Glasgow, once a hub for shipbuilding and heavy industry, is today embracing a new sector of the economy — technology.

Look no further than the heart of Merchant City. In May, a high-tech accelerator for growth companies opened in the historic Tontine building, expected to inject a whopping £54 million into the regional economy in the coming years. That's on top of the big names that already have a digital presence in Glasgow—BBC, STV and Arnold Clark for example.

“Large corporates are investing heavily in making Glasgow a tech hub," says Michael Hayes, founder of coworking space RookieOven, based in the old Fairfields shipyard offices and home to 11 digital startups. “Startups are springing up across the city. And we have a really vibrant community of events and social gatherings that are all mixing together to create a snowball effect."

Here's a closer look at what's driving Glasgow's tech expansion:

The Digital Glasgow project

The burgeoning tech scene in the second city is no accident. Glasgow is aiming to become a world-leading digital city by 2017, and there's an effort underway to get the city's startups past the crucial third and fourth year of trading—a problem in Glasgow, which currently has one of the highest failure rates for startups in the UK.

Glasgow sees the success of a Digital Glasgow resting on two core requirements: a world-class digital infrastructure (e.g. super fast broadband, digital businesses, urban wireless), and ensuring that residents and businesses are equipped with the skills to participate in the digital economy.

The Tontine, as a workspace and also a resource centre for growing businesses, is a central part of that effort. It's the first project funded by the £1.13 billion Glasgow Region City infrastructure deal between eight local authorities and the Westminster and Holyrood governments. Over the next five years the Tontine will support and sustain the development of 134 small, high-growth companies in the design, technology and creative sectors.

“The opening of the Tontine is a landmark for our economy," Glasgow City Councillor Frank McAveety told The Scotsman in May. “What's been created here is a business environment that will bring the type of jobs to deliver a long-term economic boost to the Glasgow city region."

The Digital Garage Glasgow

At the Mitchell Library, Google's latest Digital Garage will provide free expert advice to the resident startups and growing businesses. Look for things like one-to-one mentoring support and group digital masterclasses aimed at small businesses, graduates and career changers. The new Garage follows in the footsteps of similar facilities in Leeds, Birmingham, Newcastle, Manchester and Liverpool.

“The tech businesses here have ambitious growth plans and a really strong desire to make an impact on the digital environment," says Linda McBride, founder of Daily Wake Up, a Glasgow-based professional training company. "I'm impressed by the approach of introducing established tech organisations to support growth and create meaningful relationships."

What these growing businesses say

Glasgow City Council is hopeful that the Tontine will result in more than 500 new jobs in the area, and Glasgow has no shortage of talent to fill those roles.

“It's all about the people," says RookieOven's Michael Hayes. “Glasgow produces a lot of amazing talent across disciplines—technical, design, marketing, et cetera. We have world-renowned universities and a real draw with low cost of living, great amenities and lifestyle."

Jane Gotts, director of analytical and market-insights consultancy/startup GenAnalytics, says Glasgow is an entrepreneurial city at heart and over the last few years has seen a big growth in the number of startups, particularly in FinTech and data analytics. The public support helps them thrive. “It's great to see the city council supporting expansion and providing a focal point to encourage collaboration amongst start-ups and to enable these businesses to work on some of the major challenges in the city."

What does the future hold for Glasgow?

With digital job growth outpacing growth in other sectors of the economy by 32%, Glasgow's tech push is sure to pay off. And the city's approach could be replicated in other areas of the UK that are open to innovation through collaborative incubators. Similar efforts are already underway in Cambridge and Birmingham under the Barclays Eagle Labs scheme, and there are other startup accelerators such as Wayra in London, Campus North in Newcastle, and Dotforge Accelerator in Sheffield.

Craig Donnelly, chief commercial officer at Incremental Group, a Glaswegian infotech company started in 2015, says that other hubs may have something to learn from the way the city is going about driving business. "Rather than provide grant funding for businesses, they provided access to funded projects," he says. "It's a lot more sustainable."

Google recently opened its doors to its sixth Digital Garage space at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow. Start your learning in person today and book a one-on-one session with an expert to get your questions answered. There are also marketing skills masterclasses and deep dive sessions available now through to the end of January 2017.