BILL MAGEE has been asking what has happened since the Logan Report on the tech ecosystem was published in the summer
The Logan Report, on which hangs Scotland’s hopes and aspirations of establishing a fully-aligned digital ecosystem capable of matching London, Cambridge and even Silicon Valley, was well-received when it was published in August as part of the government’s route map to post-Covid recovery. It was quickly endorsed by ministers. Now it is winning support from across the pond.
Mark Schwartz, US-based enterprise strategy director for Amazon Web Services with fortune Global 500 company AWS, has commended the review of the Scottish technology ecosystem produced by former Skyscanner executive Mark Logan.
Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Finance Kate Forbes, who commissioned Logan, immediately backed one of his recommendations – a series of ‘tech scaler’ incubators – with £4 million of government funding to get them started. Schwartz’s endorsement adds some international industry backing.
Speaking from his Boston base during Digital Scotland 2020, Schwartz’s comments, however, came with an element of “good cop, baddish cop.”
He said: “It is quite fascinating in its thinking things through. It is like a macro-version of what we see happening in big companies.
He added that there were three critical components mentioned that Scotland must pull off if the review’s aims and ambitions are to succeed: “It must respond to pressure from outside to do something new, pressure from inside from pockets of innovation, and then the leadership must implement all of this.”
‘The Logan Review removes a lot of barriers, especially when it comes to making capital available, people available, plus gaining that necessary friction to support new ideas and get things off the ground‘
For Schwartz, innovation has to do with removing impediments to allow great ideas to come through. The challenge is to harness what is often a “friction” process of bringing together diverse approaches to get things working.
Unfortunately, this does not always happen, said the author of “The Delicate Art of Bureaucracy” (out via Amazon, where else?!). “That is how many fail.”
The good news? “The Logan Review removes a lot of barriers, especially when it comes to making capital available, people available, plus gaining that necessary friction to support new ideas and get things off the ground.”
AWS is busy in Scotland. Its restart/reskilling programme has been launched, so has its schools’ GetIT scheme to redress gender imbalance and drive diversity and inclusion in tech, as well as its intelligent cloud monitoring consulting partnership scheme, one already signed up being Edinburgh-based digital solutions outfit Exception.
I had set up and billed the video conference as the Forbes/Logan “live” show to outline early progress on the review. But pressing government business forced the Cabinet Minister to send a video recorded address.
The 90-page Logan report represents a “reboot” move to better position technology at the centre of the country’s economic recovery as a matter of urgency. Practically every word of the 34 recommendations by the former Skyscanner chief operating officer has been enthusiastically taken up by the government.
The report is about achieving a vital “cutting edge” in the promotion of Scotland’s undoubted world class technology by transforming itself into an eye-catching international digital powerhouse.
The strategy’s centrepiece is six nationwide “Tech-Scaler” centres combining high-quality incubator, networking and educational facilities, to be up-and-running by 2022 and initially creating 300 jobs. This is supported by a step-up in the teaching of computer science in our schools, colleges and universities and the importance of digital apprenticeships for young people, centred on a new “Industry in the Classroom” programme.
Earlier in the conference a trio of senior tech executives collectively laid the groundwork for the direction the tech strategy must take.
Data Lab CEO Gillian Docherty emphasised the need to remove “artificial barriers” existing between rural and urban areas; Colin Cook, the government’s digital director, said it was critical Scotland demonstrated how it was advancing national infrastructure projects in such constrained economic circumstances; and Paul Winstanley, CEO at CENSIS, said Scotland had to be ambitious about becoming a global leader in the likes of green tourism.
The minister has followed up her initial support by announcing an £11.8m fund to help SMEs develop technology amid claims that COVID-19 is leading to a commercial acceleration of all things digital.
With a fair wind, Scotland can climb in global technological rankings, attract a new wave of international inward investors it so desperately seeks, and have a seat at the digital top table.