Liz McAreavey: Adapt, adopt, invest '“ then take a leap of faith that it will all come good

Only a couple of weeks ago we watched as the chaos-inducing snow melted into floods and our city slowly returned to normality.

Wednesday, 28th March 2018, 7:00 am
Liz McAreavey is chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce

The day the Red weather warning was ending I decided to risk the snowy roads and drive my son to London for an interview with flights and rail travel all cancelled. We loaded up with duvets, food and water and eight hours later we were at our destination. Two days later we were safely back in Edinburgh, praised as adventurers. With a wry smile, I reflected that there is a very fine line between adventure and recklessness – that line being success.

When we look at the UK Industrial Strategy or The Scottish Government’s Economic Strategy, entrepreneurship is at the heart of our economic success. Yes we need to improve productivity, yes we need to embrace and adopt innovation, we need to invest in technology and we need to invest in the skills of our young people. But entrepreneurship and the scalability of these enterprising new businesses will be the defining element that makes us future-proof, international, inclusive and clean.

Taking risks and putting everything on the line, working long hours and receiving few short-term rewards is the life of our entrepreneurs, and if they are lucky they will succeed. But what makes them take this risk? They are our everyday adventurers and pioneers, so often facing failure but pushing on. Facing issues they’ve never faced before and trying their best to make the right decisions. Failure is not celebrated in Scotland – we don’t really encourage risk-taking. We have the big ideas but how do we deliver results without risk?

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The UK Industrial Strategy has thrown down four grand challenges – shaping the future of mobility; innovation for the needs of an aging society; artificial intelligence and a data-driven innovation economy and clean growth. No doubt Edinburgh’s world class universities are on it, big brains with big ideas pitching for a piece of the £2.4 billion funding on offer. But unless we are bold and ambitious where will these big ideas take us? Do we have the entrepreneurs that will make these ideas world-leading businesses that remain located in Scotland for the long-term?

Data driven innovation and technology will transform the way we do business and how we live and work, but we need to adapt, adopt, invest and take a leap of faith that it will all come good. Working together and sharing experiences, ideas, know-how – being truly collaborative – can be the difference between success and failure. Creating an ecosystem made up of education, business, innovators, public sector, third sector and entrepreneurs can mitigate the risk, help make wise, informed decisions and turn reckless decisions into a great adventure. Why should we get involved? What’s in it for us? A prosperous, inclusive and clean Scotland.

Liz McAreavey is the chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce.