£75K grants round to combat digital skills gap

Digital Xtra Fund has launched the latest £75k funding round in support of extracurricular activities that boost interest in computing and technology among young people across Scotland.

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Ellie Banyard & Kory Javier enjoying programming a robot at a robotics club in Edinburgh. 

This comes on the heels of alarming figures from SQA showing a massive drop in Computing Science Higher entries in Scotland in 2019. The Fund is urging educators and industry to come together to combat the digital skills gap which is threatening to undermine the Scottish tech sector.

Recent SQA figures showed a 21% drop in Computing Science Higher entries in Scotland as well as a 2% drop in Nat 5 entries. This alarming decline is by far the largest drop across any subject and continues a worrying trend that has been ongoing for some time.

These figures also have a direct effect on Scotland’s job market with around 12,800 digital tech job opportunities annually – a 16% increase on the previous forecasts – but only around 5,000-6,000 people entering the market each year with relevant tech skills.

Kraig Brown, Partnership and Development manager at the Digital Xtra Fund, explains: “We will be awarding £75,000 to tech-related activities for young people and it could not come at a more important time. We cannot ignore the latest figures regarding participation in Computing Science or what this means for the future of tech in Scotland.

We are at a crossroads; we need to decide now if Scotland will be a leader or a follower in this digital world – and it all starts with young people. Scotland is prime placed to be a digital leader with an abundance of universities and colleges and a burgeoning tech scene, but inspiring young people to be the digital leaders of tomorrow is essential to maintain this momentum. Without more skilled and creative talent, Scotland will inevitably fall behind. However, a lack of understanding about what are careers in tech, coupled with negative stereotypes and strong gender imbalances, are creating serious challenges to engaging and inspiring more young people to take up computing.

Our grants programme is a fantastic way for organisations or schools to be able to explore new ideas, build on previous successes and facilitate increased collaboration. We need to bring together educators, industry and organisations who focus on teaching young people digital skills to attract and excite more children in technology.

Brown adds: “Our goal is for all young people to have access to digital activities which teach valuable skills as well as provide ‘real-world’ context so participants understand why these skills are so important and the amazing opportunities they can provide.”

Sam Pattman, Sponsorship Manager at Baillie Gifford who support the Digital Xtra Fund grant awards, says: “Digital skills are a serious challenge across Scotland, which is illustrated by the number of tech jobs that companies struggle to fill due to the skills shortage. The solution lies in educating our young people and collectively we need to work together to inspire more children to become interested in computing science and technology. This is why initiatives like the Digital Xtra Fund are so important - it’s about working together and supporting exciting digital initiatives to give more children the opportunity to understand what a future in tech may be. We are delighted to be increasing our support for the Fund.”

Digital Xtra Fund has today (02 September 2019) opened applications for initiatives supported in 2020. A total of £75,000 will be awarded to digital skills initiatives across Scotland with grants available up to £5,000. Grant applications can be downloaded on the Fund’s website and applications will close 31st October 2019. To date, the Fund has helped engage nearly 30,000 young people across Scotland by awarding a total of £550,000. Last year’s funding supported 22 initiatives, covering topics from robotics and coding, to app development and the Internet of Things (IoT). To access the fund and for further information please visit https://www.digitalxtrafund.scot.

Digital Xtra Fund brings together businesses, organisations, and individuals with a common goal to help young people succeed in a digital world through an annual grant awards programme. Key Partners include Baillie Gifford, Skills Development Scotland and Skyscanner as well as Accenture, BT Scotland, Cirrus Logic, Incremental Group, Micro:bit Educational Foundation, ScotlandIS, Sky UK and The Scottish Government.

 

Scottish Franchise Week 2019

Save the date for Scottish Franchise Week 2019, taking place on 11th and 12th September.

Pip Wilkins, CEO of the bfa states: "Scottish Franchise Week is bringing you a host of networking and educational events across two days in Glasgow, along With Franchise Opportunities to showcase what the industry has to offer to prospective franchisees."  

