A photo of Duncan Martin, EIE Lead Executive and Director of Entrepreneurship at the Bayes Centre, The University of Edinburgh.

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March 28, 2024

Inside the Scottish tech ecosystem

Sifted takes a look at the Scottish tech ecosystem and how collaboration is at the heart of its success

Famed as a nation of innovators, Scotland has nurtured successful unicorns like Skyscanner and household names such as FreeAgent.

According to Dealroom, there are almost 1000 startups in Scotland, in sectors from fintech and SaaS to healthtech and semiconductors, and there are plans to boost entrepreneurship further — including creating 20 thousand jobs in the space sector by 2030.

Let’s take a closer look at Scotland’s tech ecosystem in 2024 and how leading events like EIE, an international investor showcase event hosted by the University of Edinburgh, are central to its continued growth.


Scotland in statistics 

Since 2014, Scotland’s startups and small businesses have built up an enterprise value of $7.4bn — a figure that is steadily growing.   

In 2021, a report by Barclays named Edinburgh the best place to start a business outside of London. Recently in the Scottish city, biotech Wobble Genomics raised just under £8.5m to develop a novel approach to RNA sequencing and healthtech Carcinotech raised £4.2m to start making 3D-printed tumours. 

Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, is also growing. Its tech ecosystem alone has increased by 89% from 2018, and the city achieved the most VC investment on record last year — £170m in 2023 up from £82.3m in 2022. The top five industries in Glasgow by VC investment were energy, transportation, health real estate and semiconductors.  

Fostering growth through universities 

Scotland’s universities are playing a significant role in helping its innovators flourish. 

“Universities can be central pillars supporting a tech ecosystem, helping shape the ecosystem as well as being a source of new ideas for company creation and high-quality talent,” says Duncan Martin, director of entrepreneurship at the Bayes Centre at the University of Edinburgh and lead executive for EIE24.

While Martin notes that universities were historically focused on teaching and research, they have evolved to be outward looking and more engaged with local, national and international ecosystems. 

“Trying to engage with that process in the right way is where we are making some progress,” he says. “[Universities are now] engaging with the ecosystem and embracing the need to articulate their ideas in a way that investors can get on board with.”

Scotland’s universities are well-known for their outstanding world-leading research across several disciplines in areas including life sciences, computer science, physics and mathematical sciences, with many emerging tech companies being built and supported on this research. The University of Edinburgh’s Bayes Centre is an AI and data science hub and that expertise is being further built upon today. This means its tech ecosystem is becoming increasingly sector agnostic.

If all the ecosystem players bring their own unique strengths to the table, we will have some amazing joined-up thinking and the potential to do tremendous things.

“The biggest single opportunity in Scotland is the quality of the people that come out of universities in technical disciplines,” says Ian Stevenson, CEO of digital forensics startup Cyacomb. “Scottish enterprise has become adept over the years at spotting commercialisation opportunities within universities through things like high growth spinout programmes.”

Looking ahead, Martin believes wider collaboration between institutions and startups could help propel the ecosystem even further when it comes to scaling companies, noting that “scaling is where impact comes from”.

“My prediction is that we'll continue to see this integration and we will start to see institutions and organisations working even closer together more effectively,” says Martin. "If all the ecosystem players bring their own unique strengths to the table, we will have some amazing joined-up thinking and the potential to do tremendous things." 


Bringing in investment

Events such as EIE24 — Scotland’s leading event that connects the country’s most innovative and scalable tech companies with key national and international investors — facilitate this engagement. 

It's really important that Scotland has a good number of very high quality conferences that bring people together to establish relationships between founders and investors.

The two-day annual event, taking place on April 30 and May 1 this year in Edinburgh, includes an investor-only networking evening and a showcase day that brings together international investors and founders.

“At the investor reception we’re bringing together the Scottish investment community and giving them the space to interact with international counterparts without any companies or corporations in the room,” says Martin. 

“For the showcase day, we spotlight innovative companies developing globally significant solutions — businesses that have got potential to grow and have an interesting story to tell. These businesses will have the opportunity to share their vision to those that can help them realise it.”

Mark Logan, chief entrepreneurial advisor to the Scottish Government who is widely respected across the nation's tech ecosystem, says EIE’s return as an in-person event in 2024 is excellent news.

“It's really important that Scotland has a good number of very high-quality conferences that bring people together to establish relationships between founders and investors, as well as between founders themselves,” says Logan. 

“I am particularly pleased with how the management team has evolved EIE, focusing on the quality and potential of the company's pitching, rather than the quantity. It will give us a chance to showcase what good looks like here in Scotland.” 

This environment also fosters a sense of competition amongst investors vying for the attention of the most promising companies. Stevenson says EIE is the perfect platform to showcase Scotland to the world. 

“This is how I look at an event like EIE: If the company is the rocket, and the investment is the rocket fuel, then EIE is the spaceport with a launch pad and a fuelling facility. In other words, without it, nothing gets off the ground.”

EIE24 has a world-class reputation as Scotland’s leading event that connects innovators and investors. Anyone wishing to find out more about EIE24 or who would like to register to attend the event can click here