Aberdeen City Region Deal: Joint Committee Update September 2017

Below are the highlights of the meeting of the City Region Deal Joint Committee, held at Woodhill House, Aberdeen.

Progress update

Committee was updated on good progress being made across many parts of the CRD project portfolio.

The business case for the construction of the Bio-Therapeutics Hub for Innovation is reported to be progressing well through the approvals stage, news which was warmly welcomed by the Committee.

The business case for the Agri-Food and Nutrition Hub for Innovation is also reported to be progressing well, and members were told that a project update will be provided to the ONE Food, Drink & Agriculture Board later this month.

Members also got an update on the Aberdeen Harbour expansion project. Aberdeenshire Council Infrastructure Services Committee recently agreed to contribute £5.5 million to the project. Members were told of workshops taking place in October to engage businesses in the commercial opportunities arising from the project, including the forecast increase in the number of cruise ships docking.

The Oil & Gas Technology Centre

The Finance Director of the Centre gave committee an update against progress made since it opened in February 2017.

The Centre’s goals are to:

  • Unlock the potential of the UK North Sea
  • Anchor the supply chain in North-East Scotland
  • Create a culture of innovation in the region

The Committee all agreed that the Centre is making significant headway in re-establishing confidence in the region. More than £12 million has been invested in 21 projects and the Centre already has more than 40 members.

Between now and the end of the year, the Centre will open its new Innovation Hub, publish several Calls for Ideas and launch TechX, a programme providing funding, mentoring and facilities to support start-up technology companies and accelerate technology development.

Digital Update

To address significant failings in the digital connectivity of the Aberdeen City Region, one of the main projects under CRD is to provide affordable ultrafast connectivity for business premises, and in the process to lay the vital spines for residential superfast connections.

Committee were told of the benefits arising from what is known as R100, The Scottish Government programme for digital connectivity. However, they confirmed that the timescales are unclear and instructed that digital projects under CRD be taken forward separately.

The UK Government recently confirmed that the region is part of a pilot for Full Fibre and super-fast connections. This is over and above CRD but shows that the weight of CRD in attracting new opportunities.

Committee agreed that there is strong investment coming through and an understanding of the challenges faced by the region. It also agreed that it was essential that improvements were delivered as quickly as possible, both to support business growth in the region and to ensure its attractiveness to potential inward investors.

As a result, a business case will come to the next committee on alternative funding models. This will outline exactly how to progress the CRD digital project at speed and how to engage business in the part of the region who will benefit from the pilot.

Transport update

Members were told that a business case will be presented to the next Joint Committee meeting which will roadmap the plans for a strategic transport assessment. This significant piece of work will establish the transport needs for the City Region area over the next 20 years.

Members of the Harbour Board will be invited to attend the next meeting, and officers were asked to prepare a detailed action plan which makes clear the progression of the upgrades to the supporting infrastructure around the Harbour development.

Public meetings are imminent to consider options for improvements to the Laurencekirk junction on the A90.

Date of next meeting

The next meeting will be held on Friday 10th November 2017.