The use of technology and adoption of digital innovation within Scottish businesses has accelerated at an extraordinary level in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a report launched yesterday(30 September 2020) by Addleshaw Goddard in partnership with the University of Strathclyde’s Fraser of Allander Institute.

As a continuation of the Addleshaw Goddard and Fraser of Allander Institute Scottish Business Monitor which highlights business sentiment across Scotland, the latest figures indicate the shift in attitude towards the fundamental requirement for inclusive tech systems, infrastructure and future-proofed planning to enable business continuity and economic growth. 

More than 500 Scottish-based businesses across industries including healthcare, financial services, accommodation, transport, construction, and manufacturing responded to the survey conducted in July. Key findings indicate that the majority of organisations have adopted new technology to provide their goods and services with a large proportion of firms expecting these changes to continue permanently. 

Key findings from the survey include:

  • 73% of businesses said that the pandemic has encouraged them to adopt new technology to provide their goods and services
  • 81% of large businesses said they had accelerated digital plans while 54% had introduced them and 66% of small and medium sized businesses said they had accelerated digital plans, while 34% had introduced them
  • 93% of firms said that these changes will persist in the long-term, with 44% stating that this would be to a large extent
  • 57% of large firms expected these changes to persist to a large extent, compared to 42% of small or medium sized firms

The collaborative report, which includes views from a range of spokespeople at organisations including The Data Lab, Scottish Futures Trust, Royal Bank of Scotland, Snag Tights, Par Equity, Fraser of Allander, Fintech Scotland, XDesign, The Law Society Scotland, Phlo, University of Strathclyde, Obashi, Sekoia, FNZ and CommsWorld, explores themes including the rise of tech in the workplace, data ownership and handling, connectivity and buy-in from decision makers to enable a thriving tech ecosystem. 

David Anderson, Corporate Partner at Addleshaw Goddard, said: “The acceleration of tech and digital innovation within the Scottish business community has been monumental as we continue to live through a global health pandemic.  Largely, new tech has been introduced within organisations to enable remote working but the survey results also reveal the fast-forward button that has been pushed on digital transformation at board and governmental level.  For most companies, technology is no longer a choice – it is imperative in order to survive. 

“Technology infiltrates and permeates every business, the lives of every individual and increasingly, our social, personal and commercial relationships. People no longer buy products, they buy solutions. Many organisation leaders are aware that they need to become more tech-savvy, but what we want to drive home is that business models that have been adequate for decades should now consider a tech-focused future.

The onset of the coronavirus pandemic and consequent social lockdown accelerated digital adoption with all contributors to the report agreeing that businesses across all sectors had been forced to reconsider their use of technology. 

Graeme Roy, Director of Fraser of Allander Institute, said: “Technology and how we understand it is rapidly changing. Businesses and decision-makers need to review the balance between human and tech interactions to achieve the best outcomes and progress as we’re presented with new digitally enhanced opportunities. 

“However, this doesn’t come without challenges. Data-handling and collection remains the biggest unanswered question when it comes to harnessing the value technology presents and this is something the majority of businesses surveyed noted. As fibre broadband is rolled out and 5G coverage delivered, things will continue to change but that’s why it’s crucial we continue to ask questions and strive for success both at a national and international level in the tech market.

Fintech investment in the UK more than doubled from 2018 to 2019, with £4bn invested in fintech firms in 2019. This makes fintech the UK’s largest tech sub-sector for investment, with still huge potential for continued growth that the report touches on. 

Stephen Ingledew, Chief Executive of Fintech Scotland, said: “Technology now plays a significant role in all of our personal and working lives with pervasive impact right across all dimensions of society and the economy.  The rapid advances of new technologies and data intelligence are reshaping all aspects of communities and business effectively, resulting in new paradigms for everyone. 

“Everyone has a role to play in shaping the new digital and data driven economy and this report makes an important contribution to how we can progress with confidence as innovative, collaborative and inclusive business leaders.”