Although best known for whiskey and golf courses, Scotland provides an excellent hub for Australian companies expandingto the UK or Europe. Located north of the English border, Scotland boasts a highly educated population, several thriving economic sectors, a long-standing culture of innovation and easy access to mainland Europe. Given the strong historic and cultural links between Australia and Scotland, numerous opportunities exist for two-way trade and investmentbetween the countries. Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh, is one of Europe's largest financial centres and home of the popular Edinburgh Festival. The bustling Glasgow, Scotland's largest city, has the third largest GDP per capita in the UK and houses a world-class Digital Media Quarter and the headquarters of BBC Scotland. In recent years, Scotland has established itself as a leader in knowledge-driven sectors, including life sciences, renewable energy, financial services and digital media. To further develop these industries, the Scottish Government provides significant support and incentives for foreign companies to expand to Scotland. A number of Australian companies have already taken up this offer and established Scottish operations in these sectors, particularly in financial services and energy.
Scotland’s attractiveness as an investment destination was recognised when it was voted European Region of the Future 2008/09 by the Financial Times’ fDi Magazine. Reasons why people choose Scotland: Reduced costs with no compromise in quality Scotland offers considerable cost savings compared to other European centres such as London. In some industries, companies can save up to 30 percent by basing their operations in Scotland. For this reason, many global companies locate their back office, software development or support services in Scotland. Highly educated and skilled population Scots make up one of the most reliable, hard-working and highly motivated workforces anywhere in the world. In addition, Scotland boasts the largest concentration of universities in Europe and produces a steady stream of the best research and graduate talent. These factors combined provide a deep, high quality talent pool for Australian companies setting up operations in Scotland. First State Investments, the international arm of Australian fund manager Colonial First State, employs more than 100 people in its St Andrews Square office in Edinburgh. Lifestyle Scotland’s distinct culture, high standard of living and excellent education and healthcare services are among the many reasons why thousands of people move to Scotland each year. Few other countries can offer cosmopolitan, modern cities that lie within such a short distance of unspoilt rural locations. Commuting times are low, and more than 2 million people live within a 60-minute drive of the main cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. The lifestyle on offer in Scotland also assists with sales and networking. Where better to close a deal than on one of Scotland’s fantastic golf courses such as Machrahanish, the world’s most eco-friendly golf course developed by (Australian) Brian Keating? A track record in successful innovation Scotland’s culture of innovation is world-renowned, from pioneering nanotechnology to the development of new drugs to combat cancer. Close ties between academia, industry and Government create opportunities for business to exploit innovation and research in Scotland. For Australian life sciences and technology companies looking to expand offshore, the strength of Scotland’s R&D offer is a key differentiator compared to other European and Asian centres. Excellent infrastructure Scotland boasts excellent transport links to the rest of the UK and to Europe, including five international airports serving more than 150 destinations. Scotland also offers cost-effective, modern and reliable ICT infrastructure, and Edinburgh is a leading financial centre for capital and financing.
Government support and incentives
Scottish Development International (SDI), the international arm of Scotland’s economic development agency, provides considerable tangible support to Australian companies setting up in Scotland. SDI helps potential investors in Scotland by providing general business and sector-specific advice; access to specialist expertise; market information; financial assistance and information on business location and staff recruitment. Once a business is established in Scotland, SDI continues to work closely with the organisation to ensure the ongoing success of their investment. This support includes: business development support; marketing and market research assistance and investment advice. Some of the business grants and incentives that are available in Scotland include tax credits, research and development assistance and financial incentive schemes. In addition, Scotland is at the top of the list for many venture capitalists as a valuable and reliable source of technology-based opportunity. The Scottish Government actively promotes lasting investment partnerships that support the commercialisation of research and innovation. Scotland is a country rich in opportunity and bursting with innovation. Whether you are looking to take advantage of world-renowned Scottish expertise, or seeking a gateway into Europe, Scotland is the place to start. -Iain Steele is the country manager of Scottish Development International (www.sdi.co.uk) in Australia and sits on the NSW Council of the Australian British Chamber of Commerce