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DIGITAL CITIES


Tech entrepreneur calls for greater funding and focus for Tay Cities Deal


Minecraft pioneer Chris van der Kuyl describes the UK-Scottish Government backed economic stimulus as a ‘knob of butter….spread across a plethora of worthy projects’


BY KEVIN O’SULLIVAN


A joint UK-Scottish programme of investment designed to reju- venate the economies of the ‘Tay Cities’ region of Scotland has been described as “not enough” by one of the nation’s leading tech entrepreneurs. Chris van der Kuyl, Chairman


of 4J Studios, and the man who brought videogame Minecraft to the world’s consoles, described a £300m economic stimulus package to reinvigorate Dundee, Perth & Kinross, Angus and


North East Fife as like a “knob of butter…spread across [a] plethora of worthy projects.” He said the ‘Heads of Terms’ agreement, signed by the governments in November last year, will make “zero difference” to the digital transformation of the region and that to truly stimulate growth in the knowledge economy of the area, the governments need to “pile in” billions into the higher education sector. Mr van der Kuyl was speaking


at a FutureScot Digital Cities & Regions conference at the V&A


16 | FUTURESCOT | SPRING 2019


Dundee on Friday, March 1. To an audience of policy-makers, council leaders and some of the most influential figures on the Joint Committee steering the Deal, he said that “the Tay Cities Deal in and of itself is going to make absolutely zero difference to digital transformation here. It will make a nice little bit of seed fund- ing here and there but facing the challenge we are facing globally at the moment if the Tay Cities region is really serious about es- tablishing itself as a 21st century knowledge-based economy, we better not think the Tay Cities [Deal] is the answer to that. It’s a good little pre-cursor.”


When pressed what the strategy should be, he said afterwards: “£300m into the knowledge economy still wouldn’t be enough; it’s spread across a plethora of worthy projects. We’ve tried to take a little knob of butter and to spread it as thinly as we can.”


Mr van der Kuyl questioned


whether there was the right degree of leadership on the Deal, which has seen the UK and Scot- tish Governments commit to £150 million each in funding across 20 projects over the next 10-15 years in order to secure 6,000 jobs and attract £400m in investment; some of the projects in develop- ment include £25m into life sci- ences; more than £60m into food production; £37m into tourism and culture; £20m into skills and £11.7m into cyber security. He said it would have been


much better if the key stakehold- ers in the Deal had decided to focus on an overarching theme or big idea, such as in Edinburgh and South East Scotland, where the City Region Deal has lever- aged ‘Data Driven Innovation’ – led by its universities - as one of the key drivers. He added: “And what is the


focus? And the answer is there’s none, as far as I can see. Every- body’s putting their hand up and


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