Energy & Business Services:
Momentum continues to build behind our inward investment campaign, with further discussions this week offering the possibility of announcements that will bring new jobs to Caithness. The campaign is at present focusing on the energy sector, and is led by CNSRP partner Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
As previously mentioned, next week sees the ERI hosting a workshop for CENSIS (The Innovation Centre for Sensors and Imaging Systems) on the subject of “Innovative sensors for marine energy developers: currents, waves and water quality in the Pentland Firth” The workshop has attracted a number of business and academic sector attendees, with a key objective being the development of collaborative industry-led proposals in the field of marine sensing. The importance of academic/ industry links was also the subject of a meeting today with colleagues from HIE and Interface, where we focused on areas where support from the universities sector in Scotland could bring significant benefits to local businesses. Interface’s Lorraine Thomson explained the many examples of projects where support from universities had helped businesses in the Highlands and Islands to develop products or processes. The Interface website includes some excellent case studies that outline the wide range of help available to businesses in numerous sectors.
I was delighted to attend a successful event this week held by the North Highland Regeneration Fund, the loan fund established with financial support from CNSRP partner the NDA. The event, held in the Castle of Mey to promote NHRF’s available funding and its refreshed corporate identity, attracted a range of businesses from across the area. It featured powerful testimonies from Rob Arthur (Thurso Cinema) and Martin Murray (Dunnet Bay Distillery) highlighting the importance of NHRF funding to their start-up plans, and also reminded us all of the economic returns to the area. Martin Murray highlighted the progress made in constructing the Distillery at Dunnet, with the imminent arrival of the Still being a key milestone in moving to the project’s commissioning and production phase. Thurso Cinema now employs 22 people, and has also helped re-establish the Campbeltown Cinema, reinforcing Rob Arthur’s aim of creating a network of thriving rural cinemas administered from the company’s Thurso base. The event also heard a short vote of confidence in the area’s efforts to support SMEs from guest speaker Michael Cohrs. Mr Cohrs is a former member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee and current member of the Court of the Bank of England. The NHRF has supported a number of businesses since its inception, approving around £1.5M in loan funding. The Fund remains open to businesses in the north Highlands with loans of between £5,000 and £50,000. The Fund is managed by Caithness Chamber of Commerce.
As part of an ongoing process of helping communicate progress with the delivery of aspects of our economic transition programme CNSRP’s partners work together to generate news stories for local, regional and national media. I also speak on a regular basis to individuals and organisations across the area to update on progress. This week: