As I See It: Terry Murden
Three months and counting, an economy brought almost to its knees. There were fears that by now, as the lockdown took hold, the hard-won gains in the technology sector would have been lost.
A number of reports from, among others, the Turing organisers and anxious letters to MSPs , warned that the cash-hungry startups and early stage firms could not survive a collapse in general activity.
Seed finance has indeed largely dried up, but somehow firms have clung on and, encouragingly, the flow of ideas has not been halted. The proven projects and those a little more advanced are still getting funded, by government agencies and private investors. The Archangel investor group, is saying it has continued to invest during the lockdown, but this is focused on its existing portfolio.
At the start of the lockdown I wrote here that the big concern would be how much the tech industry would be impacted by a slowdown in the hardest hit sectors, such as hospitality, leisure and retail. In fact, it has been the need to find new ways of combating problems they have faced that has played a part in maintaining the tech momentum.
The need for touch-free methods of opening doors, calling a lift, or making orders and payments, has generated new apps and voice systems that mean we can go about our business without the need for physical contact with buttons, handles, menus – even cash. New offices are being designed and even redesigned for the new environment.
‘It would be an economic crime to let our brightest prospects fail’
Arrayjet, the Edinburgh-based biotechnology specialist, has re-purposed its facilities to help scientists better understand the behaviour of the Covid-19 virus and hasten the global vaccination programme. Purview Services is developing a means for mass screening which could hasten the return of large-scale events.
These firms tackling the crisis head on and are joined by companies looking ahead to what comes next, such as UnikLasers which is on the cusp of a breakthrough in quantum technologies and how it can be applied to industries such as financial services, defence and medical diagnostics.
Of course, these tend to be among the ones we hear a lot about. Those with active PR machines and vocal backers.
Although government funding has been coming through, there remain concerns that some seeds will be denied the feed and water they require to grow. It would be an economic crime to let our brightest prospects fail. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.