Scotlands History

Silicon Glen and the hi-tech industries

Silicon Glen is a 1980s nickname given to the Central Belt of Scotland. It is a version of Silicon Valley, the leading US high-tech hub based around the Santa Clara Valley of San Francisco Bay, in California. The American term was coined in 1971; the terms refer to the large number of silicon chip innovators and manufacturers based in the two areas.

As the older traditional heavy industries declined, and thousands lost their jobs in shipbuilding, steel, mining, etc. the electronics and information technology (IT) sectors were beginning to grow. The Scottish Development Agency – which became Scottish Enterprise in 1994 – was set up in 1975 to stimulate economic growth by developing the business environment. Suitable inward investment incentives were offered.  The universities also participated in these efforts.

Silicon Glen didn’t appear overnight. The green shoots began with companies like Ferranti in Edinburgh back in 1943, with NCR, Honeyman, Burroughs and IBM setting up in the late 1940s and early 1950s. In the 1960s, semi-conductor design and manufacturing of integrated circuits started in a big way at Glenrothes and elsewhere. At its manufacturing peak in the 1980s Silicon Glen produced about 30 percent of Europe’s PCs, 80 percent of its workstations and 65 percent of its ATMs (automated teller machines).

Today there is more emphasis on software development, electronics design and innovation and global services in a move away from a manufacturing-dominated industry to a wealth-creation one.

IT, nanotechnology and life sciences are still to the fore in the research labs, science parks and campuses of Silicon Glen.

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The Computer Chronicles: Silicon Glen

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