Agencies should ‘enable, not control’, says tech adviser
Mark Logan: ‘a lot going on’
Scotland’s development agencies have been urged to adopt a more enabling than a controlling approach to supporting the country’s growth firms.
Government technology adviser Mark Logan told a global online audience that there was good work being done across the public and private sectors, but there was a need to change emphasis to allow for a sharing of knowledge.
Speaking as a guest of the Scottish Business Network’s Scottish International Week, he said: “The power of a network grows with the size of the network. The more we incorporate people into it the more we benefit.
“In some of our agencies in Scotland we are not sufficiently embracing that principle.
“We sometimes undermine our ability to exploit the network because we misunderstand that the job of agencies is not control but enablement of that network.
“We need to task all stakeholders at institutional level to switch from a desire to control to enablement and let our founders flourish and learn from their mistakes.
“Our networking powers would be a lot stronger if we could break down some of those barriers. Nature doesn’t love a wall and we shouldn’t either.”
Mr Logan, a former executive at Edinburgh search engine company Skyscanner and author of a key report for Finance Secretary Kate Forbes on growing the digital economy, revealed that there would be more support from government for later stage growth companies.
But he said it was important in a small country not to rely on learning from within.
He said: “We need to be constantly importing best practice [to remain in step with international competitors] “because sooner or later they are coming for you”.
It also means creating a critical mass of companies that would attract talent.
Declaring that there was a lot of undeveloped “raw talent” in Scotland, he said there was “a lot going on” since he published his report in the summer of 2020.
Much of that was focused on three areas – education, including training for company founders in areas like best practice – infrastructure and funding. Each one requires intervention, he said.
He spoke about how throughout history there had been periods and places where great minds such as Leonardo Da Vinci, James Watt and James Clerk Maxwell had given so much to the world. They had been able to exploit ideas, free from stifling environments.
Leonardo would walk out into the market square where he would mix with others and learn about maths, art and science.
“How do we unbridle the talent of people and create that market square?” said Logan. “We have to believe it is there, remove the barriers and put those paths in place.”
He said there would be further help from government for firms in growth mode.
“We have a strong network for early stage firms but it is harder for scaleups to access capital.
“You will see us announcing some investment to strengthen the later stage eco-system, and the participation of under-represented groups.”
He added: “This is a very good time for Scotland to do ambitious things and people are up for doing things in new ways.
“I am genuinely excited that we will make significant progress.”
The Scottish Business Network could help by sharing its expertise and “telling our story”, he said.
Scotland lost confidence after the collapse of its great industries, but the younger generation had no experience of it.
“In all my years in technology I have never seen such belief in the eco-system,” he said.
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