Oil and water don’t mix, we are told. So, what else can we add to the huge advantages we have from being Europe’s oil and gas capital to change the formula for our future economy?
Firstly, to quote another H2O related proverb, let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. It is widely agreed that up to 20 billion barrels of oil and gas equivalent remain to be recovered from the UKCS. If it is well managed, the Maximising Economic Recovery agenda will enable these reserves to be optimised, profitably.
The work being done by organisations such as the Oil & Gas Technology Centre, Oil & Gas UK, the Oil & Gas Authority and others should ensure this is realised, resulting in the operational phase of the North Sea bringing economic benefit to the region for many years to come.
The challenge being worked on right now is how we can build on this position of strength to anchor our status as world leaders in this field.
Our outlook and skills base must be focused on ‘all energy’. Innovation should be given the opportunity to prove itself. The supply chain needs to be pro-active in diversifying both in terms of what it does and the geographies in which it operates and digital best practice has to be central to the approach.
There is no doubt that this topic has dominated here for pretty much 50 years but that is starting to change, driven by the economic leadership role being taken by Opportunity North East and its partners.
Underpinned by City Region Deal funding and £25m over five years from the Wood Foundation, the aim is to catalyse partnership working and co-investment matched funding from the private and public sectors with the ambition that North-east Scotland remains a major economic driver for Scotland and the UK.
This will only happen by broadening our focus to other sectors where we are already strong but which have had their potential capped for many years by our myopic dependence on oil.
Food and drink, agriculture and fisheries, life sciences, tourism and digital are identified as being the main pillars for growth and even as I write, a range of exciting and innovative projects and activities are underway that will help to do this.
Also the subjects of significant focus are how we create world class digital infrastructure and connectivity; fostering a positive, aspirational and entrepreneurial culture and ensuring access to different kinds of growth funding. These are the cross-cutting themes that will enable the change we need.
A recent survey undertaken during North East Business Week revealed that three in four respondents do not feel involved in the future economic success of the region. It is vital, therefore that we find a way to convince them why and how to engage.
The renaissance vision we have for the region cannot be delivered by just a few organisations. It is everyone’s business.