Weekly Update, 9th January 2012

Energy:

Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission Ltd has published a contract notice for the design of the subsea hub and off-shore platform proposed for the Moray Firth (in the area of the Beatrice field), to support the provision of a High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) subsea link from Caithness to the Moray/ Aberdeenshire coast. This is a key milestone in the ongoing electricity Grid enhancement programme for the area, and the proposed timetable would see the facility built and commissioned by the end of 2014. Additionally, an option to incorporate at a later date the fabrication, load-out, sea-fastening, transportation, installation, testing, commissioning, operation and maintenance of the hub and platform will be included in the contract, making it of further interest to supply chain companies.

I met this week with colleagues from HIE’s Area Team based in Thurso as I prepare a written update report for circulation to CNSRP and Dounreay Stakeholder Group. Recent financial approvals from HIE to companies in the energy sector are projected to support the creation/ retention of 27 full-time equivalent jobs. So far this year HIE support to local companies in the energy sector has supported the creation/ retention of a projected 48 full-time equivalent jobs.

Enabling Activities:
Following discussions with HIE Board members at a business breakfast in Thurso in November regarding progress with the roll-out of Next Generation (“superfast”) Broadband, Caithness Chamber of Commerce brought together Stuart Robertson, HIE’s NGB project leader, with a group of Chamber members and representatives of the subgroup that CNSRP brought together in 2009 to highlight IT connectivity. The discussion focused on the need to deliver reliable connectivity for businesses in the north. The procurement of a partner to deliver the programme of work across the Highlands and Islands began last July, and has reached the competitive dialogue stage. The final contract should be awarded this summer. Yesterday HIE also issued a press release on progress. This is available at http://www.hie.co.uk/about-hie/news-and-media/archive/highlands-and-islands-superfast-broadband-rollout-on-course-to-begin-in-2013.html

The Project Board for the “Make The Right Connections” skills transition programme met this week. Marcus Mennie is Project Co-ordinator for the programme, which is operated by Caithness Chamber with funding from the NDA, European Social Fund and Skills Development Scotland. He reported that since the inception work was completed in the Autumn some 70 training places have been approved, and a further 24 people have gone through the “Recre8t Yourself” course which focuses on personal development and career planning for members of the area’s workforce.

As part of its Supply Chain Diversification Programme Caithness Chamber of Commerce will be running workshops with the Intellectual Asset Centre later this month – a good opportunity for businesses to seek advice and support with a range of knowledge-focussed issues such as capturing and protecting patents, trademarks, designs and copyright. The workshops are supported by Highland Council, Business Gateway and DSRL and will be held in the Engineering, Technology & Energy Centre at North Highland College in Thurso on the 31st January. To book a place contact the Chamber at info@caithnesschamber.com or 01847 890076.

I met this week with Debbie Gray, North Highland College’s Director of Enterprise and Innovation, to discuss a number of current activities being pursued by the College in Thurso, Wick, Easter Ross and further afield. We also discussed the road map for renewable energy in our area, on which CNSRP’s Delivery Group is currently working.

The Environmental Research Institute in Thurso will be holding an open evening this month to highlight skills transition opportunities and qualifications for the renewable energy industry offered through its range of programmes such as the new MSc in Sustainable Energy Solutions as well as courses in a range of related topics. As previously mentioned, the ERI’s research has been externally verified as being of international quality, so the skills development opportunities on offer through these programmes are significant. Staff from Scottish & Southern Energy will also be in attendance at the event to talk about current and future job opportunities within SEE in the north as the company pursues its major Grid infrastructure enhancement programme. The drop-in event will be held between 4pm and 8pm on Monday 23rd January at the ERI’s Centre for Energy and Environment, North Highland College, Ormlie Road, Thurso. Further information from Jacquie Black or Hester Jackson on 01847 889570/274 or email eri-info@thurso.uhi.ac.uk

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. This week:

  • I have produced a month-to-month summary of 2011 from a CNSRP perspective, which I shared with local press colleagues before Christmas. I attach it below for your information. Hopefully it shows that 2011 was a year of real progress.
  • The CNSRP Winter newsletter was issued today (Friday) with copies of the John O’Groat Journal and the Northern Times. The newsletter sports an NDA-funded redesign, and highlights a range of businesses and organisations involved in delivering economic activity in the area. An electronic version of the newsletter should be available through the CNSRP website next week.
  • The John O’Groat Journal covers responses to the most recent tenders issued by HIE for public arts works as part of the John O’Groats redevelopment project. http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/John-OGroats-arts-project-attracts-international-interest-12012012.htm