Like the majority of the work the UK underwater engineering industry carries out, its contribution to the economy has been largely hidden from view nationally.
Last week’s announcement recognises the tremendous scale and high-growth, high-value potential of underwater engineering and technology across diverse sectors.
By creating a world-class hub, we can ensure the UK remains the global centre of expertise in this space and turns the natural resources from our oceans into sustainable economic opportunities.
With around £8billion in revenues, almost half of which are exports, and supporting 50,000 jobs, the underwater engineering industry is one of the largest and most important in the UK.
It leads the way around the world and is in pole position to increase its global share of a market which could be as much as £100 billion per annum by 2035.
While oil and gas still accounts for a large part of these annual revenues, the sector has expanded significantly and now also operates in offshore wind, wave and tidal, inter-continental subsea cables and connectors, through-water communication defence and oceanology.
Given the ground-breaking activities of the UK subsea industry in the past decades, it’s not surprising that growing opportunities for underwater capabilities are being more closely examined in these areas as well as in emerging sectors.
Crucially, as an acknowledged, stand-alone industry operating in offshore wind and growing foothold in marine renewables, aquaculture and deepsea mining, our industry can accelerate the transition to low carbon.
Subsea UK’s manifesto over the last few years has centred around support for the transfer of subsea expertise from energy, defence and oceanology into emerging markets, facilitating more concerted activities between Government, industry, education and academia to ensure a sustainable pipeline of talent into the sector, promoting further collaboration and co-ordination between agencies in pursuit of internationalisation and exports and helping secure sustained and strategic investment in a national subsea research and development programme.
With a global hub at its heart, these ambitions can be realised; creating and expanding new avenues and opportunities that result in a stronger supply chain, greater exports and diversification. This activity, in turn, delivers additional value to UK PLC and creates high-paid, sustainable employment.
As the established industry body, with the knowledge of what the supply chain needs, we’ve been at the centre of the development of the concept for the hub and, along with Scottish Enterprise, funded the work on the initial business case.
With an unrivalled 40-year track-record, our industry has the willingness and ability to diversify even further. We have an excellent education and training network in underwater engineering, a world-class research, development and innovation community and a highly skilled mobile workforce.
Aberdeen has long been recognised as a global centre of excellence in underwater engineering with the bulk of the supply chain located in the Granite City.
Since Subsea UK was formed in 2004 we have been pursuing the vision of turning that virtual centre of excellence into a physical focal point for the industry, harnessing all our strengths to maintain and grow our world leading position.
The aim of the hub is to build on our strengths and deliver much greater collaboration between the sectors in which we operate and between the research institutions across the country, to deliver a single export strategy and route to the commercialisation of new technologies with clarity on how funding, support and government agencies work together.
Recognising that not all underwater activity resides in Aberdeen, the hub would connect into regional spokes with a focus on the manufacturing capability in North-east England and the maritime capability in the South of England.
Placing the supply chain at the heart of the concept for the hub is vital and Subsea UK is playing a leading role in driving this forward.
After all, it’s the companies themselves who understand the demand and the opportunities, who will commercialise and export the technology, creating the jobs and wealth for our country.
This, in turn, will ensure that the UK is at the forefront of the global blue economy that will provide sustainable opportunities while helping fight climate change.