Key trends across Scotland’s tech industry for 2024

Polly Purvis

Polly Purvis

Johnston Carmichael Tech Advisory Board Member

At the start of a New Year, it’s only natural that people in Scotland’s tech sector will start to think about what the emerging themes will be across our industry in the next 12 months.  

And Artificial Intelligence (AI) will clearly continue to remain in everyone’s thoughts, given how it dominated tech discussion across the globe last year. 

The UK AI market is worth more than £16.9 billion, according to the US International Trade Administration, and is expected to grow to £803.7 billion by 2035.  

But one obvious question is: how will AI specifically impact the Scottish tech sector in the here and now, across 2024? 

Firstly, I think businesses everywhere will be looking at how to use AI to increase productivity. For many SMEs this is relatively unknown territory, so there will be opportunities for sector specific applications, as well as generic ones in business areas from marketing to HR. We're already seeing some of these being adopted but I would expect the pace to accelerate.   

Firms should be ready to experiment and adopt a 'fail fast policy' to try out new opportunities, as well as encouraging staff to bring creative ideas into the business, with a particular focus on younger workers. 

Businesses of all sizes will also need to be serious about external threats and their own cyber policies and keep right up to date on best practice, to develop external threat scenarios and have mitigation plans. Politically 2024 will be an exceptional year worldwide and the interference from 'bad actors' has the potential to create significant disruption beyond the obvious.  

Underlying both of these is an increasing need for clarity around what data a business has, uses and how it is protected. 

More generally, I envisage a greater push for and implementation of regulation around AI and social media. We are already seeing some of this play out in various jurisdictions, but I suspect citizen pressure in favour of stronger regulation will increase.  

I would further expect there to be many opportunities for 'deeper AI'. These could include AI applications beyond the current suite of Gen AI products which tackle more complex challenges. In particular from a Scottish point of view, the growth areas could lie in health and life sciences, climate change and net zero, as well as public services. 

Opportunities for smart cyber solutions will also continue to increase. I expect consumers and citizens will become more demanding of companies around environmental issues and push for action beyond greenwashing. This provides opportunities in new materials, such as packaging, and new processes. Sitting alongside this is the need for all businesses to get serious about their net zero policies and targets, given investors are already reinforcing this requirement.  

The emerging issues caused by an excluded generation of pupils because of the COVID pandemic, the global impact of falling student numbers, and the need to rapidly reskill mature workforces offers significant opportunities for innovation in skills and education delivery. 

Arguably the old social media model is broken with the reach of Facebook and Twitter/X considerably diminished. The rise of YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and podcasts have changed the environment for marketing departments.  All of this creates greater complexity for social media strategies and offers opportunities for new tools.  

Scotland’s tech industry has strengths in many niche areas, and there are growth opportunities this year and beyond in sub-sectors including space tech, agritech and the blue economy. 

Whatever happens, it promises to be another hugely interesting year for our sector, and I’m sure our industry will rise to the challenge as ever.  

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