Wednesday 11th September

Scottish Forum
Harper Macleod LLP, The Ca’d’oro, 45 Gordon St, Glasgow G1 3PE

The Scottish Forum gives you the chance to discuss the latest topics in Scottish franchising. The only place to mix with like-minded franchising professionals to exchange ideas, share experiences and discuss the hot topics relevant to your business. 

Social Evening 

The Supper Club, 29 Private Members' Club, 29 Royal Exchange Square, Glasgow, G1 3AJ. 


Always a highlight of the Scottish Franchise Week, this year’s social evening is taking on a new dynamic featuring the big fat franchise quiz of the year.

Thursday 12th September

Radisson Blu, 301 Argyle Street, Glasgow, G2 8DL.

Business Breakfast
Attracting a wide audience from the Scottish and national community, the business breakfast gives you the opportunity to join industry colleagues for the highlight of the week. After the Business Breakfast, there is an ask the experts session being run with industry stalwarts, including sponsors.

Franchise Opportunities 
Unlock the potential of franchising at Franchise Opportunities Scotland. Taking place at the Radisson Blu after the Business Breakfast, this event will offer aspiring franchisees and prospective franchisors the chance to meet a range of brands, take advantage of expert-led presentations and benefit from one-on-one advice.

For more info visit: https://www.thebfa.org/events/scottish-franchise-week-2019/

Edesix launch new VideoBadge VB-400 At IFSEC 2019

 

Edesix, market-leading providers of Body Worn Cameras (BWC), will be launching its latest VideoBadge, the VB-400, at IFSEC 2019.

 

 

 

 

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The VB-400 will be predominantly aimed at the policing and security sectors, where officers on the front line utilise BWCs to help prevent both criminal and anti-social behaviour when out on patrol. Additionally, the captured footage not only provides greater transparency of interactions with the public, but also significantly increases early guilty pleas when used in a prosecution.

 

This latest Body Worn Camera from Edesix has been designed to be a simple, unobtrusive addition to any uniform. The VB-400 has a market-leading IP67 ingress protection rating, and delivers full 1080p HD recording capabilities to capture evidence-quality footage, Bluetooth sensor monitoring, and built-in GPS functionality which will greatly simplify camera asset management across large estates. Other features include a full-shift battery life, Wi-Fi streaming, 120 degree horizontal field of view and haptic and audio feedback alerts to show when recording has been activated.

 

"The use of BWCs is revolutionising policing and security around the globe, and the launch of our new VB-400 is going to take this protection to the next level," explains Richie McBride, managing director of Edesix.

 

"Our next generation VB-400 has been built for the connected world, and provides real-time GPS functionality, streaming and the ability to seamlessly interface with its environment. The VB-400's new Bluetooth sensor monitoring also enables hands-free incident recording. All these new features have been designed to assist the connected officer, and undoubtedly means it is the #1 Body Worn Camera for policing and security."

 

For further information about Edesix please visit www.edesix.com.

 

Gender imbalance in tech industry starts at school

 

Gender imbalance is a huge challenge for the digital technologies industry, with women making up just 23% of the Scottish tech workforce despite 51% of the population being female.

 

 

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Digital Xtra Fund, a charity set-up to encourage more young people to take part in extracurricular digital activities and inspire them to consider a career in tech, is warning businesses that this gender imbalance starts from a very young age and the best way to tackle it is through inspiring more girls and young women early on.

 

In Scotland today, young women make up only 20% of pupils studying National 5 Computing Science in secondary schools. Kraig Brown, Partnership & Development Manager at Digital Xtra Fund, says this is the number we need to focus on to make a real difference to the future workforce.

 

He explains: “It is essential we inspire more girls to get into tech from primary school, leading to increased uptake in secondary and therefore more women completing Higher and Further Education with a variety of technology related qualifications. Only by focussing on the talent pipeline from the beginning can we make a tangible difference in the end. However, despite considerable effort, we simply do not have enough computing science teachers to reach the level of engagement required to achieve this, and these numbers are getting worse. In 2008 there were 766 computing teachers in Scottish secondary schools, while in 2017 there were only 582 – a 24% reduction.

