From technology to tourism, the city has ambitious plans to harness and develop its potential for the 21st century.
As Stirling works to develop a £200 million plan to drive economic growth, Stirling Council believes adding value and building on existing strengths will provide its platform for success.
Tourism, and food and drink, remain key sectors, while the University of Stirling, home to the renowned Dementia Services Development Centre, is recognised as a centre of innovation and excellence. Carol Beattie, Senior Manager for Economic Development at Stirling Council, explains these areas can also provide a route into developing the digital economy.
“Although the plans to create a digital district focus mainly on the infrastructure, we know the big opportunity is to attract more business into the digital sector,” she says. “There are already great strengths within the University of Stirling and Forth Valley College, in terms of the creative industries and technology, but this is not as evident in the area’s businesses.
“The university is recognised as a centre of excellence for dementia and nursing, and we see this as one of the areas that can be expanded. We’re looking at how we can join up this environment in a way that encourages new businesses to start or those already established to expand. With healthcare, ideas can be researched and developed through the university, and then applied through technology to help support people both at home or in the care environment.
“We see Stirling becoming a place, not just where elderly people are well supported through new technology, which is a great social benefit, but also provides a soft landing opportunity for technology companies.”
From Stirling Castle to the Wallace Monument, this area’s heritage credentials are the stuff of legend – and big-screen fame. Yet Beattie stresses there is still considerable potential for widening Stirling’s appeal, and growing the visitor economy.
“Tourism is a sector that is already thriving in the city and surrounding area,” she says. “However, we’ve identified opportunities to expand and develop this, with more exciting urban tourism, linking in to our cultural heritage, and also business tourism. This opens up the opportunity for creating an additional visitor attraction. We already have the assets, but we need to make them so much better connected, to build on what we have and bring it into the 21st century.”
Of course, agriculture has been central to Stirlingshire’s development over several centuries, but much of the recent focus on the area’s food and drink sector has been on hospitality. Boosting productivity is now a key target for Stirling, as is developing and enabling technology.
Across all key sectors, Beattie stresses one of the most important weapons in building a strong economic armoury is talent, and the council and fellow stakeholders believe they can no longer afford to watch a valuable resource – highly-qualified people – take their skills and head off elsewhere.
“What we are looking to achieve is a sectoral shift in the type of jobs here,” she adds. “We want to ensure the Stirling area is a great place to live with a thriving commercial offering that encourages and enables graduates to stay on here. Historically, high numbers have left, but by creating new and more diverse employment opportunities, Stirling’s plans should help address that. The timing is important. By increasing productivity, creating opportunities for young people and investing in our place the prospects for Stirling’s economy look strong.”