The Government is clear in its intention to stay at the very heart of Europe, not on its fringes. The First Minister’s recent announcement of a four-point plan to boost trade, including a permanent trade representation in Berlin, is testament to that.
Two weeks ago, supported by Scottish Development International and David Scrimgeour of the British-German Business Network, I led a tech mission to Munich involving four Scottish companies: Epipole, MadeBrave, Machines with Vision and Sunamp. The mission was aimed at promoting stronger economic ties between Scotland and Bavaria by exploring areas of shared interest. Under the banner of “Scotland CAN DO”, I was accompanied by key partner organisations driving our innovation ecosystem, such as Women’s Enterprise Scotland, the Scottish EDGE fund, WeAreTheFuture, MBM Commercial and Freer Consultancy.
My agenda included a very positive meeting with the Deputy Minister-President of Bavaria, Ilse Aigner, who expressed interest in leading a return mission to Scotland next year, and discussions with the economic ministry and the Munich municipal authority. It also included a visit to the hugely impressive new IBM Watson facility in Munich, a meeting with a board member of BMW, meetings with the Munich Technology Centre and with the Fraunhofer institute to discuss their project on photonics in Glasgow, and with BayWa r.e. renewable energy—the last two being leading German companies, rooted in Bavaria, that have invested in Scotland. Follow-up actions from those meetings are being pursued, including capitalising on the 17 twinning arrangements between towns and cities in Scotland and Bavaria.
I certainly do. The mission demonstrates that there remains a lot of goodwill towards Scotland in the EU, specifically in Bavaria, where we have 17 twinning relationships. The establishment of the innovation and investment hub in Berlin shows, as the cabinet secretary outlined in answer to Mr Macpherson, a strong commitment to building on the links between Germany and Scotland and to exploiting the very strong interest in Germany in investing in Scotland and, indeed, our existing economic links. More broadly, the hub will provide a base from which to develop further the German tourism market and to help raise Scotland’s profile in Germany.