sensing, imaging and Internet of Things) based in Glasgow which helped Krucial with early stage product development, or its sister centre SAIC (Sustainable Aquaculture Innovation Centre) in Stirling, focused on ways to make Scottish aquaculture as sustainable and successful as possible.
Compared with the UK more widely we perform well – Edinburgh, for example, came second only to London in 2021 as the most attractive UK city to set up a new business – 45 per cent of which were in tech. This is an important moment for the Scottish tech scene. The wins are coming thick and fast and since co-founding Krucial I’ve been blown away by the sheer talent, tenacity and ambition of founders all over Scotland.
My hope is that work continues to be done to combine and maximise the potential of all Scotland’s ecosystems – and not focus on segregating success.
Allan Cannon is co-founder and CEO of Krucial