It is difficult for me to hide my love of Edinburgh, and I strongly believe that we are at the start of a new enlightenment in the City. It will one which will be different from the last one, and where we will see new industries emerge built on innovation and enterprise.
For me I’ve never seen so much activity, and dealt with some many local entrepreneurs, and who have a focus on creating products for international markets. Another key sign for me is the demand for Computing graduates, which is higher than at any time I have ever known, especially with graduates moving into fairly senior roles. While at one time Scottish graduates had to move away to gain their experience, there are more than enough jobs around locally to stop the drain of talent. If Edinburgh does one, it needs to keep the talent that it has nurtured, and attract the finest minds from across the world, and welcome them with open arms.
Within Edinburgh there seems to be a strong infrastructure around the industries of current time and of the future. We have Amazon based one one end of Princess Street, and then to have key industry leaders such as Standard Life at the end, and for Dell Secureworks to be somewhere in the middle, we have the bed rock to create a world-class infrastructure, especially if our universities can embrace, and enable collaborations between the major players, and with SMEs. This is a city which was always been cheek-and-jowl, where, in the past, the rich and the poor lived together, often in the same stairwells, and where people were cramped into the confines of the city. As the city grew outside these confines, into the New Town, and beyond, it has kept its eclectic mixture of every type of background existing within its city boundaries, often right in its heart.
I’ve said it before in my previous blog, but one of the things I am proud of in my city is that 90%, in a recent survey, of them thought that incomers significantly contributed to the city. This is something that I strongly agree with, and I believe it is a city which is mostly tolerant, and future looking, welcoming those from around the World to contribute to its culture and its economy.
Hats off to James, and the many others
I see some many companies evolving, many having cut their teeth within the finance industry in Scotland. A great example is miiCard, led by James Varga, who creating a world leading identity product which addresses the problems of current IT infrastructures and aims to created trusted identity provision. James has thus chosen Edinburgh to be the base for his company, and has made the decision to base it right in the center of Edinburgh. This, hopefully, can provide him access to some of the best talent that the Scottish economy can provide. It is a real privilege to get access to their operation, and help in some small way in the development of their product.
For many a business trip to Edinburgh, from anywhere in the World, can often be seen as a pleasure compared with visits to some less impressive city landscapes. A one hour flight from London, and jump in a taxi, and within 15 minutes, you are at miiCard’s office. For those companies who are stuck on an out-of-town industrial unit, they can only dream about having such as privileged work environment.
Well done to the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and Scottish Enterprise (SE)
James is just one example of the entrepreneurs operating in Edinburgh, and it is key that universities do more to enable collaborations with SMEs. We are lucky to have SFC and SE in providing funding for collaborations between SMEs and universities, and often a little seed from an innovation voucher can lead to great things. In Scotland there is also a complete range of funding opportunities for innovation, from £5K innovation vouchers from SFC, onto £40K follow-on innovation vouchers, right up to SMART grants from SE. So anyone with a good ideas has the potential to create the new generation of products.
A key focus for the city is thus to enable the natural synergy between established industries and the public sector to engage with SMEs, and academia and grant funders have a key role in this. Here’s to this fine and elegant city, who has supplied much more to the World, than it has ever asked for.
Postscipt: I am so pleased that the Cloud Security Alliance are setting up their congress in Edinburgh for Sept 2013. Please come along if you are able to:
How many times does Edinburgh have to prove itself as the best place to live in the UK? Cadbury’s has just came out with the stunning result that the happiest person in the UK is Steve, at Teacher, aged 60, and from Edinburgh. So is it true? Well London is a massive economic generator, and is a focus for politics, media, transport, and so on, but for the overall balance for quality of life, surely Edinburgh trumps it in most ways? In competition against most of the other cities in the UK, it wins by a mile, in fact by a Royal Mile. I must admit, I wasn’t born in Edinburgh, but over years, I’ve fallen in love with everything about the city.
Over the years, too, Edinburgh has won so many awards for being the best place to live such as with this quote from the Location, Location, Location programme:
EDINBURGH has been named as the best place to live and work in the UK. Presenters Kirstie Allsopp and Phil Spencer made the announcement last night in a programme which revealed their top ten best and the worst places to live.
