Tech 100: ‘Scotland should adopt a similar policy to Singapore to help high-tech firms flourish’

Written by Professor Harald Haas on 11 November 2016 in Feature

Professor Harald Haas, co-founder of Edinburgh University spin-out pureLiFi, on what more Scotland can do to boost start-up scene

Professor Harald Haas (left), co-founder and CSO of pureLiFi, and Dr Mostafa Afgani (right), co-founder and CTO of pureLiFi

Amid the success of tech start-ups such as Skyscanner – Scotland’s first $1bn web company – Scotland, and Edinburgh in particular, is building a reputation as an ideal place for new and innovative technologies to be born.

pureLiFI, a University of Edinburgh spin-out company founded in 2012, is at the forefront of one. The firm is developing so-called Li-Fi technology, an alternative to conventional WiFi that uses the visible light spectrum instead of radio frequencies to deliver high-speed wireless data communication and Internet access.

As of July this year the company had raised over $10million (£7.5m) to support the development and commercialisation of Li-Fi while the technology developed by co-founder and chief scientific officer, Professor Harald Haas, is set to be used in a new stadium for US basketball team, the Golden State Warriors.

Here, Professor Haas offers his thoughts on what more can be done to help tech start-ups in Scotland achieve their full potential.


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‘We cannot stop at investment’

What drives future economies is high tech. Investments in the high-tech sector will drive future economies, resulting in a high-tech company eco-system.

There is an opportunity in Scotland to harness the rich university landscape for this purpose – but this requires a change in culture.

Scotland needs to offer greater opportunity beyond seed investment stage. Scotland should adopt a similar policy as adopted in Singapore, for example, where policies are in place to enable high-tech businesses to prosper by providing targeted investments, technology platforms by opening up entire cities as high-tech platforms, and by providing access to the right investors who understand this particular sector.

The right policies can kick-start this high-tech innovation engine. We cannot stop at investment; supporting adoption of technology is key to ensuring we place the value of Scottish innovation at the forefront.

We need greater support through public-private partnerships to roll out the technology commercially. We would like to see LiFi accessible to and adopted by Scottish property developers, infrastructure providers, etc.

We need to demonstrate that we not only create and launch great technology companies but Scotland also leads the way in adoption of that technology.

Professor Harald Haas is chief scientific officer of pureLiFi, a University of Edinburgh spin-out he co-founded along with Dr Mostafa Afgani, CTO of pureLiFi.

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