The inaugural Glasgow Tech Fest, held in the city’s Innovation District (GCID), saw a stimulating exchange of ideas designed to accelerate the growth of the sector and to nurture its ecosystem.

The event, at the University of Strathclyde’s Technology and Innovation Centre, attracted around 450 participants, in person and online, all of whom were eager to share thoughts and experiences on attracting investment, fostering talent and enabling business scaling.  

The key themes of founders, investment, ecosystem and industry sectors covered the range of criteria required for a thriving sector and for the implementation of key recommendations from the Scottish Technology Ecosystem Review, which gave the initial impetus for Glasgow Tech Fest.

The review, carried out by Mark Logan, former Chief Operating Officer of online travel platform Skyscanner, identified the need for a “market square” to enhance the social infrastructure of tech ecosystems and GCID hosted the Glasgow Tech Fest with this goal firmly in mind.

Alisdair Gunn, Project Director of Glasgow City Innovation District

GCID Project Director Alisdair Gunn has been heartened by the success of Glasgow Tech Fest and by the high volume of positive feedback he has received since the event from the speakers, businesses and ecosystem partners who attended. As further evidence of the tech sector’s proliferation, he cites the announcement, just a week after Glasgow Tech Fest, that the Met Tower building, located within the Glasgow City Innovation District, is to be converted into a hub for tech and digital businesses.

“This was the first dedicated tech fest for ecosystems, teams, companies and entrepreneurs in the tech and digital community in Glasgow” he said. “The Technology Ecosystem Review is linked to the Scotland’s National Strategy for Economic Transformation, which has entrepreneurship at its core, and all of this was a focus at the Glasgow Tech Fest.

Evolving city

“Glasgow is an evolving city amongst the international tech sector and has so much potential in this area, which we are developing in GCID and the Technology and Innovation Zone. The city’s strengths are recognised and our clusters are enabling businesses to come together in areas such as space, quantum, 5G, healthtech and fintech.

“One of the main insights people have taken away from the event is that it has highlighted the ability of Glasgow’s tech companies to collaborate and the peer support these businesses have in growing each of their own organisations. They have that support to open up new connections to investment and to the business opportunities that give them the right type of product development.

“There are more and more tech and digital companies in Glasgow providing a focal point for entrepreneurs, their teams and investors to come together to collaborate. It has helped to amplify the expertise and capability we have here, which means businesses will have the scalability to grow.”

Honesty and approachability

Alisdair added that he was impressed by the honesty and approachability of the speakers at Glasgow Tech Fest.

“They were very approachable and open to working together,” he said. “There was a lot of support for the key recommendations of the Technology Ecosystem Review.

“All of this can stimulate the creation of new tech start-ups, which are at the heart of the growth of GCID and of Glasgow’s tech economy. Glasgow Tech Fest, and other projects like the Tech Scaler network funded through the Technology Ecosystem Review programme, are providing the catalyst to bring companies together and inspire them to develop new digital products. We’re already starting to see the fruits of this in GCID; for example, organisers of the Turing Fest will be holding their founders’ dinner and host their Startups 101 meetup within the District.

“When GCID was developed, it was important for it to be open and inclusive. We want people here to feel they can connect to everyone and that’s part of how we will make the tech and digital sector sustainable; we also have a strong services sector alongside it.

Giving back

“If you look at the people who were speakers at the conference and who took part in panel discussions – like Tom Walkinshaw of Alba Orbital and Allan Cannon of R3-IoT – they are founders who have developed their businesses and are giving back to the community through peer support and mentorship. We also had Theresa McComisky of Barclays and Dr Poonam Gupta of PG Paper who provided their own personal insights into scaling an entrepreneurial organisation.

“The tech and digital sector is highly competitive but there are so many opportunities in Glasgow for businesses and investors to engage and we saw so much interest at Glasgow Tech Fest from people wanting to be involved.”