A new private sector-led body focused on ensuring a sustainable economic future for north-east-Scotland has been set up under the chairmanship of oil magnate Sir Ian Wood, supported by a £25 million grant from the Wood Foundation.
It is called Opportunity North East (ONE).
It aims to broaden and strengthen the Tayside and Grampian economies by investing in and accelerating delivery of projects of scale in four key sectors, covering the oil & gas, food & drink, life sciences and tourism industries – a business investment plan which entirely mirrors the Scot-Govt. ‘growth clusters’ economic strategy (with the exception of financial services)
ONE will provide co-funding and resources to help grow and promote these business sectors and bring ‘high-impact’ projects to fruition in partnership with the public and private sectors. ONE will focus on investment and action to stimulate economic growth, safeguard jobs and create new employment opportunities over the medium to long term.
ONE directors include Aberdeen city & shire representatives, the principals of the University of Aberdeen and Robert Gordon University, and a Scottish Enterprise official. ONE will also be the private sector partner in the City Region Deal and fulfil the roles of the regional advisory board for Scottish Enterprise and the Economic Forum for the two Councils.
Sir Ian Wood said: “ONE is the private sector’s response to the challenge of transforming our economy. Significant under-investment in infrastructure, both physical and digital, a high cost of living – and an economy dominated by oil and gas – have combined to present us with a major challenge.
“The current downturn in oil and gas has cast the issues we face into even sharper relief and there are essentially two routes ahead – either a renaissance which sees us revitalise the region’s economy, or a slow decline towards becoming a ‘Museum of the Golden Age of North Sea oil and gas.’
“The business community is increasingly aware of the bleak prospect that could face us if we don’t get our act together now and take concerted action to secure a sustainable and balanced economy in the future.”
ONE’s agenda will complement the infrastructure investment proposals within the City Region Deal, including (yet another) Oil & Gas Technology Centre, improved sea and air links, significant city centre improvements, extended leisure and recreation facilities and dramatic improvements to digital and wider physical infrastructure.
Jennifer Craw, currently chairman of the board of governors at Robert Gordon University, has been appointed as ONE chief executive.
ONE Board members also include Professor Sir Ian Diamond, Principal of Aberdeen University, Martin Gilbert (Chief Executive, Aberdeen Asset Management) and Deirdre Michie, a Dundee University law graduate and long-serving industry veteran who is now chief executive of Oil and Gas UK, the trade association for the offshore N. Sea energy industry.