Jenny Dawe, the city council leader said: “This result is great news for the city and confirms what we all know – Edinburgh is a great place to live, work, invest and visit.
“The city truly has the best of everything – stunning architecture, fantastic employment opportunities, a vibrant leisure and retail offering, abundant green space, outstanding schools and universities…the list goes on.”
An important factor in living and working in any city, is the amount of time that a person takes in traveling, and in cities such as London, many people can spend many hours traveling on packed trains, with every little in the way of comfort. For someone living in Edinburgh the concept of spending hours on a train, can only mean having to travel to London for a meeting. For me I am 15 minutes away from the centre of Edinburgh, and can reach virtually anywhere in the city within 15 minutes by car. In fact from my hour to the airport is 15 minutes, whereas in London, you would be spending at least 45 minutes to get from the centre of London to the main airports. I must admit, too, that Edinburgh Airport is one of the best airports I’ve been to, and does not suffer from the sprawling nature of many airports. For me, I can walk along a canal to work, and watch the swans and ducks, and the river boats, while contemplating the day ahead.
Well what can you say about the scenery … it is quite stunning? It has a castle, some bridges that you would never know that were brights, an old volcano, some amazing parks, some of finest buildings in the World, any number of beach, a botanical gardens, palaces, a World-leading Zoo with pandas, … in fact anything you would want, it’s there to be had. It is also not a place which where everything is the same, to the East, the West, the North, and the South, each of their own personalities, giving any Edinburger the choice of the environment that the best like. It is a well-known trait of people in Edinburgh to live within an area, and not consider ever looking outside it. Ask anyone who starts in a small flat in Bruntsfield, and who moves to larger one in Merchiston, and then moves onto a nice little bungalow in Colinton. It’s a place where you can live and work, and do everything you want, all within the confines of the city boundaries.
Oh, and you have places such as Stockbridge, which was voted as one of the Top 3 places in the UK, and shows that Edinburgh supports a village-type culture within its confines, something that many cities with inner-city problems could gain from observing.
The Education Infrastructure
Edinburgh has long been famed for its educational infrastructure. It has four forward facing universities, each with its own focus, and unique in its provision of its teaching and research. It is this base which provides a key economic driver, and, if you analyse the amount of research income that comes into Edinburgh, it beats most other UK cities. Along with this, the graduates who come here, often want to stay and contribute to the economy. As a researcher, I am also amazing by the attraction of the City to those around World, and who can see the opportunities that it brings. Wherever your have an educational base, you have a long-term stability in the local economy, which can also attract external funding when times are difficult. A university infrastructure also can give you opportunities for the creation of new businesses, especially ones which focus on innovation. While the UK is probably behind the US in this, Edinburgh has a good track record of spinning-out companies, including one which I have been involved with: Inquisitive Systems.
The Climate and Surroundings
Well the one thing to remember about Edinburgh is that it is close of the sea, so this can have an effect on the weather, and is in the path of the North Atlantic drift, so it doesn’t get too hot or too cold. In Edinburgh, when the sun shines, it feels the best place in the World. Whether it’s sunning yourself in the Meadows, or off Cramond for a stroll along the breach, or off to the beauty of North Berwick or Gullane .. there’s somewhere for everyone. I personally think it’s in the depth of Winder, that Edinburgh looks best. It’s beauty skies of late November that makes the place look like the most amazing film set that has ever been created. I arrive in Edinburgh in the coldest Winter ever in Scotland, and I have never forgotten about the way that it made me feel. In fact Scotland is such a compact place, that there always great places to go.
