Opinion: Thinking differently about change and the value of emerging technologies

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Martin Findlay
Opinion by Martin Findlay

The oil and gas sector is well versed on the benefits of investing in emerging and disruptive technologies, but what is the appetite for innovation in Scotland, and how can we ensure that new technologies are utilised fully in our industry and help our industry to thrive?

At the start of the summer, 10 tech start-ups with potentially game-changing solutions joined the first cohort of the Oil & Gas Technology Centre’s TechX Pioneer accelerator programme. The programme is specifically designed to develop companies and technologies that can help to unlock the full potential of the UK Continental Shelf, and KPMG are proud partners for this initiative.

We have already provided expert sessions on start-up finance, investor readiness, raising capital and more. With Scotland proving to be a hot bed for innovative tech start-ups, and many of our clients based within the oil and gas sector, KPMG is passionate about supporting new enterprise in Scotland and helping these companies to progress from start-up to scaleup businesses.

Having sat on the panel of the OGTC Demo Day for the TechX programme in Aberdeen this week, I was impressed to see such a dynamic range of companies promoting their ideas and making their cases for additional support and funding to help them develop their business and enhance their new technology.

But, more than anything, I was taken by their passion and optimism for the future of the industry, which was both inspiring and invigorating to hear. Technology plays an important role in our industry, and the disruptive thinking of each of these start-up companies is a lesson to us all that we need to think differently if we want to make a difference. We need to be open to change.

The top technologies that will drive business transformation over the next year include AI, cognitive computing, IoT and robotics. The uptick in oil and gas activity in the past year and a growing optimism that things are on the up again has undoubtedly helped to put these new technologies and tech start-ups back in the spotlight. However, many businesses continue to face a challenge with a lack of capability and culture to fully take advantage of the opportunity.

A recent global survey of the tech industry, commissioned by KPMG International, revealed that many technology leaders believe that they lack the organisational capability, culture, and strategic vision to successfully implement and capitalise on so-called, ‘disruptive technology’.

From the fear of what new technology means for job security, to the uncertainty that comes from a lack of understanding and skills to utilise technology as a value-added tool, technology-led change can be unsettling – even for an oil and gas company.

However, when it is done right, and business leaders invest properly, disruptive technology and more disruptive thinking, can bring many positive outcomes. It can change how companies engage with their customers by providing more efficient ways to deliver products and services. It can change a business model to create opportunities to be more agile and deliver and capture value more effectively. Finally, it can change how a company approaches problems and solves difficult operational challenges by enabling companies to do things smarter, more efficiently, and more cost effectively.

Sectors such as life sciences are undoubtedly stimulating innovation in Aberdeen, but the recent challenges of the energy industry as a mature and highly competitive sector is also a major source of motivation for disruptive thinking and innovation in the North-east region.

With all this energy to bring technology to the fore, it is not surprising that several innovation centres and initiatives have been established over the last few years in Aberdeen. With continued funding and support from both the UK and Scottish Governments, these innovation-led organisations are being tasked with identifying, investing in, and nurturing the most promising new technologies to drive the sector forward and solve industry challenges.

As these new technologies continue to mature and improve, bringing new capabilities and opportunities, emerging technologies will no longer be seen as ‘emerging’. They will be technologies that we seek to apply with confidence, rather than observe with scepticism.

Getting your business ready for this change and establishing a clear strategy to implement and use technology as an effective business tool for positive transformation, will not only help to create value and new opportunities, but also give you the confidence to embrace new technologies and use it to your advantage in every area of your business.

Depending on how you approach and think about change, technology can be highly rewarding and definitely worth the disruption.

Martin Findlay is the Senior Partner for KPMG in the UK, and leads the tax practice of KPMG in Aberdeen.