Strength in numbers

Strength in numbers

How a new centre in Scotland is giving electronic start-ups a turbo charge towards success.

“Come to the cloud,” small business leaders are constantly being told by IT firms. “All your software solutions are nestling in the clouds,” they say.

But what if the expensive software you need is too hands-on to use virtually? Aiming to solve just that problem is a new project which launches today in Scotland.

For many fast-growing start-ups, cloud computing offers flexibility and, more importantly, saves the cash needed to buy software that often far exceeds their demands.

Most industries can take advantage of virtual access to software as and when they need it. However, many up-and-coming electronics design firms can find themselves hamstrung if they don’t have the resources to splash out on the physical software and equipment that is essential to deliver on time and to spec for their customers.

One solution could be the emergence of drop-in centres such as the new facility formed through a partnership between Edinburgh Napier University and technology group Premier EDA Solutions.

The idea is simple and its purpose is obvious. Industry standard Altium software can cost fledgling electronic design firms around £5,000 to install – no drop in the ocean for university spinouts or newborn businesses.

The software can’t be tapped into through the cloud so avoidance is not an option.

Project director Professor Ian hunt says: “By providing access to the necessary design tools and expertise to support new product development, our aim is to positively stimulate and increase electronics product design in Scotland, and ultimately increase the number of new products to reach the market.”

His colleague Jim Purves adds: “It’s going to give access to SMEs to that sort of software which is a barrier for a lot of the smaller companies. Larger companies doing product design would possibly have these things in-house. With the centre, we are giving those SMEs free access to the software for a limited period of time and allowing them to walk in off the street and get access to that software for doing electronics design for the product.”

Based at the university’s Institute of Product Design & Manufacture’s premises at the Alba Business Park in Livingston, the new centre will also supply additional Altium software licences for start-ups who are in the process of securing first-round funding.

The new drop-in lab is accessible to any Scottish SMEs and individuals that have an idea for a new technological product or are developing an existing product.

With a modest £100,000 of investment going into the new centre, it could prove money well spent if it does become a stepping stone between promise and lucrative success for Scottish start-ups.