Silicon Glen (Scotland, UK)
Silicon Glen is a nickname that has been attributed to an area of Scotland that comprises the Dundee, Inverclyde and Edinburgh areas. This area includes a large amount of smaller towns and cities, which are often referred to as the "Central Belt Triangle." The Silicon Glen acquired its name as a spin-off of the American Silicon Valley, which is known as one of the most important technological development centers in the world. The Scottish term for a "valley" is "glen," which is why this name has taken hold in this part of Scotland. Here, technology research and development are perhaps the most important factors of the economy.
The History of Silicon Glen
The history of the Silicon Glen goes all the way back to the early forties with the establishment of the Ferranti company. Electronics development and manufacturing quickly became a major source of employment in the area, and this drew other companies looking to take advantage of the newly skilled labor force. In the beginning, the Silicon Glen saw development from foreign-owned companies putting their operations there. Very few local electronics research or manufacturing companies were able to get a foothold in the area during this time. This was especially true when IBM decided to open a huge base of operations in the Silicon Glen.
As shipbuilding and mining began to offer new, well-paying opportunities for Scottish workers, the electronics industry began to wane. This was due mostly to the fact that the majority of the electronics work being conducted in the area was in manufacturing. As new countries began to rise as cheap labor sources, these manufacturing jobs inexorably drifted away over time. These jobs were replaced by jobs that couldn't be outsourced, and the electronics industry started to lay dormant for a short time. This was, of course, until the government decided to invest in promoting electronics research and development work as a long-term, healthy alternative to these industries.
Famous Companies from the Silicon Glen
Much like America's Silicon Valley, Silicon Glen gained most of its notoriety through the development and production of cutting-edge semi-conductor technology. This led to a number of strong companies developing in the area before diversifying into other types of technological research and development. Now, semiconductors and video games play a major role in the economy of the Silicon Glen.
Perhaps the most famous of the companies from the Silicon Glen is Rockstar North, which was responsible for the creation of the worldwide hit video game "Grand Theft Auto." The company is well-known for creating games that have expansive, open environments that encourage exploration and open-ended quests. The company rose out of DMA Design, which was an Edinburgh-based video game design company. As it grew, the company was incorporated into Rockstar Games and Take Two Interactive to develop games for those companies. Rockstar North maintains a solid presence in the Edinburgh community and has brought a lot of fame to the city.
Wolfson Microelectronics is one of the many success stories coming out of the Silicon Glen that revolves around the development of electronics components. In fact, the majority of success stories from the Silicon Glen are based in the development of cutting-edge components for larger consumer-grade electronics. Instead of developing the electronics themselves, Wolfson Microelectronics develops semiconductors, signal processing and mixed-signal chips that are used in a wide range of consumer electronics around the world. The chips produced by Wolfson are used almost exclusively by Microsoft's Zune media player, though the chips can also be found in a wide range of other audio players. The company is still headquartered in Edinburgh, and it employs over 450 people.
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The Silicon Glen and its Success
The story of the Silicon Glen mirrors that of most other large, technology-heavy industrial development stories. Much of what is now going on in the Silicon Glen in terms of research and development has been done to compensate for the loss of manufacturing and heavy labor jobs in the area. In this way, the success of the Silicon Glen is an interesting one to follow. It provides a framework for how local and regional governments can respond to shifting tides in employment and job creation.
Due to the success of the Silicon Glen, businesses are still actively developing in the region. Unlike the early days of the Silicon Glen, it's no longer just about helping foreign companies develop their manufacturing base. Now, the Silicon Glen is an active partner in the development of local Scottish technology companies focused on research and development. This push toward further economic development through technological research is indicative of how Scotland sees itself staying competitive with global technology markets in the future. By supporting technology research now, the Silicon Glen is poised to stay economically relevant for years to come.