Oil and gas tycoon Sir Ian Wood has revealed ambitions to transform the north-east as a global adventure destination – and give a boost to key industries such as fishing and hospitality.
He wants to establish a “best in class” hospitality school in the area.
Another key vision in his strategy for building on three years of work by Opportunity North East (One) – the economic development body he launched in late 2015 – is to support the transformation of seafood processing in the region.
Sir Ian, who transformed Aberdeen company Wood Group into a global energy services giant before retiring and going on to become chairman of One, said the north-east’s “renaissance” after the latest oil and gas downturn was well under way.
“We’re moving at a reasonable pace,” he said, adding: “I really want the people of north-east Scotland to be buying into this. I think they are buying into it.”
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Looking back on One’s first three years, he said a lot had been achieved to date.
The cross-sector group has worked with more than 500 companies, while its approved project expenditure of £13.8 million has secured match funding of £30.6m.
One has also secured £210m of City Region Deal capital funding for innovation centres for oil and gas, life sciences and the food and drink sectors, and is developing a technology “hub” for digital businesses.
It currently has more than 15 active partnerships co-delivering economic development activity across Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.
Sir Ian said there was much still to do. He is keeping some of his ideas to himself for now, but spoke enthusiastically about a few new projects already taking shape.
He said the region had great potential as a destination for exciting and adventurous outdoor activities from climbing, mountain biking, and cycling to hillwalking, surfing and sea kayaking
One’s Extreme North vision involves encouraging collaboration between the current wide range of outdoor activities and providers, while also adding one or two “core” attractions to position the region as a global adventure destination.
“We have a myriad of small, good quality companies catering for adventurous pastimes,” Sir Ian said, adding: “We just need to get them speaking to each other.
“We want to be out there telling people to come to the north-east because it is a global adventure area.”
One’s plans for a hospitality school would deliver training for the next generation of hospitality and tourism industry leaders.
It is hoped to also develop an annual gourmet food festival.
“There is a need to get more people attracted into this industry,” Sir Ian said.
One has begun talks with the seafood processing industry, with a view to helping it take advantage of a modern new fish market at Peterhead and cope with an anticipated jump in landings after Brexit.
Sir Ian said recent developments in Iceland’s fish processing sector, based on new modern fish processing equipment and automated controls, was a “great example” to follow.
He added: “We have an extremely efficient, world-class catching fleet, some of the cleverest fishermen, modern new vessels and a new fish market.
“There is a chance here to significantly increase the size of the fishing industry.”
More than 90 senior business people, and higher education and public sector leaders are involved in One’s main and strategic sector boards.
They are focused on five priority sectors of food, drink, agriculture and fishing; life sciences; energy; tourism; and digital and entrepreneurship.
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