Private sector economic development body Opportunity North East (ONE) aims to accelerate the development of the digital economy in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire with the establishment of ONE Digital with £4 million of additional funding over four years.
ONE Digital becomes the fifth sector board within ONE and will focus on building digital capability and capacity in the region, including supporting digital product company creation and growth and working across the region’s key industries to enhance competitiveness through the identification and application of digital solutions.
The move follows extensive discussion between ONE and key regional, national and international interests, stakeholders and potential partners in the digital industry. The ONE Digital sector board will be formed in the coming weeks, under the initial chairmanship of Sir Ian Wood. Bob Keiller will be the lead Director on entrepreneurship and mentoring and there will be three Vice-Chairmen: Graeme Gordon, IFB; Neil Logan, Incremental Group; and Phil Murray, Petrotechnics.
Sir Ian Wood, Chairman of ONE, said: “We currently have parts of a digital cluster in the region, but there’s a huge market here with industries with significant scope for digital solutions. The oil and gas industry, particularly operators, is making major investments over the next few years in automation, artificial intelligence and robotics with the supply chain doing likewise. Food, drink and agriculture are also very active in achieving digital efficiencies, as is tourism.
“The key ingredients of the successful cluster will be a physical hub to help nurture and grow digital tech companies, a strong focus on encouraging entrepreneurship in the sector, some early stage seed funding, community events to foster entrepreneurship, and maximising the potentially significant contribution from the city’s two Universities, particularly in entrepreneurship teaching. Access to skilled people, with coding and digital business skills, supported by a network of digitally savvy mentors and professional advisors is also vitally important.
“We already have a small number of high potential digital companies and the aim over five years is to get 10 to 20 companies with highly differentiated products and systems, with sales above £20m and with international aspirations. There’s also a significant number of companies in our region now seeking to build digital efficiency into their business and ONE Digital aims to improve the availability of high quality companies to identify digital solutions and applications to enhance the competitiveness of these businesses.
“ONE Digital will apply expertise, influence and funding and work with partners to build strong digital capabilities, which will be a transformational factor in delivering the shared goal of long-term economic renaissance for Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire,” said Sir Ian.
The £4 million of initial funding for ONE Digital from the Wood Foundation brings its total commitment to ONE to £29 million over 5 years to help deliver the economic renaissance agenda. ONE’S co-investment approach should secure match funding for transformational programmes and projects, unlocking a further £29 million of investment for diversifying and strengthening the region’s economy.
ONE’s regional agenda is to lead the development and delivery of the Economic Renaissance Strategy through growing food, drink and agriculture; building the life sciences sector; maximising the oil and gas opportunities; evolving tourism to exploit new business and leisure opportunities, and, now, developing the region’s digital cluster. These priorities reflect the real opportunities within the region’s business base and will deliver long term benefits via business growth and job creation or retention.