Weekly Update, 10th April 2012

Energy:
Scottish Government has confirmed that the Enterprise Area at Scrabster will be able to offer potential investor companies rates relief of up to 100% (up to £275,000 per business) as part of the incentive to locate at the site, which is on land above the harbour. The Enterprise Area designation, which lasts for 5 years, came into force last week for 14 sites around Scotland. In today’s (Friday’s) John O’ Groat Journal Scrabster Harbour Trust Chairman William Calder reports significant interest from energy firms in locating at Scrabster, supported by investment (from CNSRP partners HIE, NDA and Scottish Government) in pier upgrading and by the recent announcements on Enterprise Area status.

Wick Harbour Authority has received final engineering feasibility reports to support its plans for attracting energy-related business to Wick. I recently met WHA board members together with CNSRP Chairman Sir Anthony Cleaver and NDA’s Jon Phillips and Anna MacConnell to hear more detail on the reports, and to hear an update on the discussions WHA is having with potential private sector investors. The studies were financially supported by the NDA.

Meygen has announced that Kongsberg will provide baseline and operational noise measurements on its prototype tidal devices at EMEC to assess impacts on marine life. This follows news last Autumn that Kongsberg will be providing similar services to the Aquamarine wave power device also being tested at EMEC. I reported at the time that the systems used by Kongsberg were machined, assembled and tested at Kongsberg’s Wick facility. See communications below for further news on Kongsberg Maritime’s Wick facility.

Disappointing news last week that Numax Energy Services (NES), based at Bower, has scaled back its operations, with 11 jobs being lost. Perhaps even more disappointingly the decision is blamed on a lack of energy-related business in Caithness, although NES representative is quoted in the local press as expressing the hope that the facility at Bower, which remains operational with a staff of 4, will be able to grow again the future. The same press article also highlights the recent announcement by Scottish & Southern Energy of the £900 million investment in electricity grid enhancements in the north. http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/Marine-energy-industry-is-dead-in-North-04042012.htm

Business Services:

HIE has launched an online skills register, to help demonstrate the range and diversity of skills and experience relating to the financial and business services industry which are available across the Highlands and Islands. Significant work is currently going on to attract business services jobs to the north, the industry being one of the two priority areas for Partnership effort in inward investment. Simon Coles is currently seconded to HIE’s Area team from Babcock to support this effort, and as recently as this week has been involved in showing potential inward investors in the financial/ business services industry around the area. The ability to demonstrate an available, skilled and motivated workforce is crucial in competing for inward investment. Individuals completing the skills register will be kept informed of latest news/ events, as well as any opportunities for work (either at a particular business site or via homeworking) The register can be completed at  http://www.hie.co.uk/business-services/skills-register.html and more information is available from skills@hient.co.uk

Enabling activities:

Following last week’s events to mark the transfer of shares in Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd to new parent body organisation the Babcock Dounreay Partnership, I met this week with BDP’s Alastair MacDonald to begin discussions on how the delivery of the “closure contract” for decommissioning the Dounreay site will affect the economic and socio-economic activities currently being pursued by CNSRP partners. Early understanding of key data such as onsite skills requirements and future staffing profiles will be crucial in helping shape Partnership activities in the coming months. There was considerable coverage of last week’s share-transfer events, which were attended by both Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore MP and Scottish Government’s Rural Affairs and Environment Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead MSP: a good example is at http://www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk/News/End-of-a-chapter-but-not-era-for-Dounreay-04042012.htm

Also at last week’s share-transfer event in Thurso Rob Gibson MSP launched Caithness Chamber of Commerce’s exciting new “Innovation Challenge”. The competition aims to assist two individuals or businesses by offering the chance to initiate a new product or service (eg. a new business start-up concept, a spin out opportunity, or an idea for diversifying an existing business that has arisen from research and development) over a minimum 12 month period. The competition is sponsored by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and Babcock Dounreay Partnership, and will be backed by expert support supplied from a wide range of organisations and networks. The competition prizes will include up to £10,000 investment for each winner; up to £10,000 working capital loan; 12 months’ business mentoring from new Dounreay Managing Director Roger Hardy; 12 months’ office accommodation in Thurso town centre; and access to other tailored business support. Deadline for applications is 12th July 2012. Further information on how to apply at: http://www.investcaithness.com/innovation-challenge

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: