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11 future technologies and Scotland's expertise

11 Mar 2020 • 12 minute read

Data, artificial intelligence and Internet of Things (IoT) are just a few of the technologies set to transform every sector.

Kirsty Black, Callum Murray And Laura Westring from Amiqus at The School Of Informatics Edinburgh

Data, artificial intelligence and Internet of Things (IoT) are just a few of the digital technologies set to transform every sector of our global economy, from manufacturing to agriculture. Scotland's long tradition of tech innovation is stronger than ever, making it the place to be to do great things digitally. Alisdair Gunn, director at Framewire and one of Scotland's leading digital tech experts shares his insights.

Scotland's digital economy

At the start of a new decade, Scotland’s data, digital and technology industries are ambitious and acting now. They’re leading the accelerated commercial development of deep technologies like 5G, artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum computing.

This is shown by Scotland's drive to achieve net zero greenhouse emissions and its ambition to capture £4 billion of the global space sector by 2030.

Data is the engine behind all IoT and AI solutions and is the focus of the Edinburgh-based Data-Driven Innovation initiative opens in a new window , which aims to position Edinburgh as the data capital of Europe.

With Scotland’s thriving data sector set to be worth £20 billion over the next five years, many of Scotland’s data-centric small and medium enterprises can be found developing the latest platforms and solutions for financial, health and manufacturing sectors. Here are 11 future technologies at the heart of Scotland's digital ambition:

Advanced technologies in Scotland

The next generation mobile internet service - 5G, aims to deliver a fundamental change to the delivery and creation of digitally-enabled services. Through the enablement of faster data rates, the design of services like real-time remote surgery and automation within hazardous environments is now a reality.
With 5G predicted to generate 26% of all mobile network revenues by 2024, Scotland has committed to investing in developing advanced communication-based services like 5G, and recently announced the creation and development of the Scotland 5G Centre – S5GC opens in a new window . Set up to accelerate the adoption of 5G enabled services, S5GC provides a national focal point for all aspects of 5G in Scotland.
Led by the University of Strathclyde and co-innovation partner Cisco, the 5G RuralFirst opens in a new window project produced a series of world-class services to address the challenges of rural community connectivity.
Providing connectivity to rural communities across Scotland’s Orkney Islands, 5G RuralFirst developed a series of 5G services including remote legionella monitoring and the delivery of broadcast radio for the BBC.

The Internet of Things, or simply IoT, is the system which connects remote objects to the internet. Aligned with the growth of 5G capability, consultants McKinsey recently announced that the number of global companies using IoT technologies has increased from 13% in 2014 to 25% today.

With the number of global IoT-connected devices projected to increase to 43 billion by 2023, the deployment of IoT means the development of real-time data analysis and artificial intelligence-enabled services are starting to shift application development towards cloud and edge computing solutions.

Availability of affordable IoT connectivity was one of the main catalysts behind the creation of IoT Scotland opens in a new window , Scotland’s national IoT network.

Scotland's IoT network - one of the most advanced in the UK - allows data to be used meaningfully, in real time.

While making businesses more efficient, Scotland’s IoT network provides the perfect environment for companies to test, develop and commercialise new services, and is just one of many examples of Scotland’s advanced technological expertise.

Established in 2018 by the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Boston Networks, the LoRaWAN-based IoT Scotland network now provides: Coverage to over 35% of Scottish businesses

Scotland's CENSIS Innovation Centre opens in a new window helps organisations of all sizes to de-risk and accelerate innovation and overcome technological barriers to transformation.

Watch our IoT Scotland video to find out more.

Examples of Scottish companies developing a range of IoT-based products and services

Artificial intelligence (AI), the techniques used to allow computers to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence, is predicted by PWC to add $15 trillion USD to the global economy by 2030. Scotland is committed to developing its AI strategy and ecosystem of suppliers and innovation, with the ambition to position Scotland as one of the top five global leaders for AI-based solutions and services.

Demonstrating Scotland’s expertise in applied AI, the Industrial Centre for Artificial Intelligence Research in Digital Diagnostics - iCAIRD opens in a new window is Scotland’s £15.8m artificial intelligence health research centre. It's been created to advance the development of medical imaging and digital pathology using AI technologies.

Working with partners like Philips and Canon, iCAIRD will develop ways to validate AI in:

  • Stroke medicine
  • Chest X-ray triage
  • Mammogram interpretation
  • Colon cancer data
  • Gynaecological pathology

Examples of Scottish companies developing AI based products and services

More on AI in Scotland:

Agritech is the application of IoT and AI technologies in agriculture, horticulture, and aquaculture to improve efficiency, yield and profitability.

Organisations who deploy emerging technologies, sustainable practices and innovative business models are setting the next wave of change in agriculture, according to EY.

Intelligent Growth Solutions (IGS) opens in a new window is one example of a Scottish company doing just that, leading the development of an agritech growing system based on vertical farming technologies.

IGS’s IoT and AI-based Total Control Environment Agriculture system is claimed to deliver two to three times the productivity, while using 50% less energy. As such, it’s a system which has attracted interest from a range of global investors, retailers and growers alike.

More on Scotland’s agritech sector:

Fintech, the use of digital technologies to automate the delivery of financial services, has positively transitioned Scotland’s international expertise in financial services and has attracted nearly £37 million over the last 10 years.

