VisitScotland’s Business events roadshow ended the year with ‘InnovateDigital’

Pizza and beer provided a fitting backdrop to an informal gathering of tech aficionados in Stirling before Christmas – as the VisitScotland Business Events team closed 2017 with the last of its countrywide ‘InnovateTheNation’ series of talks.

Aimed at encouraging academics and business leaders to reach out to their international contacts to help bring more business events to Scottish shores, the city’s recentlyopened branch of tech incubator CodeBase, played host to ‘InnovateDigital’ in a bid to push the business events message out to regional contacts.

“In the Business Events team, we want to connect with you to help identify those events which we can attract to Scotland and more specifically to Stirling,” said Patrick Lamont, Associations and Sectors team at VS’s Business Tourism Unit, at the start of the event, which featured speakers from Stirling’s emerging tech scene.

“If you ever find yourself at an event abroad or have aspirations to create your own event here in Scotland we are here to help you bring it home,” Lamont added.

The InnovateTheNation programme – which celebrates the country’s knowledge economy – was launched in August 2016 with the intention of bringing together the ‘next generation of innovators through a series of free events held in Scotland’.

The Stirling event was run in partnership between VisitScotland Business Events and Stirling CodeBase – an offshoot of CodeBase in Edinburgh, the UK’s largest tech incubator – with support also from STEP Scotland – a business incubator providing support to local businesses – and Stirling Council. Dr Greg Singh, Communications, Media and Culture Lecturer at University of Stirling, opened the proceedings with a talk about data and society; Dr Singh is Co-Director of the RSE Life in Data Research Network, a two-year project which aims to investigate the connections between data literacy, open data, education policy, and creative data innovation in Scotland.

Leah Lockhart of the Democratic Society followed with a talk about how public services can be better delivered if citizens are fully involved in the process, especially through digital engagement; Kaye Symington, Director of creative consultancy Paved with Gold also spoke and Dr Matthew Davis, director and founder of social tech consultancy Wittin, which has been working with Stirling Council to offer greater insight into the data it holds. Steven Drost, CSO, CodeBase Stirling, said: “CodeBase Stirling is proud to work with VisitScotland by hosting InnovateDigital. It is part of CodeBase’s mission to help communicate and connect the public to the technological innovations of today. As technology increasingly underpins more and more our day to day lives, it is important that the conversation about technology is held in an open space, where technology, business, academia, state and public can exchange views in an inclusive and transparent way.”

Dr Raeanne Miller, from the Scottish Association for Marine Science in Oban, helped launch the ‘Innovate’ programme in 2016 – which has toured the country ever since in a bid to galvanise communities as to the importance of business events to Scotland’s reputation as an international knowledge hub. Rory Archibald, Associations & Sectors, VisitScotland Business Events, said: “We are excited to be able to shine a light on Scotland’s innovative digital sector that is one of our fastest growing industries. There are now around 3,000 digital economy companies in Scotland with the tech industry contributing around £5bn to the country’s economy. Companies are spread far and wide throughout the country, with Scotland now a key global destination for establishing, growing and developing digital businesses.”

The event also provided a showcase for “Legends” – VisitScotland Business Events’ latest industryfirst, two-year digital campaign, which focuses on the country’s long-established position as the ‘home of pioneering innovation’, and unites the Scottish business events market under the banner of ‘Scotland. Where ideas become legend’.

ACCORDING TO the brief from VisitScotland, ‘Scotland has recognised for a long time that, while delivering economic benefit, hosting association conferences, conventions and congresses provides a platform for new ideas and innovative thinking, paving the way for collaborations, research and new discoveries. The new campaign capitalises on this idea, sending a clear message that Scotland is a world-leader in research and innovation.’

Whilst InnovateTheNation has been a solely Scotland-focused campaign to galvanise the academic and business community as to the value of business events, Legends is a two-year digital campaign with an international focus; it is designed to appeal directly to buyers who might consider hosting association conferences and conventions in Scotland and was launched at ibtmworld in Barcelona at the end of November.

VisitScotland BTU has been working hard to promote awareness of the campaign among key public sector organisations such as Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Development International and to co-opt its social media branding such as the hashtag #ideasbecomelegend on Twitter.

The campaign has been described by VisitScotland as a ‘global industry-first’, and will ‘create a unified voice for the Business Events industry across Scotland to build on the work of the country’s convention bureaux which secured more than £295m worth of events in 2016’.