Alisdair Gunn, Interactive Scotland Project Director

Written by Alan Robertson on 29 October 2015 in Feature

For 100 days, Connect is running through our Tech 100 for 2015, profiling the key figures driving the digital agenda in Scotland

Alisdair Gunn (@aligg)

Job Title/Organisation: Project Director, Interactive Scotland

What does your role involve?

Interactive Scotland supports digital media, creative and digital technology companies across Scotland and is delivered by PA Consulting on behalf of Scottish Enterprise.

Focussed on connecting and growing Scotland's digital community, Interactive Scotland delivers expert advice to small to medium enterprises (SME) and businesses across the games, media, design, broadcast, mobile, film, advertising, digital technology, marketing and software industries.

As Project Director, my role is to develop Scotland’s ecosystem of digital start-ups and SME’s and support digital businesses achieve their growth ambitions i.e. create Scotland’s digital capability. This means using my market insight, experience and network of trusted connections to support entrepreneurs, developers and business leaders create digital applications, platforms or a service that delivers revenue.

It’s my responsibility to ensure that companies have direct contact to the buyers and investors of digital services across international markets. Additionally, I bring the latest market insight on the trends and opportunities informing the decision-making for the digital industries.

What do you consider to be the most imminent challenge in your line of work?

The CIO’s and heads of digital of Scotland’s leading businesses, including digital tech start-ups, are informing me that they don’t have access to new employees who have the right blend of combined digital and industry expertise.

The pace of digital transformation in financial services, public sector and health and care is accelerating. Industry needs to move its focus to develop the digital skills of their existing staff to obtain the right mixture of market expertise and digital.

Retention is also a key issue. Personnel with key digital expertise are increasingly moving client side.

What has been the most rewarding piece of work you've undertaken?

Simply it’s helping the founders of tech start-ups be successful. The opening line I often use is “I’m here to make you a millionaire”. Of course that doesn’t always happen... but it does sometimes.

Certainly the most rewarding element of my work is seeing the founders of new tech businesses take on-board the advice I provide.

Some of the successful companies I have advised and supported have included: Kotikan (now Fanduel), MadeBrave, Beartrap Games, Tangent, Tag Games, Screenmedia, Calnex, Urbantide, Ciqual and recently iMetaFilm. Of course there are plenty more like these, over 1100 and counting.

I’m passionate on supporting the growth of Scotland’s tech sector and having developed and co-produced key tech events like 360D and the Turing Festival, Scotland’s tech sector is firmly back amongst the leaders.

How can Scotland bridge the digital skills gap?

With the launch of the Scottish Governments Skills Investment Plan, creation of Codeclan and the Data Lab, public sector support is now in place to address the digital skills agenda, especially around coding.

Access to developers is one of the most common requests I’m often asked as well as getting connected into the buyer of digital services and applications. Industry has a key role to play, but it is not just about coding. Equally important are skills like data science, 3D graphic design, animation and digital storyboarding.

I have been impressed on the support Barclays provides through their Digital Eagles, Digital Ambassador programme.  

The digital skills gap not only applies to businesses, it also applies to the citizens in our towns, cities and villages.  As public services are digitised, up-skilling of our citizens is equally important.

Which new technology excites you the most?

The emergence of Data Science and Blockchain technologies will change our perspectives on how we view, handle and secure data.

The internet was created to transfer information and has evolved to become a key utility in all our business and personal lives. But as the internet, mobile devices and the Internet of Things evolves, the threat of losing data through cyber security attacks has real commercial and personal impact.

All companies who handle, manage and use personal data need to review their systems to prevent mishandling.

What's your favourite app and why?

A key aspect of my role is to provide the latest insight on new technologies and digital services. As Albert Einstein once said: “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”

Both Flipboard and Twitter provide me with real-time access to the breaking news emerging from the tech sector. Spotting changes in markets and the adoption of new applications can lead to the success or failure of a tech start-up. It can also lead to helping a tech business secure investment or even secure a new contract.

What, for you, will 2016 be the year of from a technology/digital standpoint?

Digital transformation in key markets like financial services and the public sector will gather pace with retail rising to digital adoption challenge. Driving this change will be the increased use of data analytics to support enterprise service design.

2016 will see the adoption of data analytic technologies which will help evolve open data standards and stimulate the design of new digital services and technologies.

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