Opportunity North East (ONE) is three years old this month and is celebrating significant progress and success in bringing private sector leadership and fast paced delivery to economic diversification across the North East of Scotland.
ONE’s work has seen millions of pounds invested in business growth activity and transformational projects. ONE has engaged with more than 500 companies, its approved project funding of £13.8m has secured match funding of £30.6m, it secured £210m of City Region Deal capital funding for innovation hubs for oil and gas, life sciences and the food and drink sectors and is developing a tech hub for digital businesses, and has more than 15 active partnerships co-delivering economic development activity across Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.
Formed by the private sector in November 2015, ONE was formed by the private sector with a view to helping change the North East’s economy which many see as being too reliant on North Sea oil.
University of Aberdeen petroleum economist Prof Alex Kemp’s latest projections show the total North Sea spend on construction, maintenance and decommissioning reach £16bn this year but reduce by two-thirds to £5bn in 2050. ONE’s focus is on maximising the oil and gas opportunity, including extending it beyond the North Sea by anchoring the supply chain, and significantly growing the region’s other industry sectors to provide a much more balanced economy.
ONE is the UK’s only private sector led and funded regional economic development body. More than 90 senior business people, higher education and public sector leaders are involved in ONE’s main and strategic sector boards. They have brought leadership and expert insight to the development and delivery of projects in the five priority sectors of Food, Drink, Agriculture & Fishing; Life Sciences; Oil, Gas & Energy; Tourism; and Digital & Entrepreneurship.
In March 2018, The Wood Foundation more than doubled its initial funding commitment to £62m over 10 years to deliver longer term programmes of innovation, internationalisation, business growth and digital transformation across the region and inspire new transformational projects.
ONE’s focus on the region’s key sectors over the past three years has seen significant new activity impact on industry growth and productivity.
ONE’s first milestone was securing £210m of Aberdeen City Region Deal funding for three sector innovation projects with industry: the Oil & Gas Technology Centre, Bio-therapeutics Hub for Innovation and Food Hub for Innovation. These projects are vital to transitioning Aberdeen to a global energy technology centre and anchoring the supply chain, commercialising the strong academic and research life sciences base, and putting the food manufacturing and processing sector at the forefront of product innovation for premium markets.
ONE is targeting a doubling of oil, gas and energy supply chain exports and is co-investing with the Scottish Government and Scottish Development International to recruit five new in-country energy market experts and is creating a peer to peer network for exporters in the region. In the food and drink sector, ONE is working with businesses to increase sales in high-value global markets in partnership with Scotland Food & Drink and SDI.
ONE, often working with Scottish Enterprise, is working with businesses to identify new product, market and customer opportunities and equipping them with the tools, industry knowledge and expertise to accelerate growth from early-stage food and drink and life sciences businesses to mature oil and gas supply chain companies seeking to diversify.
North East Scotland is beginning to increase sector growth and productivity through digital transformation of its manufacturing and services sectors and across its supply chains, from farm and fishery to fork and through energy transition. ONE is focussing on building a cluster of high-growth digital product and solution companies in industrial digital and working across the sectors to drive rapid adoption of digital to increase competitiveness. ONE’s work includes the creation of a dedicated tech hub in Aberdeen to build the cluster and the ONE CodeBase partnership to give early-stage companies access to best-in-class tech incubation support.
Looking ahead, ONE’s transformation projects in development with industry include:
A Best in Class Hospitality School to train the next generation of tourism, hospitality and culinary leaders. It will focus on qualifications and learning sought after by industry and there is potential to develop an annual gourmet food festival alongside this.
The region also has great potential as a destination for exciting and adventurous outdoor activities, from climbing, mountain biking, and cycling to hillwalking, surfing and sea kayaking. The Extreme North concept would involve collaboration between the current wide range of outdoor activities and providers and add one or two core attractions, to position the region as a global adventure destination.
ONE has begun discussions with the fish processing industry on Seafood Industry Transformation. With the benefit of the new world class Peterhead Fish Market and the potential increase in white fish landing supplies following Brexit, the region’s modern and efficient white fish fleet should continue to expand, and there’s a clear requirement to significantly develop fish processing activities in North East Scotland, covering Peterhead, Fraserburgh and Aberdeen. The recent development of Iceland’s fish processing industry based on new modern fish processing equipment and automated controls is a great example to follow.
Sir Ian Wood KT GBE, who chairs ONE, said: “Achieving the regional economic renaissance is the challenge that is now uniting us across North East Scotland and ONE’s action and investment has engaged more than 500 companies in growth activity thus far and is delivering more than £400m of transformational projects in our key sectors with more in development. We have made a real difference to the region’s economic prospects in a short time.
“ONE’s strength is the very committed and talented people involved in its main and sector boards and management team, led by Jennifer Craw and Maggie McGinlay. This leadership and industry and economic development experience means that ONE quickly translates opportunities into action. Each sector has a strong ambition, action plan and resources to make things happen, which is increasingly engaging the business community, education and research institutes, and the public sector.
“We recognise the economic challenge we have to make the most of our regional assets. People who come to the city and region to work generally love it. We’re a very enterprising region, outward looking and cosmopolitan, with good potential growth industries. We have stunningly beautiful countryside and we have a fantastic coastline, which offer a host of activities and opportunities to residents and visitors. If we get the innovation and internationalisation piece right and continue to work with groups of ambitious businesses and help them to grow faster, our region will be one of the most competitive and attractive locations in the UK to live, work or grow a business.
“We’ve made really good progress in three years and we are still only about a third of the way through the first 10 years of the regional renaissance strategy. The private sector has demonstrated its commitment to the future prosperity of the North East and that is already making a difference across the sectors. We must continue to plan ahead and maintain our pace of delivery and investment to realise the renaissance vision,” said Sir Ian.
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