BQ Scotland editor Peter Ranscombe goes behind the scenes at Scotland House to find out more about how Scottish companies can make connections and engage with the global business community in London.
It’s a situation that will be familiar to so many Scottish entrepreneurs. You’re down in London for a few days on business and you need to arrange an important meeting.
You scramble around trying to find a venue, somewhere that’s central yet private. But you still end up meeting your contact in a coffee shop or a hotel lobby, fighting against the noise of screaming children and neurotic parents.
If that rings a bell then Scotland House may be a very welcome development. It’s a flexible home away from home for Scottish businesses that’s opened on the Victoria Embankment in London, just yards from Blackfriars station.
The new facility offers meeting rooms that can be booked for an hour at a time, flexible events spaces that are available for hosting larger gatherings and hot-desks that can be rented on a half-day basis. The venue has been opened by the Highlands & Islands Enterprise (HIE), Scottish Development International (SDI), Scottish Enterprise (SE), the Scottish Government (SG) and VisitScotland (VS).
“Sometimes Scottish businesses can struggle to make their voices heard in London,” says Molly Martin, events and membership manager at Scotland House. “It can also be difficult logistically to get investors or companies from London and overseas to come up to visit Scotland too.
“Scotland House gives Scottish firms or companies that have a presence in Scotland a place to reside while they’re meeting clients in London – to avoid those Costa Coffee or hotel lobby meetings – and gives them a contemporary, well-established setting where they can work. These are businesses that are ambitious about making a contribution to growing the Scottish economy.
“The house has a City of London postcode and is right on the embankment. It’s very central, so we’re surrounded by a lot of landmarks, like the London Eye, the Shard and Westminster in the distance.”
Transport links are a key selling-point for the new venue. It’s 32 minutes from London city airport, 41 minutes from Gatwick airport, 12 minutes from King’s Cross railway station and 16 minutes from Euston train station.
Scotland House offers two levels of membership: associate level, which gives members access to meeting rooms and keeps them connected with news of events taking place in the facility; and enterprise membership, which allows for the booking of hot desks, discounts on meeting rooms and events space, and free refreshments. As well as support from Team Scotland House, enterprise-level members can access help from officials from HIE SDI, SE, the SG and VS through various workshops and events currently being arranged for later this year and early next year.
Very practical services such as wireless internet access, photocopying and printing are available on site. The venue also hosts a business lounge and café in which entrepreneurs can unwind between meetings.
Each of the meeting rooms is named after a Scottish island and range in capacity from Orkney, which can seat four people, through to a combined Lewis and Harris, which can take 24. The flexible spaces allow for one-to-one meetings or for larger events such as receptions or product showcases, at which the capacity can range from 35 to 80 people depending on the format.
Catering is also available for meetings and events – serving Scottish produce when possible, of course.
The venue is already proving popular for events and, in the spirit of making connections, these gatherings have provided an excellent opportunity for Scottish brands to be promoted. For example, Blair Bowman – the whisky columnist for Scottish Field magazine and the founder of World Whisky Day – has taken the opportunity to promote Scotch whisky and Scottish craft gin as part of events in the facility.
“On a wider perspective, everything in Scotland House – from the produce on show to the literature we display and even the rugs – is Scottish, to promote Scotland’s strong industry as much as possible,” adds Martin. “It’s not just about trying to get Scottish firms to expand into London or overseas markets, it’s also about creating business opportunities with other Scottish companies.
“It’s important to get Scottish businesses to network with each other. That way they may be able to join each other’s supply chains or sell products or services to each other.”
Scotland House was officially opened in April by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. It became our nation’s second “investment and innovation hub”, following in the footsteps of a similar facility in Dublin, with plans afoot to open further venues at Brussels in Belgium and Berlin in Germany.
Speaking at the event, Sturgeon said: “London is a very important trading market and a meeting place for the world’s business leaders, but for Scottish businesses it can be challenging and costly to try and break into these markets. The new hub will play a critical role in attracting investment to Scotland, helping businesses trade internationally and raising Scotland’s international profile.
“Scotland House will provide Scottish companies with a base to build new partnerships and a low-cost place to trade and I am pleased that hundreds of businesses are interested in becoming members of the hub.
“As we face the uncertainty and threat of a hard Brexit, having a Scottish hub in London will help support and stimulate the Scottish economy and show that we are open for business. We are already seeing the benefits of our presence in Dublin and I look forward to our next investment and innovation hubs in Brussels and Berlin.”
Find out more about Scotland House at www.scotlandhouse.com