Weekly Update, 19th January 2015

Energy & Business services:

MeyGen’s tidal project at the Inner Sound kicks off in earnest this month, with work starting on the groundwork for onshore access road and buildings at Ness of Quoys, just east of Gills Harbour http://renews.biz/82743/crews-pave-way-for-meygen/

And MeyGen subcontractor Fisher Marine has been working out of Gills Harbour this week, conducting survey work in support of the project http://caithness-business.co.uk/article.php?id=5674 . MeyGen’s Parent company Atlantis Resources is, meanwhile, one of the companies attending the 2015 Innovators & Investors Forum in London next month. The event brings together developers with representatives from the investment community.

Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission has accepted Ofgem’s proposed funding for the construction of the Caithness – Moray electricity transmission link. This £1.1Bn project is estimated to bring around 600 jobs to the project area at both sides of the Moray Firth, and as previously mentioned work has already begun on the construction of the major HV-DC switching station at Spittal in Caithness. More on the proposals, and how they link with other network upgrades in Caithness,  can be found at http://www.ssepd.co.uk/CaithnessMoray/

The Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and a range of physical assets built up by Pelamis Wave Power have been purchased by Highlands and Islands Enterprise. The purchase was announced this week as Scottish Government Energy Minister Fergus Ewing MSP and HIE Chief Executive Alex Paterson met industry representatives to update them on progress with Wave Energy Scotland (WES). This body is being developed by HIE on behalf of Scottish Government, and as previously reported it aims to help secure commercial scale wave power development in Scotland. More on HIE’s purchase at  http://www.hie.co.uk/about-hie/news-and-media/archive/wave-energy-intellectual-property-to-be-retained-in-scotland.html#sthash.R0sSIZvK.dpbs and a reminder that a Factsheet on Wave Energy Scotland is at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0046/00464410.pdf

Tourism, Food & Drink:

I attended a meeting this week of the steering group helping Caithness Chamber of Commerce develop the World Host training programme in the north. The programme grew out of successful uses at the London Olympics and the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, where it helped deliver overall quality and consistency of service across the “visitor economy” (hospitality, leisure, passenger transport, tourism attractions and retail). The Chamber has made significant progress with the initiative since it was launched in Caithness in September 2013 with the news that John O’Groats was the first World Host destination area in Scotland, and that Caithness Chamber was the first Chamber in the UK to achieve the World Host accreditation. The Chamber is now close to having sufficient businesses accredited through World Host that Caithness could become the first wider geographical area in Scotland to achieve accreditation. CNSRP partner Skills Development Scotland recently committed Scotland-wide financial support to the World Host programme, so Caithness & Sutherland is now one of 11 areas taking forward World Host. Find out more about the initiative at http://scotland.worldhost.co.uk/

CNSRP partner the Highland Council is running a workshop in Wick for businesses in the food and drink industry who are interested in finding out more about the business benefits of social media (such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn). The event, one of a series being run across the Highland Council area, is supported by the Think Local Community Food Fund, and also aims to create an online Directory of food and drink producers. To find out more and book a place at the Wick workshop please phone 07927055397 and see http://www.highland.gov.uk/news/article/8313/social_media_workshops_for_local_food_and_drink_businesses and to find out more about the Community Food Fund initiative please see http://www.sruc.ac.uk/info/120472/community_food_fund It was also good to this coverage in this week’s John O’ Groat Journal of further success for Annie’s Bakery, which won a Silver Award at the 2015 Scotch Pie awards.

CNSRP partners Highland Council and NDA (via the Caithness & North Sutherland Fund) are supporting a conference taking place in Helmsdale on 6-7th March. Timespan’s “True North” event will feature a range of speakers and events based on the “north” theme: it further highlights both Timespan’s growing reputation as a cultural/ creative industries hub, and Helmsdale’s current role as Scotland’s “Creative Place” More details are at  http://timespan.org.uk/true-north-conference-open-call/

Enabling activities:

Great to see this week’s news that many properties in Wick and Thurso (around 6,000) are now able to order Superfast Broadband services, as the street cabinets in both locations become able to accept orders. Another 700 homes in both areas will be able to order superfast services very soon. It’s another sign of the progress being made with CNSRP partner HIE’s £146M programme to roll out next generation broadband across the Highlands and Islands, and has been welcomed today (Friday) in the John O’ Groat Journal’s coverage (not online). Progress continues with the roll out of services to the wider area during the rest of 2015. For more information on the programme see http://www.hie.co.uk/regional-information/digital-highlands-and-islands/default.html and the press release on Wick and Thurso progress is at http://www.hie.co.uk/about-hie/news-and-media/archive/public-investment-brings-fibre-broadband-to-far-north.html#sthash.GQKa2L1x.dpbs

I attended a “Jobs & How To Get Them” steering group meeting this week to finalise arrangements for exhibitors and for workshops on key employability issues (eg. CV preparation, social media awareness etc). The multi-partner event will return to the ETEC building at North Highland College in Thurso from 10am-2pm on Saturday 7th February. The event is again supported by Caithness Chamber of Commerce, Job Centre Plus, Skills Development Scotland, Highland Council and Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd. The event is now in its third year, having had two successful days in Thurso and Wick in 2013 and 2014: both events attracted over 300 attendees. This year’s event is expected to have over 40 exhibiting companies/ organisations. Further information is available from the event’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/caithnessjobs?ref=ts&fref=ts A number of the local companies due to be present at the event are currently advertising for staff or apprenticeships. These notices can be found on the event Facebook page and elsewhere online at sites such as the excellent Caithness.org jobs page http://forum.caithness.org/forumdisplay.php?22-Job-Vacancies

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:

  • BBC 1’s “The One Show” is next week scheduled to screen a short piece filmed in Wick last year regarding the extraordinary measures undertaken to allow the movement of large Towheads through Wick town centre. Presenter John Sergeant followed the progress of a movement through the town and out to Subsea 7’s Wester site. The programme is due to air on BBC1 on Wednesday 28th January at 7pm.
  • Good to see from this week’s local press that a local woman, Tanya Howden,  is a finalist in the “One To Watch” category of the 2015 “FDM Everywoman in Technology” awards being held in London in March. The awards attempt to highlight female role models helping champion change in the technology sector, and it’s an acknowledgement of her work supporting Chris Aitken and the students at Wick High School as they have continued to enjoy great success in UK-wide competitions such as the Apps for Good initiative. It is also an important reminder of the ongoing importance of developing technology skills at schools level.
  • North Highland College’s Engineering Technology & Energy Centre (ETEC) has issued an informative newsletter highlighting progress to date in its academic year. http://northhighlandcollege.cmail1.com/t/ViewEmail/j/CD5A78F5F0669F6E/0B6A73E82A203EAEC68C6A341B5D209E