Weekly update, 15th December 2014

Energy & Business services:

Today’s (Friday’s) John O’ Groat Journal carries news that Caledonia Green Innovations (CGI) is re-opening the engineering facility at Bower, Caithness, creating up to 35 jobs. CGI is one of a number of Aberdeen-based companies that have been involved in the ongoing programme of engagements that have been led by CNSRP partner HIE, with seconded support from partners DSRL and Highland Council. Most recently CGI were involved in the one-day visit to Caithness by a number of Aberdeen companies. CGI company Director Scott Cormack told reporter Gordon Calder that “although Caithness is small on the map, it is a hugely important area strategically.”

MeyGen, who will commence onshore ground works for its tidal energy site at Ness of Quoys near Gills Bay in January, held public open days in Caithness this week – at Mey Village Hall and at Caithness Horizons in Thurso. It was good to see Dan Pearson and the team, and good to have confirmation from Dan that the company will be opening an office in Caithness in the New Year. The team were showing people a very informative video which sets out the full project plan for the MeyGen project, and it can be viewed at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZVegcyxTJY Atlantis resources, who wholly own the Meygen Project, have this week announced the first drawdown of finance from the Crown Estate and the Renewable Energy Investment Fund to support the project. More at http://atlantisresourcesltd.com/medianews/press-releases/336-first-debt-drawdown-for-meygen-project-financing-package-phase-1a.html

The extent to which seabirds are affected by offshore windfarms has been the subject of a major research study carried out for Marine Scotland by Thurso’s Environmental Research Institute and the British Trust for Ornithology. The headline finding, which has attracted news coverage this week, is that 99% of seabirds actively avoid collisions with offshore turbines by altering flight-paths. The full report is at  http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2014/12/1666/0 I also met this week with Jeremy Evans, ERI’s Research & Enterprise Manager, to discuss a further package of work taking place through the TURNKEY (transforming under-utilised renewable natural resource into key energy yields) project. As previously mentioned in these updates, TURNKEY is an EU-funded programme with partners in Ireland, Spain and Portugal. This particular package of work, on skills requirements, will have resonance in the oil & gas and nuclear sectors, and we look forward to helping this in 2015.

Enabling activities:

As the CNSRP Executive Board met this week and discussed the new High-level Programme (see Communications below) it is good to see continuing progress for the pioneering Community Apprenticeship programme being taken forward by North Highland College. The students are now in Year 3 of the programme, in which the College acts as employer for the students. As a means of communicating progress the College has this week launched an excellent video of the students describing their experiences: it is available to view at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ugtcVER-hw and is good to compare with the students’ initial video contributions in the first year of the programme (available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2v-Ac26wdq4 )

There is also much to applaud at schools level in the north – Wick High School’s Young Enterprise team, who have had advisory support from CNSRP Delivery Group members Trudy Morris (Caithness Chamber) and Ken Nicol (DSRL), have attracted a sponsorship deal from Denchi Power in Thurso to support batteries for their emergency phone charger product. High Schools from Caithness and North Sutherland have done particularly well in enterprise competitions in recent years, often reaching and winning regional and national finals.

HIE staff held local discussions this week with Creative Scotland colleagues, as well as creative industries representatives, to continue plans to deliver local activities as part of an area-wide Creative Industries strategy. Several short-term actions have been agreed to allow progress on projects expected to take place during 2015. You can find out more about the strategy and its delivery at http://www.hie.co.uk/growth-sectors/creative-industries/overview.html A quick catch-up today (Friday) with Rob Arthur of Thurso Cinema confirmed a number of exciting opportunities in the creative sector in 2015.

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:

  • The Partnership’s Executive Board met this week, and members discussed the high-level programme plan that I presented last week to the Partnership’s Advisory Board. There was agreement on the crucial role that developing a “pipeline” of skilled people had within the Programme, and members agreed that North Highland College UHI, in partnership with industry, was well-placed to take the lead in developing this element of the programme.
  • As mentioned last week, DSRL’s Managing Director and the NDA’s Head of Programme presented an outline of the revised decommissioning programme at Dounreay to Dounreay Stakeholder Group. Formal announcement of this from the NDA is now available to view at http://www.nda.gov.uk/2014/12/dounreay-fuel-free-aim-2029/ With the “interim end state” for the site now set for year 2029/30, we look forward over the next two months to receiving the associated revised staffing profiles for the site, so that we can build this into our own forward projections for the local labour market. The Dounreay site’s most recent magazine also highlights a range of current socio-economic projects, and looks at the range of education-related activities taking place with DSRL support. More at http://www.dounreay.com/UserFiles/File/Dounreay%20News/December_2014.pdf
  • It was good to catch up today with Neil Robertson, who manages the Forss Business & Technology Park for Graham & Sibbald, and to discuss current activities and forthcoming plans at the site, which houses a range of businesses. More information on the site at http://www.investcaithness.com/property/commercial/forss-business-technology-park