 

More needs to be done out with the classroom to support teachers and engage more girls and young women in tech. We need to show young women what is possible and make it fun by supporting accessible and relatable activities. Taking tech out of the classroom can also help make the link from something they enjoy and is important to them, to a future career. When you are shown how to do something, such as coding or data analysis, and also understand why the end result is relevant, it’s only natural to be drawn in. For example, research has shown that girls are more likely to engage with STEM subjects when there is an obvious benefit to society or their communities which is why we see a higher proportion of women in life sciences and medicine than in other areas of science and technology.

 

Digital Xtra Fund is currently supporting several initiatives who are doing a fantastic job engaging girls and young women including: Glasgow Life, who are targeting young women by combining technology with fashion and design; Banchory Primary School in Clackmannanshire who are combining coding and robotics with music and dance; and Firpark Secondary School in North Lanarkshire who are running an all-female VEX robotics after school club.

 

Brown adds: “In addition to engaging girls at a young age, it is also important we improve the links between education and industry to ensure these young women, their parents, and teachers have the opportunity to understand the range of rewarding job opportunities in the tech sector. These links also give girls and young women the opportunity to see and speak with women currently in these roles to act as examples and mentors. This is where organisations like SWiT (Scotland Women in Technology) who have partnered with Digital Xtra Fund to support activities targeting girls and young women, play a pivotal role in inspiring the next generation of women in tech.  SWiT  raised funds contributing towards a donation of £5,000 to the Digital Xtra Fund this year.”

 

Elaine McKechnie, Vice Chair for SWIT commented: “We are delighted to support such a great cause for women and young girls in Scotland that can really impact a positive shift in gender for the future workforce.  The Digital Xtra fund is exactly the type of organisation we’re proud to partner with as part of the Scottish eco-system to encourage more women in tech.”

 

For more information please visit: http://www.digitalxtrafund.scot/.

 

 

 

 

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Scottish Tech firm wins global award from Google and SAP

Edinburgh-based waste analytics company, Topolytics, has won the Google Cloud and SAP Circular Economy 2030 Contest, launched at the World Economic Forum in February 2019.  The contest set out to find the best revenue generating ideas that can unlock $4.5 trillion of new economic output by reducing waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use and/or regenerating natural systems.   The award-winning firm fought off tough competition to win the $100,000 prize.

 

More than 250 companies from more than 50 countries applied for the contest and in April 2019, Topolytics was named one of five finalists.  After a two-day intensive workshop, all finalists delivered a pitch that was recorded for the judging panel, consisting of senior executives from Google, SAP, the United Nations, Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data.   Topolytics proposed expanding the scale and scope of its existing WasteMapä data platform.  Making the system of movements of waste and by-products much more visible and thereby identifying opportunities to reduce the impact of waste management and help to maintain materials and assets at a higher utility.  

Topolytics was announced as the winner on 7th May at the SAP global SAPPHIRE conference in Orlando, Florida.

 

The Challenge organisers commented: “The business idea for Topolytics not only met our judging criteria in terms of originality, but also demonstrated a well-researched proposal with a high potential for advanced application of both Google Cloud and SAP technology. Moreover, we were impressed by Groves’ engagement and willingness to roll up his sleeves during the interactive workshop, where he demonstrated a strong level of commitment to learning and growth. We congratulate Michael and can’t wait to see more from Topolytics.”

Commenting on the win, Michael Groves, Topolytics Founder said: “This is a big moment for Topolytics.  We are extremely grateful to the organising team and are humbled to have won, particularly given the quality of the other finalists – all great companies.  The range and quality of technologies developed by Google Cloud and SAP will undoubtedly underpin the rapid commercialisation and scaling of WasteMap.”

 

As overall winner, Topolytics gets a cash prize, access to Google Cloud and SAP technologies and their global networks.   For further information please visit www.topolytics.com or https://cloud.google.com/circular-economy-2030/