THOSE of us with long memories might recall the phrase: “Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to make him better than he was before. Better...stronger...faster.” For the younger among you, please indulge me, I’ll get to the point in a moment.

Of course, these were the words used to introduce the cult 70s sci-fi show The Six Million Dollar Man referring to astronaut Steve Austin, who was re-modelled into a bionic man-machine following a catastrophic crash landing.

An appropriate metaphor for where the economy and our lives are today? It’s an interesting thought.

A delve into the mid to late 1970s history books will reveal an oil crisis, reduced working weeks for some, increases in trade union activity, interventionist state policy, serious inflationary pressures, our televisions spewing out a steady stream of public information films telling us how to behave and a winter of discontent. Fast forward almost fifty years, does any of this sound familiar?

Accounting for inflation plus the enormous debt being built up in handling the situation, the sixty billion dollar plus question here is: how do we build back the North-east economy at pace, better, stronger and what role does technology have to play in this? The race to recover is going to be a highly competitive one and the places that succeed will be those with a clear economic strategy, oven-ready investible projects, strong partnerships and innovative businesses ready to embrace and lead change. And I believe we have these things in the Aberdeen city region, in spades.

To enable this to happen, our governments need to create the appropriate conditions, cutting out red tape and antiquated processes then step back and trust the private sector to take the lead in the daunting task of getting our economy back on track.

There is little doubt that, over the last 18 months many companies have been forced into exploring new ways of working, many of these facilitated by technologies that existed previously, but had never before been fully operationally tested.

Some of this will stick, for sure, but let’s not artificially force fundamental change in the way we live, work and relate to one another on the back of what was a unique set of emergency measures.

Technology is there to assist and enhance how businesses perform, not take over from their lifeblood – people.

Yes, robots and artificial intelligence will become the default solution for many tasks. Just as in the 1700s and 1800s, manufacturing of goods moved from artisans in small shops and homes to steam-powered machines in large factories and new-fangled farming equipment replaced people and horses in our fields. However, as was the case then, in the wake of these changes, humans will be needed to create and deliver value in brand-new ways for brand-new business models.

And, on a related topic, our TV screens are currently filled with talented sportsmen and women of all ages showing what can be achieved through dedication, hard work and ambition. Those with Olympian abilities aside, it is a reminder that there is an emerging opportunity to attract talented people to locate themselves in our region, based on our fantastic quality of life and with employers taking a more agnostic approach to location post-pandemic.

Organisations both large and small, and covering the gamut of sectors, are employing technology to drive new ways of doing business, enhancing customer experience and securing competitive advantage. ‘Technically’, the foundations are in place for a bionic future – we just have to seize the momentum.

Russell Borthwick is chief executive of Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce