Tech Trends: Exploring Scotland’s Technological Landscape

01/02/2024

IN THE 80s, Scotland was nicknamed Silicon Glen in honour of that valley in California. From the 1950s to the 1970s, many enterprises opened in the country and by the end of the 90s, 35% of computers in Europe and 12% of semiconductors in the world were produced there.

Despite the recession in the early 2000s, the tech industry survived. Scotland has shifted its focus from foreign investors to local businesses.

As a result of Brexit, Scotland’s technology sector is shrinking sharply from a European to a national scale. Barriers to the single market and excluding European research funding from participation could be a severe threat, as could barriers to free recruitment. Hardware-focused firms may also find their supply chains disrupted and product standards increasingly complex.

Scottish tech companies maintaining or regaining access to the single market will strengthen their position in the pan-European economic network and keep them competitive with EU tech firms. If the UK remains outside the EU, it will give Scottish tech companies an advantage and make Scotland an attractive destination for UK tech companies seeking access to the single market and continued participation in European research and funding.

Space Technologies in Scotland

Satellite technology is developing around the world. Some companies combine several goals and directions. EOS Data Analytics, a global provider of satellite data analytics, has developed solutions for agriculture and forestry. At the beginning of 2023, the first agro-oriented satellite, EOS SAT-1, was launched. 

In Scotland, several areas of space technology have been actively developing for 20 years. The country produces launch vehicles and small satellites. It is also engaged in Earth observation and data analysis. Scottish technology has supported missions to Mars and deep space exploration with the James Webb Space Telescope. Commercial space launches remain on the agenda for the Scottish space sector.

An investment here provides access to a range of connected space services from one location. Multiple spaceports enable the development of launch facilities. The country also offers an ideal and low-risk environment for entering low-Earth orbit.

AI in Scotland

The application of AI is involved in many industries. There are many potentially revolutionary applications for the technology in Scotland, including early cancer detection and improving energy efficiency in homes.

Artificial intelligence helps a country develop by improving the productivity and well-being of the people. The government sponsors relevant initiatives and pays special attention to the ethics of AI to ensure that the technology can be trusted for such widespread use.

Artificial intelligence has proven highly effective in medical diagnostics, particularly detecting early-stage breast cancer. 

A recent study at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary successfully used AI in conjunction with mammography to identify cancer at an early stage. This example highlights the significant impact of technology in the medical field, especially considering the shortage of radiologists across the country. AI algorithms can also be applied to medical data and images to identify trends and patterns in patients with liver fibrosis, a prevalent health issue in Scotland. 

Artificial intelligence capabilities are also supporting Scotland’s energy transition. The country has committed legally to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045.

Wind energy is considered a key to the country’s net-zero emissions ambitions, AI is helping to optimize performance and predict when maintenance will be required at Scotland’s first offshore wind farm, Robin Rigg.

Using thermal imaging to identify heat loss areas, AI improves energy efficiency in Scottish homes. Upgrades, such as cavity wall insulation, can then be undertaken.

Additionally, AI can save energy and operating costs when combined with other technologies, such as sensors and IoT devices.

5G in Scotland

5G has yet to be rolled out across Scotland. It began to be introduced in 2019 and has continued to develop. Rural areas are not fully covered for now. In rural areas, there has yet to be such coverage. 

The government hopes to fully roll out 5G in Scotland as part of its digital communications strategy. A specific date for the full rollout of the network has not yet been announced, as it depends on when the major networks install digital infrastructure. Digital transformation is highly beneficial for economic development.

Scotland aims to be a leading digital nation and is trying to boost private investment and infrastructure sharing in its telecoms’ ecosystem. The country’s academia is conducting world-leading research in advanced communications with several key universities in Glasgow, Edinburgh, and the Highlands.

Future of Scotland Technology Sector

AI technologies continue to dominate technology discussions. In the UK, this market is valued at around £17 billion. By 2035, this is expected to rise to £803.7 billion.

How will artificial intelligence impact Scotland’s technology sector in the near term, in 2024? Various companies are looking for ways to increase productivity through this technology. They will look for new ways, experiment and encourage employees to bring creative ideas to the business, focusing on younger employees.

Cyber policy should also be taken seriously to prevent any violations. Opportunities for intelligent cybersecurity solutions are expected to increase in the coming years. Consumers and citizens are becoming more conscious of environmental issues and demanding that companies take meaningful action instead of just greenwashing. It may be an opportunity for businesses to develop new materials and processes, especially when we are talking about packaging. In addition, companies should take their zero emissions policies and targets seriously as investors increasingly demand such actions. 

The technology industry of Scotland has several areas of expertise, such as space technology, agricultural technology, and the blue economy. It has potential for growth in these sub-sectors in the coming year and beyond. 

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