Weekly update, 7th April

Energy & Business Services:

Atlantis Resources Ltd has announced an extension to its partnership with Chinese company Dongfang Electrical Machinery which will enable testing of the Atlantis AK1000 tidal turbine in China. As previously reported, Atlantis now owns Meygen Ltd., and Atlantis tidal devices will be deployed at the Meygen tidal site in the Inner Sound of the Pentland Firth following Scottish Government consent last year, and Atlantis’ successful raising of project finance. Caithness remains well-placed to benefit from the company’s plans, and CNSRP partners have continued to work with both Meygen and Atlantis.

This week saw the launch in Thurso of the TURNKEY (Transforming Underutilised Renewable Energy Natural Resource into Key Energy Yields) project. This €2 million EU project has seven partners from five EU countries, and is coordinated by the Environmental Research Institute in Thurso. It is part of the EU’s Atlantic Areas programme.

Tourism, Food & Drink:

Good to see this week’s news that visitor numbers at Caithness Horizons in Thurso have gone up by 55% since the incorporation of VisitScotland’s Visitor Information Centre (VIC) into the building in March last year. As previously mentioned, the £4M Caithness Horizons project was one of the first coordinated investments by CNSRP partners Highland Council, HIE, Dounreay and NDA. Caithness Horizons is currently working on the first of three events forming its “Year of Ancient Ancestors” programme, which is its contribution to Scotland’s Year of Homecoming 2014.

Following last week’s consultation event on future developments at John O’Groats, GLM Architects have posted short video showing how the former John O’ Groats House hotel building has been transformed in to the beautiful Inn at John O’Groats. GLM is a finalist in the Scottish Design Awards 2014 for its work on the project.

With Scottish Tourism Week and VisitScotland Expo now past, it is worthwhile noting the revamped tourism “hub” for employers offered by CNSRP partner Skills Development Scotland through its Our Workforce site. CNSRP partners are currently discussing future priorities for tourism in the north: we estimate that between 2011 and 2014 companies in the area committed to 27 full-time equivalent jobs in the tourism industry.

Other sectors:

KP Technology in Wick continues to go from strength to strength. It employs 13 skilled staff in Wick, and makes Kelvin Probes which are exported to numerous countries. Professor Iain Baikie this week welcomed its latest success – an order from NASA. KP Technology has received support from CNSRP partner HIE, most recently with specialist advice and with the current recruitment of a graduate sales and marketing associate through the ScotGrad programme. A number of businesses in the area have taken advantage of the ScotGrad service, with a graduate business development opportunity currently being advertised at LED Scotland in Thurso.

Enabling Activities:

Following last year’s very successful helicopter operations out of Wick John O’ Groats airport for oil & gas company Chevron, it is pleasing to hear confirmation this week that Chevron will once again be using Wick JOG for helicopter movements. The huge effort by Highlands and Islands Airports, Far North Aviation, local accommodation providers and other stakeholders to support the original contract has been worthwhile, and I hope it raises wider energy industry awareness of Wick as a strategic air hub. Local reaction from myself and Caithness Civic Leader Cllr Gail Ross is in today’s (Friday’s) John O’Groat Journal.

Good to see that community organisations in the area are amongst those to benefit from around half a million pounds in support from the latest round of the Big Lottery Fund’s Community Spaces programme. Reiss & Killimster Hall Committee in Caithness are awarded nearly £247,000 for a major refurbishment and modernisation project and North Coast Connections in North Sutherland are awarded nearly £250,000 to develop a range of services and activities around the Kyle Centre in Tongue. Also good to see this week that the Caithness & North Sutherland Fund (CNSF) has made further awards to local groups. In its latest funding round two awards were made – to Timespan in Helmsdale (£20,000) to support its Paradigm North project, and to Caithness KLICS (£6,832 to allow expansion of its Fieldworker provision in support of young people who have caring responsibilities). CNSF was set up with £4M of funding from CNSRP partner NDA.

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 met this week with Mark Rouse, Managing Director of Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd (DSRL) to discuss progress wit CNSRP activities, and to look at the current work of DSRL in the area of socio-economics. Along with HIE, DSRL continues to provide welcome financial support for my post as CNSRP Programme Manager. 
  •  I also met this week with Neil Robertson, who manages the Forss Business & Technology Park for Graham & Sibbald, to talk about current levels of activity at the site and future plans. The Forss site is currently home to a range of businesses and organisations including Aon Hewitt, NDSL and Caithness Biscuits.