Weekly Update, 13th February 2013

Energy:

Scottish Enterprise, in association with Scottish Government and HIE (and with ERDF funding), has launched a £6M fund for wave and tidal energy. “Wave and Tidal Energy: Research, Development and Demonstration Support 2” (WATERS 2) is the second phase of the WATERS programme originally launched in March 2010, and is aimed at supporting the deployment in Scottish waters of wave and tidal stream energy prototypes, the fund will:
• Support the deployment of wave and tidal stream energy technologies;
• Provide progression for successful projects and prototypes towards commercial exploitation;
• Support advances in cost reduction and learning for wave and tidal stream technologies;
• Lever additional private sector investment into the marine renewables sector.
The fund will be open to businesses that are legal entities registered or planning to register in Scotland, including Scottish subsidiaries of overseas companies. The call welcomes applications from projects that are in a position to move quickly and that can be completed by end of March 2014. More information at http://www.scottish-enterprise.com/your-sector/energy/energy-how-we-can-help/energy-funding/Wave-and-Tidal-Energy-Fund.aspx

I met Ian Couper (Energy North), Keith Muir (HIE) and Jacquie Black (ERI) this week to further discuss details of how businesses might benefit from the International Conference on the environmental impacts of marine renewables, which takes place in Orkney in May. We have suggested that, given international academic audience already committed to attending the event, a business-led event focused on “selling to academia” would be appropriate. Many academic establishments now have substantial buying powers in relation to the renewables sector.

Tourism:

Local coverage this week of the news that the O’Neill Pro-surfing event that has been held in Caithness for the last few years will not be taking place in 2012, with O’Neill instead concentrating its resources on a 60th anniversary event in the company’s birthplace of Santa Cruz, California. The event brought numerous surfers, support crew and media to the area, with EventScotland suggesting that its funding to the event achieved greater “pound for pound” international media coverage than almost any other event it supported. There remains hope that the event will return next year – and in the meantime the area will host both the Scottish Surfing Championships and the UK Pro-Surfing championships this year. Last year’s successful “Wave North” event – coordinated by Caithness Horizons – will be staged around each of these events.   http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/Major-blow-as-surfing-contest-is-wiped-out-14022012.htm

Enabling Activities:
The North Highland Regeneration Fund (NHRF) was established by the NDA in 2006 to promote the start-up and growth of sustainable businesses in the Dounreay travel to work area through provision of loans to qualifying applicants. Since its inception NHRF has supported local businesses to create and sustain 246 jobs in Caithness and Sutherland. The Fund is overseen by a Board of Directors and administered on their behalf by a managing agent.  The NDA and the NHRF Board wish to retender the management contract for a further period of three years and are inviting suitably qualified companies or individuals to apply. Closing date for expressions of interest is 29th February 2012. Tenders must be submitted by 13th April 2012. More information from Sally Edwards at 01925 802487 or sally.edwards@nda.gov.uk

The study commissioned by HITRANS and Highland Council into how the “internal” road transport infrastructure of Caithness affected the development of the energy sector has now been completed. AECOM consultants have provided a series of recommendations which will now be looked at. Copies of the report and its appendices can be downloaded from the CNSRP website at  http://www.cnsrp.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/AECOM-Caithness-Internal-Transport-Connectivity-Study-Fina.pdf and http://www.cnsrp.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/AECOM-Caithness-Internal-Transport-Connectivity-Study-Ap.pdf AECOM presented the final report at the recent meeting of the Caithness transport Forum, at which members heard a range of updates on road, rail, sea and air transport. HIAL drew our attention to filming done to complement the marketing of Wick Airport. You can view this film at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EkNWTOAcZNI

I met this week with Roy Kirk and Simon Coles (HIE) and visiting staff from Scottish Development International, the Scottish Government’s inward investment and international trade agency. I then attended a meeting where the SDI’s Allan Currie and Michael Koetsier met representatives of the Dounreay Stakeholder Group and discussed issues affecting the area’s “offering” to potential inward investors, as well as practical ways in which SDI could further support efforts to attract inward investment to the north – particularly in our key target sectors of energy and business services. During their visit the two SDI representatives also visited the Dounreay site and North Highland College’s new ETEC facility, helping them understand some of the opportunities for SDI support.

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:

  • Thurso & Wick Trades Union Council has submitted a Motion to the forthcoming STUC Conference calling for Unions to support the ongoing efforts to diversify the Caithness economy, focusing on opportunities through marine renewables. The Trades Council is a key supporter of our efforts, and I attend its regular meetings to update members on progress. T&WTUC is also represented on the Partnership’s Advisory Board. News of the Motion is covered in today’s (Friday) edition of the Press & Journal (not online).
  • As Highland Council staff prepare to vacate their offices in Wick Town Centre to allow demolition work to begin, Highland Council’s David Sutherland is interviewed on the need for redevelopment of the Council building, and the timetable for demolition and construction work which will see a modern Council building in the centre of Wick. http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/New-dawn-in-sight-for-Wick-council-offices-14022012.htm
  • Three-year grant support from DSRL’s socio-economic fund to the Caithness Science Festival attracts attention this week. The Festival, which takes place from 12-16 March, provides an important setting to support the wider programme around STEM subjects in the north. http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/Dounreay-cash-boost-for-science-festival-16022012.htm
  • Caithness Chamber’s recent food & drink event, which attracted over 60 attendees, is covered in the local press this week. You can read the Chamber’s press release on this at http://caithnesschamber.com/News/archive/seminars-focus-on-food-and-drink-industry
  • I have this week finalised and issued papers to members of the CNSRP Advisory Board, whose quarterly meeting will take place next week.