AMID global uncertainty and the UK’s most peculiar political and economic shambles, it was heartening this week to hear from inward investment agency Scottish Development International about its clear focus on attracting research and development and technology-based projects.

It was also encouraging, particularly given recent weak UK growth figures and the dampening impact of the oil sector downturn on Scottish economic output, that the latest figures show SDI’s efforts bore fruit in the year to March.

The rapid pace of technological advance has become very much a part of everyday conversation, with growing awareness of everything from the advent of driverless vehicles to the use of genomics and “big data” in the development of personalised medicine.

There also seems little doubt that the pace of change is accelerating dramatically. And it is crucial for Scotland, for the prosperity of all of its citizens, that it ensures it is at the forefront of technological change.

In this context, SDI’s breakdown of the sectors from which most of the inward investment in Scotland is coming made particularly encouraging reading.

Technology and advanced engineering, oil and gas, and financial and business services were the biggest contributors of inward investment in Scotland, from the rest of the UK and overseas, in the year to March. Obviously, the technology focus applies across a raft of sectors and skill-sets, from life sciences to software to oil and gas.

Taxpayer-backed SDI revealed this week that its “promotion of Scotland as a place to do business” had secured 7,839 jobs in the year to March from projects brought by companies from the rest of the UK and overseas. This was up 10 per cent on the previous 12 months.

SDI flagged a surge in the number of such inward investment projects attracted in the year to March, to 139. In the previous 12 months, 96 such projects were secured. And, of the projects attracted in the 2016/17 financial year, 31 were classed as research, design and development. That is a good proportion.

SDI operations director Neil Francis rhymed off myriad areas in which Scotland has the skills to compete on the global stage.

He flagged opportunities for expertise in Scotland’s subsea sector to be applied in fields other than oil and gas, citing renewable energy and mining for minerals as two key examples. Mr Francis also observed that the expertise built up by Edinburgh in the technology sector in the last decade was gaining traction internationally. He flagged opportunities for Scotland in the growing “big data” arena.

And he cited the potential for Scotland to host technology operations for big global players in the financial and business services sector. He highlighted US investment bank JP Morgan’s established software development operation in Glasgow as a good example of the type of project Scotland could win from this sector.

The message from Mr Francis was all about focusing on areas in which Scotland could compete on the global stage in terms of the skills of its workforce and its often associated academic prowess in key sectors.

SDI’s focus is demonstrated well by the list of companies attracted to invest in Scotland in the year to March. These included Singapore-based clinical service and research organisation Clinnovate, Chinese mobile games giant Skymoons, US marketing and sales solution provider Televerde, San Diego-based diabetes management expert Dexcom, and Chinese power company Red Rock.

SDI published the latest annual inward investment figures on Monday, as Australian financial services company Computershare announced it had secured £2 million of funding from Scottish Enterprise to create 300 jobs at a new technology centre of excellence in Edinburgh. This is another good win for Scotland.

It was encouraging, but not surprising, to hear SDI declare it had seen no sign of the heightened debate on Scottish independence, following the Brexit vote, affecting inward investment. The currently popular red herring about the constitutional debate affecting investment was also thrown about a lot by some, also without apparent justification, ahead of the September 2014 independence referendum.

The number of jobs secured by projects that SDI helped to attract from companies in England rose sharply in the 2016/17 financial year. SDI noted the US remained the biggest source of inward investment by job numbers in the year to March, at 2,688, followed by England, on 1,769, up from 1,444 in the prior 12 months, and Germany, on 561.

Mr Francis noted the importance of inward investment, and research and development and other high-value projects to Scotland’s export and productivity performance. These are key areas of focus, in terms of boosting long-term economic prosperity. Right now and in coming years, strong export and productivity growth will be even more crucial given the threat to trade from Brexit. And we should not forget the need to try to drive pay higher amid rampant inflation triggered by sterling’s plunge after last June’s Brexit vote.

Looking ahead, Mr Francis said: “Our pipeline of opportunities is stronger than it was this time last year. The reaction we are getting in the main from investors is very positive.”

This is also good to hear, although again not surprising. Scotland has much to offer across a wide range of technology-driven sectors, in terms of the expertise of its workforce, academic institutions and companies.

Of course, there are challenges, and we should not underestimate the dangers to Scotland’s skills base, academic institutions and businesses if the Conservatives’ Brexit fiasco discourages key overseas talent from complementing the local workforce.

However, the latest figures from SDI signal that what Scotland has to offer at the cutting edge of technology across a raft of sectors is increasingly appreciated on the global stage.