Electronics is now an all-pervasive industry with applications in communications, multimedia, transport (automobiles now have 40% electronics content), informatics, etc. …
These companies made major contributions to the Scottish economy and were responsible for training significant numbers of people. This in turn supported growth and development and also provided a steady supply of skilled engineers who moved on to work in other companies.
This era has now passed. Electronics manufacturing has moved to the Asia-Pacific region and competitive pressures have curtailed the training activities of the firms which remain. However, there is now a new wave of engineering activity in Scotland which points to the future.
As you will read in the following articles, the electronics industry in Scotland is now dominated by small- and medium-sized companies (SMEs). These smaller companies are focused on developing and selling the next generation of products but generally do not have enough time to support the overall industry or talk about their impact on the economy to the general public.
Science Scotland attempts to address this issue by describing the Scottish university research in electronics and highlighting its technology transfer into SMEs. One indication of the success of electronics research in Scottish universities is the funding support they win within the UK. The top four Scottish universities currently hold a portfolio of £57 million of EPSRC-funded research awards compared to the top four English universities (selected from a much larger pool) who only hold £44 million of awards. Equally, the commercialisation of electronics technology is being actively pursued in Scotland through a growing number of established and start-up companies.
If one compares the annual generation of new spin-out companies in a major US university such as Stanford, and then scales or normalises this to the smaller research revenue of the Scottish academic research base, then there is no perceptible difference between the commercialisation performance of Scottish and leading US universities. Electronics in Scotland, as evidenced here, is still a vibrant and dynamic industry, and a significant contributor to the Scottish economy. It also offers exciting career opportunities for recent graduates in engineering, maths and physics to influence the design of future products.
rofessor Peter Grant, FRSE, FIET, FIEE, FREng
Professor David Milne, OBE, FRSE, FIET, SMIEEE, FREng