More than 1,100 new jobs, £7billion investment and world-leading innovation has been nurtured in the East of England by the hub for the rapidly-growing offshore renewables industry.
As the UK celebrates Offshore Wind Week 2017 (Nov 6-10th), to profile the UK’s world-leading status with multi-billion investment off the east coast, the building at the UK’s most easterly point, where many projects began and successful businesses launched, marks its own milestone.
Innovation and incubation centre OrbisEnergy has exceeded all aims since it opened its doors exactly nine years ago – a five-storey state-of-the-art building at Lowestoft overlooking the North Sea where most of its tenants have projects.
Its 160 tenants have included industry giants SSE, ScottishPower Renewables, Innogy and Fred. Olsen Windcarrier in a world-class cluster of renewable companies.
It provided the early day bases of then-fledgling businesses 3sun Group, Seajacks and James Fisher Marine Services, which have grown into international industry players that spend billions of pounds in the local supply chain.
Owned by Suffolk County Council and operated by Nwes, the UK’s largest enterprise agency, with support from energy industry experts at Nautilus Associates, OrbisEnergy – which cost £9.4m to build in 2008 – was originally funded by the East of England Development Agency and European Regional Development Fund.
ScottishPower Renewables, currently developing the biggest offshore wind farm to date off the east coast, chose OrbisEnergy as its east coast base.
“Having a presence at OrbisEnergy has been integral in helping us secure planning permission for the £2.5billion East Anglia ONE offshore wind farm project,” said Jo Young, stakeholder manager for East Anglia Offshore Wind.
Johnathan Reynolds, Business Development lead at OrbisEnergy said “Exactly nine years ago, when OrbisEnergy opened, no one anticipated the rapid evolution of offshore wind and levels of UK content and cost reduction. OrbisEnergy has played a key role, both directly and through our network of tenant businesses, in securing unforeseen levels of investment, growth and the rapid development of offshore wind and its supply chain. It has created the perfect climate in this region.
“We have supported more than 160 tenants ranging from dynamic start-ups to industry giants and everything in between. We have seen mergers, acquisitions, and multi-tenant spin-outs. We celebrate our success through our tenant business, who have created more than 1,100 new jobs in our region and more than £7bn investment across major projects, infrastructure, buildings and businesses.
OrbisEnergy has been a major catalyst for technical and commercial innovation across the offshore renewables supply chain, developing grant funds such as the current £6m SCORE programme, to invest directly in innovation and new product development working with partners such as the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult. It has also supported the development of major collaborative R&D programme across Europe, including the €3m ECOWindS (European Clusters for Offshore Wind Servicing) project.
Through OrbisEnergy’s innovation programmes, the hub supported 176 SME-led innovation projects, including its successful series of SCORE grant awards, which have led to:
- £5.1m of grants, loans, and investments made in regional business
- £3.2m of private sector funding leveraged
- 157 new jobs created through SCORE
Mr Reynolds said: “OrbisEnergy is a hybrid innovation and incubation centre. It is unique. We work with industry and government bodies across the UK, Europe, and beyond in shaping the policy landscape and exploring the big industrial challenges which need innovative solutions, and, as an incubator, we help businesses get established, grow and maximise opportunities for this whole new industry.”
“We are going to see increasing levels of the UK content as costs continue to come down and tens of thousands of new jobs across the UK, with a significant number in the region. The potential is here to become the backbone of modern energy infrastructure if we get it right.
OrbisEnergy has also been at the forefront of sector-focused innovation support, information and networking events, stimulating business links for the growing supply chain in the East of England.
Katie Snell, Relationship Manager at Nwes said “We have had some amazing success with our international series working with the Department of International Trade. We have secured speakers for live presentations over the web to a full audience for every major growth markets in offshore renewables around the world.
“These events, with face to face advice from across the globe, has achieved huge amounts of success helping companies to plan their international business and seek and win international opportunities and position themselves for global growth from the East of England.
Encouraging the next generation of skilled workers has also been part of OrbisEnergy’s wider mission supporting career opportunities for the offshore wind industry’s future workforce, highlighting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects to young people.
Ms Snell said: “We often support student trips, STEM ambassadors and a range of activity days at OrbisEnergy, however, one particular event stands out for me where we worked with East Point Academy in Lowestoft, bringing together more than 20 of our key tenants and partners, including Innogy, ScottishPower Renewables, SSE, James Fisher Marine Services, Cefas and other industry leaders to inspire more than 400 young people to consider careers in the industry.”
Colin Noble, Leader of Suffolk County Council, said: “When OrbisEnergy opened nine years ago, we wanted it to play a key internationally-leading role in the development of offshore wind, attracting an international spotlight on our area and having an impact on business growth.
“It has delivered. OrbisEnergy has had an immense impact on the local economy, the UK energy supply and people’s lives and future employment opportunities in and around Lowestoft.
“Seeing businesses grow through new opportunities provided by OrbisEnergy, be that business support through the SCORE programme or exploring new markets through the international series, or by being OrbisEnergy tenants and working alongside potential clients, is exactly the role we wanted it to play. To see its immense success, with a world-leading industry developing off our coast and local businesses thriving, fully justifies the strategy and investment nine years ago.”
*OrbisEnergy will be the focus for Offshore Wind Week 2017 in the East of England on Friday when up to 200 representatives of operators and the supply chain gather to celebrate the industry and reveal future business opportunities on projects ahead.