Weekly Update, 8th August 2011

Energy:

I met this week with Ian Couper, Chief Executive of Energy North (formerly North of Scotland Industries Group). We are making arrangements for a joint meeting of Highland Council and Orkney Islands Council representatives in the next few weeks, to discuss collaborative opportunities in marine energy.

I also met this week with Debbie Gray, Director of Innovation and Enterprise at North Highland College, to talk about current activities relating to the wider Partnership programme. Chief amongst these are the two capital projects in Thurso – the centre for Energy & the Environment and the Engineering Technology & Energy Centre. The latter building is approaching completion, with the first student intake due next month. We discussed the facility’s wider role within the University of Highland & Islands, and some current plans to ensure it offers maximum potential to the area. We also looked at ongoing work to ensure the facilities can also provide benefit to the Orkney side of the Pentland Firth, working with Orkney College and EMEC.

Enabling Activities:

Together with representatives from HIE and Caithness Chamber I was invited by Skills Development Scotland’s Area Manager Ian Carse to meet SDS Chairman John McClelland during his visit to Thurso this week. We were able to present a brief overview of the range of work currently going on in our area, and highlighting the added value we feel we get from being able to work in partnership on key priorities. We were also able to discuss ways in which SDS can add value to the work. John McLelland is also Chairman of the Scottish Funding Council, and he also visited North Highland College whilst in Caithness. As previously reported, SDS is now represented on the Partnership’s Executive Board through Liz Galashan, Head of Operations for Highlands, Islands and Grampian.

The NDA and its main contractors have begun a collaborative drive to develop practical strategies for supporting smaller businesses seeking work in the decommissioning sector. As a first step in the process, almost 40 delegates from across the UK, representing NDA, SLCs and Tier 2 contractors, attended a one-day workshop in Manchester in late July to discuss interfacing with small businesses operating or interested in the NDA estate market, and to propose possible mechanisms that would widen opportunities while bringing benefits to all parties. Top Tier 2 contractors (those who have the highest-spend direct contracts with SLCs) across the estate had already completed a survey aiming to gather information on any existing policies or practices focused on Small to Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs). A further event will be held in the Autumn to outline proposed actions. Recommendations so far include:

• A central repository for information, eg, a web portal for estate opportunities at SLC and Tier 2 level and below

• Standardisation of Pre-Qualification Questionnaires

• Tier 2 open day/meet-the-buyer events

NDA, Sellafield Ltd and Nuclear Management Partners (the PBO for the site) have just published the first Sellafield Site Performance Plan. This is the document that sets out how the site’s PBO will apply their global experience to improve site operations, generate efficiencies and deliver detailed programmes of work with the aim of accelerating work and providing value for money. The Plan has been developed over the past two years since Nuclear Management Partners became the PBO for the site, and it includes specific sections on supply chain and socio-economics. Encouragingly, significant elements of these sections are similar to work currently going on in Caithness. You can read the full Plan at http://www.sellafieldsites.com/publications/sellafieldplan/Sellafield_Plan.pdf

Highlands & Islands Social Enterprise Zone (HISEZ) has announced the launch of the new “Just Enterprise” support programme for social enterprises. New and existing social entrepreneurs or organisations are eligible for a range of support measures to help develop sustainability in the challenging economic climate. More information at www.justenterprise.org  A further Scottish Government initiative is the Enterprise Growth Fund, again aimed at social enterprises. Managed by a consortium led by The Wise Group, the £4M Fund will be awarding grants between £25,000 and £200,000 to support long term development objectives. Awards will be made to those organisations that demonstrate the greatest potential for growth and sustainability. Further information is at http://www.thewisegroup.co.uk/content/default.asp?page=s22_5  

Communications:

As part of an ongoing process of helping communicate progress with the delivery of aspects of our economic transition programme CNSRP’s partners work together to generate news stories for local, regional and national media. I also speak on a regular basis to individuals and organisations across the area to update on progress. In the past three weeks:

• News of a successful outcome to the campaign for retaining the services of HMRC staff based in Wick. The facility has been given a two year reprieve, and HMRC staff in Wick have thanked everyone for the collective effort. (Not online).

• A positive piece on growth in yacht traffic at Wick Marina. The development of the marina has been supported by CNSRP partners NDA and HIE (not online)

• Further coverage of the new Engineering Technology & Energy Centre at North Highland College as the facility – funded by NDA, Highland Council, ERDF and Scottish Funding Council – gears up for its first intake of students. http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/Energy-sector-focus-for-new-9m-Thurso-centre-7087796.htm

• I have been working this week on a draft of text for the CNSRP Newsletter, which I hope to be able to publish in the coming weeks.