Digital innovation will be key to Britain’s economic recovery in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, according to CBI President Lord Bilimoria.
Speaking at EIE20 yesterday, Lord Bilimoria insisted the country is at a critical tipping point. But while the pandemic and subsequent economic impact pose significant challenges for businesses, entrepreneurs and societies the world over, there is a glimmer of hope.
“Right now this country is at a crossroads, and we are faced with two distinct, yet fundamentally equal problems; Covid-19, the biggest health challenge in a century, and a global economic crisis,” he said.
“Innovation is playing a big part in both the health crisis and the economic crisis. And how we innovate our way out of this could be the difference between a swift and decisive economic recovery, or a tidal wave of job losses scarring our country for a generation,” Lord Bilimoria added.
Fuelling Britain’s economic recovery will be the plethora of innovative small businesses, tech startups and entrepreneurs, Lord Bilimoria insisted.
“Rarely has there been a more important time to be an innovator, to be an entrepreneur,” he said.
Riding the wave of change
The Cobra beer founder was joined at the virtual event by techUK President, Jacqueline de Rojas, who explored how British businesses can play a crucial role in ‘building back better’ post-Covid.
Since the onset of the pandemic, de Rojas said techUK has witnessed a huge increase in demand for digital skills across a range of sectors. Increasingly, she said, businesses are accelerating their digital transformation efforts to accommodate for changing working practices and consumer trends.
“If your business is not online, you’re simply not in the game,” she warned.
In Scotland, like much of the UK, de Rojas said the digital uptake of small and medium-sized businesses has been “much too slow”. As a result, many companies with a smaller digital footprint, or those simply without one, will likely have paid a high price during the disruption of the pandemic.
“We know that the most digitally native firms have not only better weathered the impact of Covid-19, they were also less likely to have furloughed workers or made staff redundant,” she said.
Recent studies from Cisco have highlighted the importance of online presence both for smaller businesses and larger organisations. In fact, many digital natives have grown their businesses during the pandemic crisis while others have struggled greatly.
Organisations that have seized the opportunity, she asserted, “will probably be at the forefront of our recovery and building back with new jobs and sustainable livelihoods”.
Showcasing tech talent
EIE20 began on Tuesday evening with an investor-only event featuring former Skyscanner COO, Mark Logan, who discussed the Scottish Government-commissioned report on Scotland’s technology sector.
The main conference on Wednesday saw 50 company founders pitch for seed funding to Series A-level investment up to £5 million.
Data-driven companies pitching at the virtual investor showcase included ethical fintech, Soar, sensor tech startup Beringar and Criton, a hotel and hospitality tech startup based in Edinburgh.
A full list of the EIE20 company cohort can be found here.
Founders pitching at EIE20 follow in the footsteps of Scotland’s most exciting tech companies. EIE has supported around 500 tech startups and scale-ups over the last 12 years, who collectively have raised over £750 million in investment. EIE alumni include firms such as FanDuel, Current Health, pureLiFi, Float and Cyan Forensics.
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Commenting on the event success, EIE Programme Manager Danny Helson said: “All our companies did a brilliant job today and they got a rare forum in which to pitch to investors from across the globe.”
EIE20 boasted its greatest international reach ever, with online pavilions bringing together startups investors and government representatives from Germany, Asia-Pacific and the Americas.
Additionally, the 2020 cohort boasted the largest percentage of globally-founded ventures locating to Scotland.