The buildings provide an amazing infrastructure, but it is the people of Edinburgh who really make it a great place to live. For many, they know the greatness of the place, and appreciate the opportunity to live in the city. Along with this the great thing about Edinburgh is to meet with so many from different regions of the World. I hope the city keeps with its tolerance and respectability of its pass, and welcome the smartest and brightest from around the World, as they will provide the city with the intellectual capacity that is required for our new information age society, where innovation and enterprise provide the key drivers for wealth. As an academic, the best part of my job is to meet from students from around the World, and benefit from their viewpoints and aspirations. I deeply regret some of the narrow-mindedness of the current UK immigration policy, especially that it is restricting us from keeping and attracting the best minds to this City. Having lost two researchers in the past few weeks, one of which was a PhD graduate and the other an MSc graduate, I think we are loosing out on supporting a new economy, based on information and innovation.
I may be wrong, but Edinburgh is a great place to be just now, in terms of innovation and enterprise. There are so many businesses being created, with lots of major companies and SMEs recruiting. With companies such as Rockstar, Skyscanner, Bright Solid, Amor Group, Vacta, miiCard, Flexiant, and so on, innovating and leading on a World stage, there is buzz in the local industry. Along with this we have solid industry leaders such as Sas, Dell Secureworks, and so on, which have setup a strong commercialisation infrastructure in Scotland, and which is benefiting the local business infrastructure. I must admit, after all the years that I have taught, I have never seen such a demand for computing students from local industries.
Along with Education and Science, it has been Finance that has been the a key foundation of the local economy, and Edinburgh has known for its good judgement in financial markets, with companies such as Standard Life creating a long-time financial base. Unfortunately the troubles of RBS tarnished this reputation, but, as far as I can see, things are recovering well, and Edinburgh still has a strong financial base, with newer companies such as Virgin Money, and Tesco Bank, all of whom have been attracted by ability to tap into an experienced workforce, and a good supply of well qualified graduates.
Why has this happened?
Edinburgh stagnated for many years, if not for centuries. It hosted some of the greatest thinkers in the World during the Scottish Enlightenment, where people such as with philosophers like David Hume, and with scientists such as Joseph Black and Robert Hutton. While it’s beauty has always been there, it’s standing on a world stage was reduced from the Acts of Union, in 1707, where Edinburgh lost control of its own destiny. It has managed to keep its educational infrastructure, and it is from this base it is now thriving, from World-leading research groups, to innovative teaching, you’ll find it here. A core of any modern city is the supply of high-quality gradates, as, in this Information Age, it is intellect that is one of the key resources that companies require access to. At one time business would locate to be near natural resources, whereas today it is often human resources that is the key factor for the location businesses. So for Edinburgh, it has one of the most educated cities in the UK, with one of the highest number of graduates of any city.
The creation of the Scottish Parliament has been possibly the one great thing that has allowed Edinburgh to thrive. For the first time, we could on the key issues that related to the nation, especially on its great cities. As someone who was involved in some of the debates around Devolution in 1979, the way that the Scottish Parliament has done its business has been an inspiration.
And what evidence is there?
One of the best places for the statistics which re-enforce Edinburgh’s status as the best place to live in the UK is at:
The universities in Edinburgh have over 57,000 students registered each year. A pot of gold for the future . with over 14,000 outside UK.
46% of residents in Edinburgh have a degree or above .. how good is that as for a modern city .. which can attract international investment?
The number seeking Job Seekers allowance is a good sign of economic activity. Edinburgh has by far the lowest of all the major UK cities.
Edinburgh is one of the least polluted of all the UK cities … and it’s reducing … half of what it is in Glasgow.
It’s not as rainy as you think … in Edinburgh, the average rainfall is about one-third of the average. for Scotland .
90% of residents in Edinburgh agree that people from different backgrounds interact positively in Edinburgh. It should be 100%, but 90% is pretty good for a modern city which embraces those from different backgrounds.
When it comes to disposable income in the UK … Edinburgh and London lead the way … by a long way!
50% of the population are under 35 years old, which bodes well for the future.
The residents are happy … with the highest score of happiness (whatever that actually means!) of any major city.
So what’s next?
Well … this is the time for business leaders, academics, MSPs, and those who can influence the future of Edinburgh, to step forward, and make this city great again! Let’s create an economy based on Science, Innovation and Enterprise, and support the next enlightenment for this City. Our businesses must be allowed to thrive, and we must promote and foster innovation wherever possible.