It’s fair to say that human development has taken its biggest step forward in the last 50 years than since the discovery of human imagination some 30,000 years ago.
We have witnessed a number of revolutions from the cognitive revolution, through the agricultural and industrial, to the now technological revolution – all of which have shaped our societies, influenced our cultures and unified the world through trade, collaboration and a shared sense of direction.
With digital connectivity linking the world in an ever increasing way, international trade will continue to expand. And Edinburgh as a renowned innovator and entrepreneurial city has many opportunities to establish itself as a major global trader. To progress, we need a greater sharing of knowledge and experience to support our SMEs scale, internationalise and create a strong economy for the city. The University of Edinburgh is already in the top 3 in the world for Big Data and Supercomputers – a great achievement which I believe could kick off the next revolution.
However, what hinders such developments is the gap between the agile, early-adopting, tech savvy SMEs and the mammoth banking institutions that are being left behind by their technology – yet they have all the expertise in the world on regulation. Scale and internationalisation seem to be the words of the moment and with 99.3 per cent of Scotland’s businesses being SMEs, it’s not hard to see the impact this could potentially have on economic growth, job creation and infrastructure investment.
Edinburgh has strong transport links, a highly educated workforce, is home to world leading research and has an entrepreneurial culture to match this knowledge and research. So what’s the missing ingredient?
It’s a typical behaviour – everyone thinks they can do it alone. We’re not utilising and developing the existing networks that get people together to share, challenge and cross fertilise ideas. The Scottish Enlightenment of the 18th century that saw our country revolutionise thinking around the world, was born out of citizens of all shapes and sizes, classes, education and trades living and socialising together sparking ideas and innovation.
It’s clear that our city has no lack of ideas and innovation – but what we do need is more knowledge sharing and face to face interaction. During an age of social media and technology, for business truly to work, looking back to imagination, communities, social interaction and trust could make all the difference.
Liz McAreavey is chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce