Lucy Nicoll: More than ONE egg in your basket

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The volume of talent in the North East is considerable and more opportunities are starting to emerge. Influential bodies such as Opportunities North East (ONE) are helping to broaden our market base and provide the backing SME’s need to grow.

While the oil and gas sector has traditionally dominated the economic landscape up here in Aberdeen, and quite rightly so, the forcible shift in focus has highlighted what a vast array of burgeoning markets exist and the talent these business possess – many of which have spun out of oil and gas roles.

Who is ONE?

Opportunity North East (ONE) is the private sector’s response to the long-term economic challenges facing North East Scotland. Primarily, the need to strengthen and diversify the economy in the medium to long term to achieve a sustainable and resilient economic base, and reducing the current over-reliance on oil and gas which developed over recent decades. Notwithstanding these challenges, the region remains an important economic driver at a Scottish and a UK level.

ONE is a unique economic development body in Scotland. It is industry-led, privately funded, region specific and focuses on action to achieve economic growth and safeguard or create employment, which is enabling it to drive the development agenda and activity in North East Scotland. ONE’s model is to identify opportunities, develop projects of scale and impact, and deliver these at pace.

The regional Renaissance vision informing this work, which is shared by their key partners, is based on maximum recovery of UKCS oil and gas reserves while Aberdeen becomes globally recognised as a hub for innovation and technology development with a strong energy supply chain anchored in the region for the long term. Alongside this, growth in the region’s digital; food, drink, agriculture and fishing; life sciences; and tourism sectors; and entrepreneurial environment delivers a more balanced and resilient economic base

ONE – Food and Drink

The food and drink sector in and around the Aberdeen area is significant, employing over 22,000 people across a variety of disciplines. As with much of the country, agriculture leads the way in terms of employment, but food manufacturing and drinks are also key players and certainly areas we have seen significant growth.

Despite a nationwide shortage of engineers our food manufacturing team is growing and experiencing demand right across the north of Scotland for these specialisms. The demand both nationally and internationally for Scotland’s food and drink produce means an increased need for engineering talent to maintain and enhance production.

The launch of the bespoke business growth programme by ONE again signifies the areas commitment to this sector. In partnership with Aberdeenshire Council, the investment is expected to increase turnover and generate jobs through the exploration of new markets and new products. The 2017 programme generated significant income already which is being reinvested into product development and new employees.

A good example of the types of companies spinning out of oil and gas and into food and drink in line with ONE’s vision include Esker Spirits (recently named Virgin top 10 start-ups in Scotland) whom we met last year at one of our business evenings. Lynne Duthie, co-founder, highlighted her loyalty for the oil and gas industry but discussed how her passion for gin had driven her to create Royal Deeside’s first, and now award-winning, gin.    

ONE – Life Sciences

Another exciting development for the North East as a result of ONE is the life sciences sector. Another sector our partners in the central belt have seen blossom, life sciences has huge potential to maximise the existing skill base in Aberdeen and attract significant investment.

ONE Life Sciences Accelerator programme is a bespoke support programme to catalyse growth in Aberdeen’s world-class life sciences cluster. It is led and funded by ONE and delivered in partnership with BioCity, the UK’s leading life science and healthcare business incubator and accelerator. The Accelerator programme supports the development of start-ups, spin-outs and growth companies across the region’s research, clinical and commercial base.

Fourteen participants joined the Accelerator in December 2017. In February 2018, ONE launched the 12-week DEVELOP programme which is the follow-on programme, designed to identify gaps in business cases, evaluate areas of risk, and ultimately support participants to develop a business model that can stand up to investor scrutiny.

ONE – Keeping Aberdeen’s options open

As a recruitment partner to over 20 different sectors it is refreshing to know there is so much talent here in the North East and that there are passionate people who care about the region, focused on investing in and retaining the skills right here in the area.

Those at the forefront of ONE recognise the time it will take to regain the city’s lofty economic status but they also know that if it is built on strong, diverse foundations it will create a far stronger, more robust economy for future generations.     

Lucy Nicoll, Divisional Manager, Eden Scott Aberdeen

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