Scotland's government and convention bureau want meeting planners, especially those in the U.S., to grasp that there's cutting-edge innovation in advanced industries taking place in the UK outside London.
Scotland tends to conjure images of beautiful old cities, bubbling creeks, and grassy plains. But as technological and creative innovation has evolved at a rapid pace in recent years, the country is looking to rebrand as a forward-looking destination for the world’s top conferences.
The UK Tech Innovation Index measures the strength of the creative and advanced industry sectors, ranging from digital media to life sciences, in cities across Britain and Northern Ireland. Produced by the UK government, the Open Data Institute, and various private industry partners, the Index ranks Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Aberdeen in Scotland among the top UK cities in sectors like artificial intelligence, health, digital media, and manufacturing.
Eager to leverage the rankings, VisitScotland Business Events launched a new two-year initiative to attract conference planners active in those industries. Under the banner of Scotland: Where Ideas Become Legend, the strategy is designed to increase the exposure of Scotland as a leading destination for high-tech conferences, and also support the government’s drive to attract outside investment in those sectors.
The UK government released new research this year detailing how conference owners and organizers seek destinations with a large cluster of aligned industry leaders.
“This is a way to position Scotland as very forward-thinking and innovative in research and academia, and give that more visibility as it relates to business events and conferences,” said Richard Knight, senior marketing manager for VisitScotland Business Events. “Conferences and business events in these sectors are really a bridge to further investments in Scotland, so we’re linking those to continue driving growth in our economy.”
VisitScotland’s use of “Legend” in the name of the new initiative speaks to the history of innovation in the country, dating back to the 1800s when Glasgow was one of the wealthiest cities in the world due to its ship and locomotive manufacturing industry. The Scottish government and convention bureau want to emphasize to business event planners that the region has a long legacy of innovation above and beyond its cultural and culinary history.
Scotland: Where Ideas Become Legend kicks off with a focus specifically on the technology, education, and creative clusters in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Aberdeen. Over the next two years, VisitScotland will be collaborating with its business, academic, and research leaders to showcase advancements in each field. Those will then be supplemented with content profiling industry innovations in energy, life sciences, engineering, marine, surgery and medicine, digital, space, and culinary.
VisitScotland is promoting its tech sector now with a new video from Stephen Taylor, CEO of Technology Scotland, discussing the necessity of sharing Scotland’s technological expertise with outside audiences.
“It’s rare in the modern world that an idea can develop by a single entity or single country,” he says. “So international collaboration and creating connections is essential, and large conventions help to keep Scotland’s profile high.”
Legends in Action
In Glasgow, the new Imaging Centre of Excellence (ICE) opened this year with the UK’s first ultra-high resolution 7 Tesla MRI scanner inside a clinical setting, located at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital — the largest acute hospital in Western Europe.
According to ICE, the clinical research facilities provide “a nexus for academic and industrial expertise into brain imaging, while further strengthening Glasgow’s position as a world leader in precision medicine.” The facility also includes 11,000 square feet of function space for medical industry education and networking
“We have a foundation of innovation and creativity, but with business events sometimes, it’s almost like a social club where we’re all huddling together too much,” said Shona Brierton, sales manager at the Glasgow Convention Bureau. “So let’s get attendees into the community to share knowledge.”
VisitScotland’s initiative doesn’t just benefit the local meetings industry and priority sectors, Brierton suggests. The branded meetings campaign, and similar ones promoting Scottish creativity and innovation to the leisure travel market, also help instill a sense of pride among local youth.
“Glasgow is a living laboratory inspiring the next generation of citizens,” she said. “For conferences that come here in our key clusters, where visitors can interact more with our students, that feeds us for the future.”
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Photo credit: VisitScotland's Instagram travel agency is picture here. The organization is looking to promote Scotland's cities as more than just a tourism destination. VisitScotland