As Insider reports, Mark Logan believes Scotland’s Computer Science challenge is an educational emergency.
Commissioned by Kate Forbes, Mark Logan former COO for Skyscanner, has published a report identifying how Scotland might accelerate growth of its tech ecosystem.
He believes we need to look at this ecosystem holistically, in that a lower uptake of the topic in schools will result in a decreased input of graduates into the workforce and thus fewer technology companies.
Speaking with the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce Mark shared his views and vision for the whole development of Scotland’s tech sector.
Scaling Scotland’s Tech Ecosystem
The First Minister announced that the people of Scotland must keep pace with digital innovation and by doing so they can help boost economic growth, drive innovation and protect businesses against any future crisis.
With over 25 years experience, Mark is focused on helping to nurture the start-up community in Scotland and the UK as an investor, non-executive director and advisor. Mark is also a Professor in the School of Computing Science at University of Glasgow.
He undertook a review of the Scottish tech sector and delivered a blueprint to raise it to world-class status. The people of Scotland are now working to take forward his ambitious recommendations including the establishment of a national network of hubs for tech startups offering world-class training program, intensive monitoring and access to funding opportunities.
The tech ecosystem has inputs and outputs. The inputs are people, infrastructure, education and funding. The outputs are a stream of business and scaled tech business. To increase the rate of startups we can consider that inside the ecosystem box there is a distinct life-cycle of growth, there are pre-startups, startups, small scale ups and large scale ups.
There is an opportunity gap within this ecosystem box. The report is trying to identify the interventions and to support the inner lines to move forward towards the outer maturity. An ecosystem of a country reaches its tipping point where there’s sufficient critical mass of startups and scale ups that certain virtuous network effects start to operate.
There are three main drivers of this. The first one is attracting talent from outside the ecosystem, second creation of opportunities for them and the by-product is more commercial people. After the tipping point there is investment of money and expertise. The government of Scotland is very close to the tipping point as he sees more talent and ambition in the ecosystem.
Currently Finland has the most high-tech ecosystem in the world, having been an early adopter of a technology ecosystem approach. In his report he has drawn out three foundations of technology ecosystem success, namely talent, education infrastructure and funding.
By increasing the supply of engineers and by creating potential tech entrepreneurs, the growth of tech ecosystem is accelerated. The education infrastructure relates to two core foundations – One is physical infrastructure and the other is social infrastructure. In the report he explains this through a definition of a market square, a place where people come together in different forums small and large and learn from each other and learn internationally and build a sense of community and identity and ability to find each other.
Funding covers different types of investment through different stages of requirements of a company’s growth. He has made 34 recommendations in his report to build these foundations of a tech ecosystem. Some of these recommendations have huge long-term leverage value.
Another key recommendation is to expand the involvement of children in Computer Science from an early age, so that they can be the potential future tech entrepreneurs. This is like planting the seeds for future growth, and Computer Science should be treated in education the same way that math and physics is treated for the growth of tech ecosystem.
It will take some time to teach students Computer Science at initial level and to increase the number of CS teachers at schools. Upscaling and reskilling of the teachers is also essential because CS changes rapidly. Inviting industry people to teach the classes, making room for programming projects and changing the syllabus will contribute to the growth of tech-ecosystem.
Incubators and Accelerators
Incubator and accelerator are the two terms that people have heard of most for startups. An incubator gives indefinite tenure subject to certain criteria and creates like a market square environment where people can learn from each other.
Accelerators tend to be different they tend to be relatively short-lived programs for like 12 weeks to 16 weeks and these tend to have an education element which shares lessons and success stories so.
The primary issue is that the government can do a better job of creating credible high-growth startups that can convince people that Scotland can repeatedly grow global scale up level businesses, and the challenge of education infrastructure, and availability of funding is essential for all stages of the startup life-cycle.