Opportunity North East (ONE) held its first annual event in over three years last night (Monday 20 June) with over than 150 senior business people, future leaders, entrepreneurs and partners at The Chester Hotel in Aberdeen. The audience heard first-hand from digital, food and drink, and life sciences businesses about the difference ONE-led activity has made to their growth.
The Transforming Our Region event highlighted transformational projects led by ONE and its track record of delivery, which has increased funding and investment into the region to build momentum in economic diversification. Over £30 million of committed ONE investment has secured partnership funding of £85 million into the region over the past six years.
ONE-led transformational projects are in delivery and development to enhance the economic potential of digital tech, food and drink, life sciences and tourism. Specialist programmes enable business leaders, entrepreneurs and founders to create and grow businesses and lead in the transition to a low-carbon economy with more than 450 businesses supported.
Respected broadcaster, Kaye Adams, hosted the annual event during which Jennifer Craw, CEO of the economic development catalyst, updated attendees on ONE impact to date, seeking their input and ideas to shape future action and delivery.
Dean of External Engagement at Glasgow University’s Adam Smith Business School, Professor Graeme Roy and ONE chair, Sir Ian Wood KT GBE, discussed the current economic drivers of change. Industry leaders Dr Deborah O’Neil OBE, Stanley Morrice MBE, Grant Smith and Claire Bruce - who chair the ONE life sciences, food, drink and agriculture, digital tech boards and VisitAberdeenhbsire – shared perspectives on priorities and emerging opportunities.
Sir Ian Wood, chair of ONE, said: “ONE’s continued focus on diversifying the region’s economy beyond energy is bearing fruit and we are accelerating transformation that is consistent with the demands of a low carbon economy.
“The progress of ONE Tech Hub, BioHub, Seedpod and North East Adventure Tourism all align with this ambition. These projects are real, they are happening, and they will make a significant contribution to the diversification and appeal of our economy.
“However, we can and must do more. Last night’s event was a great success and provided a valuable opportunity to engage with our region’s business leaders as we work to shape future action and investment.”
Jennifer Craw, chief executive of ONE, said: “The private sector chose to lead in economic transformation through ONE. Our unique model has been the catalyst for accelerating change, creating effective partnerships and turning ideas into action. I’m delighted that our committed investment of over £30 million has secured partnership funding of £85 million into the region over the past six years.
“The challenge now for north east Scotland is to ensure that the transition to net-zero provides high-quality opportunities for businesses, people and communities. With the continued support and investment of the private sector and partners, ONE will turn ideas and opportunities into action to deliver long-term impact and value.”
Professor Graeme Roy, Dean of External Engagement at the Adam Smith Business Schools, said:
“The North East of Scotland has made a massive contribution to both Scotland and the UK’s energy and economic security for the last forty years.
“Whilst the region faces a major challenge in effectively diversifying toward a low carbon economy, it has all the economic fundamentals in order to succeed; a highly skilled population and a strong and productive company base underpinned by a pioneering entrepreneurial spirit.
“Opportunity North East is a unique organisation, which actively harnesses these strengths and has become a trusted partner of businesses, industry sectors and government as it continues to effectively transform the region’s fortunes.”
A range of businesses shared their experiences of working with ONE and the impact this has had on their development.
Dr Ruta Dekeryte and Dr Andrew McEwan are two innovators working on novel treatments for type two diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease. They were part of the 2021 ONE life sciences accelerator and are now part of a start-up with a seven-strong team of researchers in Aberdeen.
Ruta said: “The accelerator programme gave us a great opportunity to connect with a range of experts from the business world and equipped us with a new set of skills for developing business models and analysing customer needs. I had a very academic mindset and after completing the programme that mindset changed and allowed us to visualise the journey towards commercialisation. That is a very important change in mindset.”
Rora Dairy makes delicious healthy bio live yoghurt which is free from nonsense on its organic farm and has worked with ONE on business growth, mentoring, market and new product development and been supported by the ONE Enterprise Fund.
Founder Jane Mackie said: “ONE, for Rora Dairy, has been a wonderful support along the way. When you first start off you are living a dream, you can just make product and it’s going to work. And I think you have to learn that reality is a different place and having the benefit of having ONE guiding you on that path and giving you the extra encouragement and oomph when you get it right works really well. We’ve also been really lucky to have the support of people. What I value most – and we have a lot of it in this area – is having the expertise of other food producers. People have been key to this element – the team at ONE and all the other people building brands and companies locally and the big players in the area. They’ve all been hugely available with their time and happy to help.”
Track Genesis is developing blockchain software and services and is working with craft brewer Brew Toon to help them meet their growing customer demand for transparency and traceability. Founder Rajesh Kumar Plamthottathil was part of the recent ONE digital accelerator programme and now leads a team of 13.
Rajesh said: “I had a really strong technology background. In the accelerator programme we practised different business models, different value propositions and we challenged each other. So when I come up with a product idea I have to look at the customer side, the channels to market, the internal side, the pricing stricture, the whole picture. So basically, without the support of ONE I’d have a product but I wouldn’t have customers.”
Lost Loch Distillery has been part of ONE food and drink business growth and tourism programmes and recently completed the insights into new product development programme.
Co-founder Pete Dignan said: “The support has been very beneficial for us. Because ONE is full of successful business people they are able to share that experience with all businesses to really help. I’ve got friends who have businesses in other locations and the feedback I get is that there’s nowhere else in the UK at the moment that gets the same kind of support that we get in north east Scotland and that’s because of ONE really.”
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