Challenges and opportunities
The cyclical nature of the energy industry consistently creates challenges and opportunities for supply chain companies
However, one constant is the interest in British innovation, skills and technology from international markets, which benefits UK companies, including the strong energy sector cluster in the North East of England.
Diversifying into new markets
Joanne Leng MBE, Deputy Chief Executive of NOF Energy and Deputy Chair of Energi Coast, explained: “In the face of challenging market conditions, the region has maximised on its ability to diversify into new and complementary markets, building upon the expertise it established through its services to the oil & gas industry, firstly in UK waters then subsequently in markets around the world from South America to Western Australia.
“One of the most prominent examples of diversification has taken place in the offshore wind industry where members and particularly those in the North East of England, have been at the vanguard of the sector.”
The North East has a very active and diverse supply chain and has been at the forefront of the industry from the outset due to its innovative approach, key location and excellent infrastructure.
And now, there are a growing number of North East businesses making significant contributions to offshore wind projects across Europe. This is why the region is seen as having the potential to become a key hub for the offshore wind sector. Developers outside of Europe are also looking at North East suppliers to assist with the next wave of offshore wind projects.
To support the activities of the region’s companies, Energi Coast, the North East of England’s offshore renewables supply chain cluster was set up in 2011 to promote the region’s vast and varied capabilities in offshore wind.
Featuring 20 NOF Energy members active in the sector, Energi Coast is charged with highlighting the key competencies of North East England’s wider integrated energy sector supply chain and the collaborative approach being taken by the region’s companies to bring innovation and technology to projects.
James Ritchie, new Chairman of Energi Coast and CEO of Tekmar Group PLC commented: “The cluster continues to grow, through engagement with innovation and technology organisations, working with local academia, training companies and full support from the Local Enterprise Partnerships and other stakeholders means we provide a one-stop-shop for any companies looking for sector expertise or support to locate in a key offshore wind hub in the UK.”
Claim to fame
James continued: “When it comes to offshore wind, our claim to fame is the fact the UK’s first offshore windfarm was located in Blyth. Things have moved on, we now have the ORE Catapult based in Blyth, it is the UK’s leading technology, innovation and research centre for offshore renewable energy.”
Recently, the concrete gravity-based foundation (GBF) destined for the new EDF Energy Renewables Blyth Offshore Demonstrator Windfarm was fitted with a ground-breaking sensor system designed by the ORE Catapult.
This is just one example of how the region is leading the way in driving innovation forward with others, such as those with subsea expertise including Tekmar Group PLC, SMD, Modus, Royal IHC and DeepOcean playing an important role in the sector.
The expertise demonstrated by these and other NOF Energy members in the offshore wind sector has gained traction in international markets where their products and services can be effectively applied.
Many members working in offshore wind are successfully exporting to the USA, China, Taiwan and many European markets. NOF Energy has led trade delegations on offshore wind to Taiwan, Germany and the USA, many of those who participated winning sizeable contracts.
Conference and exhibition
The region will be the focus for the sector later this year when it hosts the Offshore wind North East Conference and Exhibition each year, a high profile event organised by NOF Energy and Energi Coast.
It attracts between 300-400 delegates and up to 50 exhibitors. Returning on 8th November 2018, the conference and exhibition will showcase the experience and capabilities of the region’s companies as well as the prospects open to them in the future.
Highlighting key offshore wind projects in the UK and internationally is always key to the agenda.
“It will also be an excellent networking opportunity, which is always an attractive proposition for supply chain companies keen to build relationships with Developers and Contractors who speak at and attend the event. As always, making the right connections at the event for members is part of the NOF Energy ethos,” concluded Joanne.
NOF Energy & Energi Coast