Through regulatory direction, Scotland’s thriving fintech industry has seen a step change in the number of tech small and medium enterprises developing digital and data-driven solutions.

With over 100+ startups and scaleups, Scotland’s fintech ecosystem has a depth of companies developing financial technologies from payments, regtech to open banking.

Glasgow-headquartered Beeks Financial Cloud opens in a new window continues to expand its services through the development of its strategic multi-million-pound network automation initiative. The company is also expanding its on-demand infrastructure, which supports cloud computing services for automated trading in futures and forex markets.

Recognising the issue of cashflow among early stage businesses and the transition towards digital accountancy platforms, Edinburgh-based fintech, Float opens in a new window capitalised on the growth of digital-based accounting solutions by developing its real-time cashflow forecasting software.

Having completed its £1.5 million seed round, Float are taking advantage of growth in the cashflow forecasting sector and are expanding into the Australian market.

Learn more about fintech in Scotland 

Another fast-emerging market is the development of digital services for regulated businesses like legal and accountancy organisations.

'Tech for Good' business, Amiqus opens in a new window recognised the market need to provide regulated professions with a platform they could trust when the Money Laundering Directive came into force. Its Amiqus ID platform performs money laundering, identity and compliance checks.

More on Scotland’s legaltech sector:

Law Society of Scotland opens in a new window  

Codebase LawTech Bridge opens in a new window  

With over 250 companies providing digital solutions for improved health, care and wellbeing, the growth of digital health solution providers in Scotland, such as Current Health opens in a new window and Care Sourcer opens in a new window , provides a positive indicator of the progressive transformation taking place across healthcare delivery.

For Care Sourcer, the successful investment of £6 million by FTSE100 financial services company Legal & General is a clear indicator of the demand for innovative health and wellbeing solutions.

More about Scotland's digital health and care sector 

Scotland has a versatile and adaptable space sector. With one fifth of all UK jobs in the space sector based in Scotland, many of Scotland’s space businesses are developing small satellites which support environmental data analysis and critical earth observation solutions.

With Scottish spacetech addressing ‘big problems’ such as deforestation, Scotland is well-placed to capitalise on the expansion of space exploration. Our space sector now manufactures more satellites than anywhere else outside the United States.

Recognising this potential, data company Spire Global opens in a new window recently announced the launch of its 100th Glasgow-built satellite. R3IoT opens in a new window is one of the early stage companies emerging from Scotland’s space and IoT cluster making IoT-based applications more accessible within remote areas utilising satellite communications.

More on Scotland's space sector 

Traveltech, the application of digital technology in the travel, tourism and hospitality industries led Edinburgh-based Skyscanner opens in a new window to be accredited as a leading global online travel company.

Responding to the latest travel and tourism business opportunities, the international success of Skyscanner has helped develop a new cluster of emerging travel tech businesses across Scotland through the likes of TravelNest opens in a new window .

Taking advantage of the increased popularity of short-term vacation renting, the team at TravelNest are developing a multi-channel platform to advertise private properties across a range of channels like Airbnb,, Expedia and TripAdvisor.

With the adoption of digitalisation across all industries and the increased vulnerability to cyber threats, businesses are starting to take a 'security by design' approach to de-risking their business services from cyber threats.

As a value and outcome-driven security company, technology consultancy Sericexternal link which will open in a new window (based in Glasgow) recognise that secure technology protects a business’s value. It's also a key message outlined in Scotland’s cyber resilience strategy which supports the development and implementation of cyber security solutions across Scotland.

More about cyber security in Scotland:

Why Scotland is the right choice for cyber security 

ScotlandIS Cyber opens in a new window  

Scottish Informatics & Computer Science Alliance  opens in a new window  

Cyber Scotland Connect opens in a new window  

One of Scotland’s most successful sectors, Scotland’s gaming industry is recognised globally as the founder of Grand Theft Auto, which became the 'fastest videogame to gross $1billion USD', according to the Guinness World Records.

Dundee is the location for Europe’s leading university for computer games education – Abertay University. It attracts some of the most talented students and academic staff in the world.

With Scotland’s computer games sector employing over 1,285 people, Dundee is Scotland’s Games capital and the location for games studios like Outplay opens in a new window , Tag Games opens in a new window , 4J Studios opens in a new window and Team Junkfish opens in a new window .

One of the latest additions to Scotland’s games sector is the creation of InGAME opens in a new window , a creative research and development centre driving product, technology and process innovation in gaming.

Learn more via the Scottish Games Network opens in a new window  

Innovating for a better future

Scotland has a globally competitive, entrepreneurial economy that’s making positive contributions internationally, focused on creating a more successful country, particularly around wellbeing and inclusive growth.

Helping organisations develop ways to tackle climate change is just one of the recent initiatives announced by the Scottish Government to support the transition towards a low-carbon economy.

Many of the current themes emerging from Scotland’s industries support the development of innovative ideas that will help shape technological solutions to the big challenges facing our society and economy, both now and in the future.

Connect with Scotland's technology companies

Browse our Scottish technology company directories for a range of businesses developing transformative innovative solutions:

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  • Space tech in Scotland

    Scotland's space tech companies and research centres are leading lights, finding solutions to global problems such as climate change

  • Scotland's IOT network

    Insights from tech company Boston Networks and its leading role in creating the UK's most advanced IoT network of its kind, right here in Scotland.

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