Scotland’s skills a major green hook

14th April 2021
Written by: Simon Wallace, Scottish Development International

Having worked in Inward Investment for 20 years, I’ve started to get a sense of what kind of information might interest a potential investor, what might excite them, and what can make them make that final decision to push the button on a new investment in a new country.

One of my colleagues describes the information we put to customers as hooks, some of them are small silver hooks that help you with the overall proposition and some are bigger, golden hooks – more compelling reasons that make the decision to come to Scotland inevitable.

I’ve found that things like the right office space, transport links, and taxation are all silver hooks, often necessary, but not enough to seal the deal. However, there are the two things more than anything else that make people (and let’s not forget it’s people that make the decisions, not companies) sit up and listen; market opportunity and skills.

The market can be important in new growth areas like the hydrogen economy or offshore wind. Many of these new industries are heavily reliant on government policy, or government subsidies which will come with conditions around using the local supply chain, or the new inward investor may just be stepping into an area where no local solution exists (UHT milk production for example). Either way, the opportunity to have better access to the local market can be a strong influence.

But the hook that usually trumps them all, and the main reason we have almost 3,000 foreign direct investors in Scotland is skills. It might seem obvious, but if you aren’t going to be able to find the people to work in your new Scottish branch, then it isn’t going to be very successful. We have a very compelling skills story to tell here in Scotland, and we tell it very well using partners like Skills Development ScotlandTalent Scotland and recruitment agencies that we regularly work with.

But where’s the regular flow of new blood to the company going to come from? That’s where our Higher Educational Institutions are such a critical part of our delivery – with high numbers of well-trained graduates added to the working population every year.

And don’t forget the very pinnacle of the skills pyramid, the world-leading research being carried out in Scotland, this can give companies a competitive advantage in a quickly moving marketplace.

Twenty years ago, in my early days of inward investment, each request by a new company about the research being done by Scotland’s HEI’s was met with a groan by my team, as it usually meant a dozen phone calls to figure out who was doing what. Thankfully since 2005, that has been made so much easier by Interface, and even easier in the sector where I work where we have the ETP and their fantastic BDM’s to help companies steer their way through what can initially appear to be a very daunting landscape.

Thanks, Interface, for 15 years of support, and I look forward to working with you all for many years to come.


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