Funding for private sector economic development body Opportunity North East (ONE) is being more than doubled and extended to 10 years to support action and investment in pursuing ONE’s renaissance strategy for Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, one of the most productive regional economies in the UK.
The move will enable ONE to increase the scope of its action and extend its planning horizon to 10 years, delivering ambitious development projects within the region’s key sectors to maximise growth opportunities.
Formed at the end of 2015 as the private sector’s response to the challenge of diversifying and strengthening the regional economy, ONE had an initial funding commitment of £29 million over five years from The Wood Foundation. This has been extended with a further £33 million to ONE over a second five-year term, starting in 2021. The main condition, achieving matched funding, continues to apply.
The investment will enable ONE to extend its activity, in partnership with industry, in digital; food, drink and agriculture; life sciences; oil and gas; and tourism, and by enhancing the entrepreneurial environment.
The news came as ONE reported its second year of good progress at its annual event in Aberdeen, attended by more than 140 senior business people and public-sector leaders.
Speaking at the event, Sir Ian Wood GBE, Chairman of ONE, stressed the need to capitalise on growth opportunities across the region’s industrial base to secure its economic future.
“We are heading for an economic cliff edge if we don’t act and invest now to maximise our remaining oil and gas reserves, anchor as much as possible of our high-value energy supply chain in the region long term and invest in our other sectors to rebalance the economy. The good news is that the region is now very awake to this challenge, action is underway, we can see some daylight, and there are further projects in development,” said Sir Ian.
“ONE is unique. Nowhere else in Scotland or the UK benefits from a private sector led economic development company with its own funds to accelerate action, capitalise on sector-specific opportunities and leverage additional resources and investment. The public and private sectors are recognising and very much joining in the opportunities to identify and accelerate the industry development activities in the region.”
Sir Ian also stressed the responsibility that all stakeholders have in shaping the future of the economy.
“We don’t presume to have all the answers but do have lots of energy and drive for action within our sector boards. Changing our economic future needs everyone actively involved,” said Sir Ian.
“Two years into ONE, the question for me is have we made a difference? The feedback is that the ONE model is clearly working. We are catalysing change. Things are happening, and faster than before. I also think we can do more. For this reason, The Wood Foundation is extending its original 2015 commitment to ONE of £29 million over five years with the provision of a further £33 million over a second five-year term, starting in 2021, to extend the scope of the sectors to deliver long term impacts.
“We, the oil generation in this region, have an obligation to future generations and we must all work to pass on an acceptable industrial legacy,” said Sir Ian.
ONE delivers its own sector plans in the region and led on securing the £210 million for innovation projects in the £250 million Aberdeen City Region Deal, funded by the Scottish and UK Governments.
ONE’s Chief Executive, Jennifer Craw, highlighted a series of milestones achieved over the past year and co-funding partnerships with bodies including Aberdeenshire Council, Aberdeen City Council, Quality Meat Scotland, Robert Gordon University, Scotland Food & Drink, Scottish Enterprise, SRUC and the University of Aberdeen.
Jennifer Craw said: “ONE’s sector boards are identifying opportunities for growth and turning these into actions and investment. The common themes – in the transformational projects we are developing for agri-food, digital and life sciences and the bespoke support we are delivering to accelerate business growth through innovation and market development – is the talent, energy and passion across each of the sectors and in our respective boards. Confidence is building within the sectors with ambitions aligning around shared goals.”
In ONE Food, Drink & Agriculture, chaired by Patrick Machray OBE, ONE launched a bespoke growth programme for SMEs. The first 20 participants completed it in November 2017 and the second cohort will start the programme in spring 2018. On-going mentoring and expert advice will support the highest growth potential companies in their trajectory. More than 100 companies have been supported with market development activity and ONE has co-invested in a transformational digital project for the beef cattle supply chain, alongside two commercial partners.
In ONE Life Sciences, chaired by Professor Stephen Logan, capital funding was approved for the £40 million life sciences innovation hub project on the Foresterhill campus after successful completion of the detailed business case for Government by ONE via the Aberdeen City Region Deal. The hub will provide bespoke space for life sciences, healthcare and med-tech businesses and provide a focal point for sector-specific support activity. ONE launched a fully-funded life sciences business support programme in autumn 2017, partnering with leading UK accelerator BioCity Group, to grow the pipeline of new companies in the region. Participants from the University of Aberdeen, RGU, NHS Grampian and private businesses are now testing their business concepts in the 12-week programme.
ONE Oil, Gas & Energy, chaired by Trevor Garlick OBE – after the initial success of conceiving and launching The Oil & Gas Technology Centre – is focussed on anchoring the supply chain long term and developing the region’s potential as a global hub for learning and training. ONE has developed two three-year co-funded programmes of support for oil and gas SMEs with Scottish Enterprise on decommissioning opportunities and diversification. Roll out of the programmes will commence in the coming weeks. ONE also co-funded a pilot project with the city’s two universities in Mexico, to work in-country and with industry on a joint platform to attract postgraduate students to Aberdeen. ONE is now exploring how it can support the supply chain to increase internationalisation and looking at the opportunities energy transition will create.
In tourism, chaired by Colin Crosby, ONE remains the single largest funder to VisitAberdeenshire, the region’s tourism agency, match-funding the commitments from both local authorities, and has developed a cross-sector project to develop the region’s food tourism offer, working with producers, the hospitality sector and visitor attractions.
ONE Digital & Entrepreneurship is the newest sector board with a very significant role to play in transforming the economy. The Board, chaired by Sir Ian, was established in August 2017 to realise the huge opportunity to grow the sector with a focus on industrial digital. ONE is investing to create the digital and entrepreneurship ecosystem to make this happen. Working with industry and partners, it will deliver support for digital company creation, scale-up and growth; provide access to experts and experienced digital entrepreneurs, as well as to potential customers; and seek to increase the number of entrepreneurial businesses with significant scale and international reach to meet the growing demand for industrial digital solutions.