Weekly update, 26th May

Energy & Business Services:

Momentum continues to build behind our inward investment campaign, with further discussions this week offering the possibility of announcements that will bring new jobs to Caithness. The campaign is at present focusing on the energy sector, and is led by CNSRP partner Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

 

As previously mentioned, next week sees the ERI hosting a workshop for CENSIS (The Innovation Centre for Sensors and Imaging Systems) on the subject of “Innovative sensors for marine energy developers: currents, waves and water quality in the Pentland Firth” The workshop has attracted a number of business and academic sector attendees, with a key objective being the development of collaborative industry-led proposals in the field of marine sensing. The importance of academic/ industry links was also the subject of a meeting today with colleagues from HIE and Interface, where we focused on areas where support from the universities sector in Scotland could bring significant benefits to local businesses. Interface’s Lorraine Thomson explained the many examples of projects where support from universities had helped businesses in the Highlands and Islands to develop products or processes. The Interface website includes some excellent case studies that outline the wide range of help available to businesses in numerous sectors. 

Enabling activities:

I was delighted to attend a successful event this week held by the North Highland Regeneration Fund, the loan fund established with financial support from CNSRP partner the NDA. The event, held in the Castle of Mey to promote NHRF’s available funding and its refreshed corporate identity, attracted a range of businesses from across the area. It featured powerful testimonies from Rob Arthur (Thurso Cinema) and Martin Murray (Dunnet Bay Distillery) highlighting the importance of NHRF funding to their start-up plans, and also reminded us all of the economic returns to the area. Martin Murray highlighted the progress made in constructing the Distillery at Dunnet, with the imminent arrival of the Still being a key milestone in moving to the project’s commissioning and production phase. Thurso Cinema now employs 22 people, and has also helped re-establish the Campbeltown Cinema, reinforcing Rob Arthur’s aim of creating a network of thriving rural cinemas administered from the company’s Thurso base. The event also heard a short vote of confidence in the area’s efforts to support SMEs from guest speaker Michael Cohrs. Mr Cohrs is a former member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee and current member of the Court of the Bank of England. The NHRF has supported a number of businesses since its inception, approving around £1.5M in loan funding. The Fund remains open to businesses in the north Highlands with loans of between £5,000 and £50,000. The Fund is managed by Caithness Chamber of Commerce.

 

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:

 

  • As spring/ summer visitors move around the north now, it is good to see the ongoing profile being given to strategic tourism investments such as the Natural Retreats development at John O’Groats. The latest of these is a piece on The Inn at John O’Groats in luxury travel magazine Civilian which concludes with the writer’s view that “John O’Groats is back, and it’s beautiful.” Also in tourism, Let’s Go North continues to work on its programme of activities aimed at promoting the area as a tourism destination. As previously highlighted, Let’s Go North has developed a display which is currently at based the ferry terminal at Scrabster. It will also be advertising the north in the widely-read Scottish Walking magazine. Discussions also continue on the idea of a North Highland Way. More at Let’s Go North website.
  • Scottish Provincial Press published its regular “Energy North” supplement today (Friday). It once again provides a good summary of recent activity in the sector, highlighting local interests such as the Beatrice and MORL offshore wind projects; a PhD study on tidal turbulence by Caithness Renewables employee Juvenal Dufaur; and Sir Richard Branson’s views on renewable energy as expressed during his contribution to the All-Energy Conference in Aberdeen last week.
  • Following last week’s major announcement of contract success for Subsea 7 it is good to see the company reaching another milestone this week with the arrival of two towheads, one of which will come ashore at Wester using the massive linkspan barge which arrived at the site last month.