Weekly update, 5th December

Energy & business services:
• I met this week with RES Offshore, who are working on the Dounreay Tri project, which is seeking consent to build a floating offshore wind demonstrator at a site north of Dounreay. Myself and Alan Ogg of North Highland College met with Senior Developer Jack Farnham to discuss the potential for jobs associated with the operation & maintenance of the project. Like other energy-related opportunities in the area, we have always been keen to focus on the long-term employment potential from projects, and would be particularly keen to see well-paid employment opportunities from the Dounreay Tri project, which was submitted for planning approval in November.
• Good to see the first tidal turbine installed at the MeyGen site in the Inner Sound of the Pentland Firth is now running at full power http://renews.biz/105160/full-power-for-atlantis-at-meygen/ following its installation last month. And MeyGen parent company Atlantis Resources last week won the “Marine Technology” award at the 2016 Business Green awards http://www.businessgreen.com/bg/news/3000557/businessgreen-technology-awards-2016-and-the-winner-is
• Next week CNSRP partner Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) will run an online seminar (or webinar) on the subject of “Demand-led innovation in oil and gas”. This online session will be presented by Mark Robertson, Project Manager at the Oil and Gas Innovation (OGIC) centre in Aberdeen. It will be of interest to north SMEs operating in, or looking to enter, the oil and gas supply chain, particularly in the areas of Asset integrity and life extension; Decommissioning; Enhanced recovery; Improving exploration outcomes; Production optimisation; Shale gas exploration; Subsea; Well construction; Drilling and completions. The webinar will start at 11 am, Tuesday 13th December, and to register see https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/6483920503543675908

Tourism, Food & Drink:
• As we head towards the shortest day of the year, a reminder of the excellent short films produced by Venture North as part of the “Discovery” series of films (funded by CNSRP partner NDA and VisitScotland) highlighting the seasons in Caithness and Sutherland. http://www.venture-north.co.uk/discovery/ and the VN website also contains a rich selection of blog posts from people who live, work or holiday in the area, the most recent of which features the words and photography of Monica Strell, who is based in Assynt. http://www.venture-north.co.uk/blog/venture-north-discovery-monika-strell-discover-more-in-winter

Enabling activities:
• A blog this week from Scottish Renewables highlights the skills gap for engineers, and the looming rate of retirements in the industry. https://www.scottishrenewables.com/news/blog-how-fill-skills-gap-part-1/ the blog looks at Engineering UK figures that indicate around 50% of the current workforce will retire within the next 24 years, and highlights some work currently underway in Scotland through “Primary Engineers.” As past Chairman of Engineering UK Sir Anthony Cleaver (CNSRP’s independent Chairman) has highlighted the potential value of the Primary Engineers initiative to the north. Developing a skilled workforce remains a key part of the CNSRP programme, and next week we will bring together a number of local and regional partners to look at how we further boost this important element of our ongoing activities.
• It is good to see Clean Bees, the north-based company founded by Joanna Mackenzie from Bettyhill, getting recognition at this week’s pilot “virtual accelerator” programme awards in Inverness. Joanna was one of 40 start-up companies represented at the event, and pitched her business aspirations to the room full of entrepreneurs. The unique programme, which is funded by Royal Bank of Scotland and is supported by CNSRP partners HIE and the Scottish Government as well as Harper Macleod, is aimed at helping start-ups and early stage businesses from across the region accelerate their growth. It is a part of the Entrepreneurial Spark initiative. More information is at http://www.entrepreneurial-spark.com
• HITRANS, the regional transport authority for the Highlands and Islands, is holding an event in Inverness next week, part of which will focus on ways of improving the disappointing performance levels seen on the Far North rail line. Amongst the speakers will be Phil Verster, Managing Director of the Scotrail Alliance. His desire to drive improvements on the service was recently highlighted at a meeting of Caithness Transport Forum, so it is good to see this being taken forward. Anyone wishing to attend the meeting, which will be on the morning of Friday 16th December, should contact frank.roach@hitrans.org.uk

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 attended a meeting of the Thurso & Wick Trades Union Council this week, where I was able to update members on progress with elements of the CNSRP programme. Gordon Calder’s piece in today’s (Friday’s) John O’Groat Journal captures some of the items we covered. I’m really grateful for the help and support being given to our efforts by colleagues from the Trades Unions, which this year has included opportunities to meet with senior visiting figures such as Grahame Smith (General Secretary) and Stephen Boyd (Assistant Secretary) of the STUC and Gary Smith (GMB Scotland Secretary).
• I also attended the Dounreay Stakeholder Group meeting this week, at which I was able to give my regular update on CNSRP activities. In last week’s John O’Groat Journal David Flear, Chairman of the Dounreay Stakeholder Group (DSG), was quoted supporting investigation work currently taking place to assess the suitability of the north coast of Sutherland to host a facility to enable the “vertical launch” of small satellites. In the piece HIE’s Area Manager confirms that North Sutherland is one of the areas of the Highlands and Islands currently investigating the potential from the global satellite launch industry.