Aberdeen City Region Deal: One Year On

The North East is marking one year since the signing of the Aberdeen City Region Deal (CRD).

Officially agreed on 21 November last year, the Deal was the result of detailed planning to identify opportunities to secure the region’s future prosperity, and sees the UK Government and Scottish Government jointly investing up to £250million into a number of projects.

With a total value of £826million over its lifetime, the Deal is one way of delivering on the region’s economic vision, with Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire councils and Opportunity North East (ONE) now working with regional partners to agree the individual project funding packages with the two governments.

One year into the 10-year Deal, significant and tangible progress has been made with the Deal providing access to much of the required funding to enable the delivery of the numerous business cases to begin.

Three months after the official Deal signing, The Oil & Gas Technology Centre (OGTC) was launched in February 2017. With an ambition to help to unlock the full potential of the UK North Sea, anchor the high-value supply chain in the North East of Scotland and make the region a global hub for oil and gas innovation for decades to come, £180million of the Deal’s funding is helping the OGTC deliver for the oil and gas industry and the region.

Within its first nine months of operation, the OGTC has approved investment of more than £18million in partnership with industry, has 65 memberships and more than 30 projects to accelerate the development of technologies designed to transform the oil and gas industry in the North Sea.

In May 2017 permission was granted for the development of the Innovation Hub, at the OGTC in the centre of Aberdeen. By October, the Innovation Hub was ready to be opened by Scotland’s First Minister, who was joined by industry and civic leaders for its official opening.

Supported by funding from the Deal, the Hub is a unique state-of-the-art facility, bringing the oil and gas industry and technology providers together to develop break-through solutions and take their concepts from initial inspiration to final implementation in the oil field.

In addition, the business case for a new Bio-Therapeutics Hub for Innovation has been approved by the City Region Deal Joint Committee, and a project to improve the infrastructure around Aberdeen Harbour secured endorsement and investment of over £5million from Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee.

The region was also selected as pilot for ultra-fast broadband in September 2017 as a result of CRD joint working, whilst consultants have been appointed to carry out a Strategic Assessment to establish the transport needs of the area over the next 20 years.

Leader of Aberdeenshire Council and chair of the City Region Deal Joint Committee, Cllr Jim Gifford said: “In the 365 days since the signing of our Deal, we have worked closely together to make real headway in the delivery of all business cases. During an undisputedly challenging time for our region, the City Region Deal has been key in enabling us to take strides in the realisation of our economic vision, build on our strengths and create opportunities for our region to flourish.”

“It is hugely encouraging to not only be making progress on these exciting flagship projects, but to already be seeing some reaching completion in one short year. That is testament to the joint-working model we have employed, with the public and private sectors working hand in hand with a joint end goal; to anchor the skills and knowledge the region has become renowned for here as well as bringing infrastructure, jobs and a variety of wider economic benefits to the Aberdeen City Region for years to come.”

Cllr Jenny Laing, Aberdeen City Council Co-Leader, said: “It took a great deal of planning to secure the Aberdeen City Region Deal – but when we signed the agreement in November 2016 we said it marked the start of a journey, not the end. Securing the funding was a vital foundation stone and since then we have been building for the future, with the various strands of the deal coming together and the tangible results already being seen.

“In the months and years ahead those positive outcomes will become even more visible and the impact on the region’s economy will become clear. The deal partners have estimated the programme will be worth £826million over a decade, taking into account investment we anticipate will be generated from the private sector, and the significance of that cannot be overstated. We can be proud of the work done in the first year and confident about meeting the longer term ambitions for this part of the country.”

Sir Ian Wood GBE, Chairman of private sector economic development body Opportunity North East (ONE) said: “The Deal is significant because of the funds it has unlocked to invest in transformational projects in our region, projects that will directly contribute to our long term goal of a diversified and resilient economy. £210million of the Deal funding is allocated to the three innovation projects developed by ONE with industry and other stakeholders – The Oil & Gas Technology Centre, the Bio-Therapeutics Hub for Innovation and the Agri Food & Nutrition Hub for Innovation. These are major investments into our key industry sectors and will catalyse economic growth, productivity, and support high-value employment in the medium to long-term. That’s hugely important at this time, when we need to effect positive economic change to secure a prosperous future for our communities and people, a future that offers opportunities for the generations to come.

“The OGTC has made great progress in under a year and is a project of national significance. We are on track to move the Bio-Therapeutics Hub forward very soon and development work on the Agri Food & Nutrition Hub is progressing well. Key to all of this has been very effective collaboration between the private and public sectors, supported by both Governments, who recognise the wealth of potential here. We’ve got off to a good start and we all need to build on that and stay focussed on the shared ambitions and the actions to deliver those.”

UK Government minister Lord Duncan said: “One year on from the signing of the Aberdeen City Region Deal, and it is clear to me that it is making a difference. From innovation and technology to connectivity and infrastructure, this deal is transforming the city and region.

“I visited the new Innovation Hub at the Oil & Gas Technology Centre recently, made possible through over £90million of UK Government investment, and can tell that it is going to be an invaluable resource for industry. The Harbour development will also provide a massive boost to trade and Aberdeen’s tourist industry.

“I look forward to seeing the deal deliver even more benefits for the city and region in years to come.”

Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Economy Keith Brown said: “Twelve months ago, the First Minister confirmed the multi-million pound deal to support Aberdeen’s position as a global oil and gas hub, paving the way for significant investment in innovation, digital connectivity and infrastructure across the region.

“Thanks to the impetus provided by the city deal, and in no small part to the work of the local authorities involved, as well as their private sector partner Opportunity North East, it’s fair to say that a great deal of progress has been made in respect to those ambitions.

“But this is just ‘year one’, and there is much work still to be done in order to achieve our aims of broadening the economic base and driving inclusive growth by enhancing alignment between national, regional and local ambitions.

“The Scottish Government is doing its part by providing over £1 billion to the area, greatly improving the current rail and road infrastructure – amongst other things.

“It’s encouraging to see the regional partners making strides in the right direction and I look forward to seeing more progress with the deal in the coming years.”