By Ciara Mitchell

THERE will be umpteen ways of demonstrating this point but, for the avoidance of any doubt, let me put it simply: with technology intrinsically linked to everyday life and the economy, strong cyber security is vital.

Scotland is a pioneer in cyber, providing innovative services across the UK and internationally.

The nation quickly grasped the opportunity to lead by creating a strong educational position. It is home to the world’s first ethical hacking degree at Dundee’s Abertay University, and indeed our creation of the digital skills gap-bridging organisation, CodeClan.

Today, the industry needs help with three things. First, it needs to find talent. Second, it must retain that talent. Third, it needs support to secure investment, improving cash flow.

As with any fast-moving sector, innovation is born with urgency: urgency for the skills to get the job done, for the investment to make it happen, and for the products and services to support its sudden existence.

Whether it’s opening training and education programmes for students or career changers, or ensuring strong visibility for opportunities within the sector, lots can be done to help our growing industry find the talent it needs.

But retaining that talent is another matter. In a lucrative industry, where workers are in high demand and able to work remotely, our brilliant cyber SMEs risk losing staff to bigger, and longer-established companies, often overseas. It’s a scenario that doesn’t just dampen Scotland’s chances being a global player – it threatens a loss to the sector as a whole, a lack of diverse thinking and a slowing of innovation as competitivity dwindles.

Scotland’s SMEs simply can’t compete with salaries in London, or the United States. So, it’s vital to consider what they can offer. From flexible working hours and four-day weeks, to development opportunities and clear career paths, we must ensure our tech workers are in happy environments.

To achieve these benefits, and to map out sound, ambitious growth trajectories, investment is also key. We need angel investors and private equity companies to understand the promise that Scottish cyber holds.

Our latest audit found that the number of cyber companies operating in Scotland increased by more than 25 per cent this past year. Of these, nearly half are headquartered and registered in Scotland, and more than a fifth of those are start-ups. There’s clear appetite for ideas and innovation within Scotland, but we mustn’t be smug with the success we’ve had so far, and neglect a young, burgeoning industry.

The pace is fierce, and Scottish companies have fought valiantly to reach the strong holding they have now. But with today’s cost of living crisis, labour shortages and shifting geopolitical tensions, the uphill struggle is getting steeper. It’s unrealistic to expect Scotland’s cyber industry to conquer both growing pains and this challenging landscape alone.

What’s important is that it’s not too late. Scotland’s cyber prowess is still shining brightly. So, let’s give it what it needs to enable its agility and secure its well-earned reputation as a centre for cyber excellence.

Ciara Mitchell is Head of Cyber at ScotlandIS, a silver-accredited cluster management organisation