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Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Borders Railway Exceeds Passenger Estimates

31/05/2016 - The Borders Railway Blueprint partnership, which seeks to maximise economic benefits from the new Borders Railway, today welcomed the Scottish Government announcement that passenger numbers have exceeded original estimates by almost a quarter in the first six months.

From opening last September through to the end of March this year, there have been 694,373 trips on Borders Railway, representing an increase of 22 per cent on projected figures prior to opening. It is estimated that passenger trips will be maintained at 21 per cent over expectations through to the end of the first year of operation.

The Blueprint partnership is chaired by Scottish Enterprise, and includes Transport Scotland, VisitScotland, Scottish Government and the three local authority areas on the route - Scottish Borders, Midlothian and City of Edinburgh - as well as Abellio ScotRail.

Danny Cusick, Senior Director for Textiles, Tourism, and Food & Drink at Scottish Enterprise and Chair of the Borders Railway Blueprint Leaders Group said: “With 126,350 trips more than anticipated in the first six months, it’s clear that there is demand for the new railway, even before the Blueprint partnership’s first phase of developments have been fully implemented.

“As part of these developments, the railway will open up new business and investment opportunities, connecting planned housing and mixed-use projects, business and industrial parks, and new visitor attractions.

“The recent announcement by global IT company CGI to locate a digital centre of excellence in the Scottish Borders which has the potential to create up to 200 new jobs is an encouraging early example of a significant investment decision linked to Borders Railway.”

EDAS May E-Bulletin Published

The latest Economic Development Association Scotland (EDAS) E-Bulletin has been published. For our latest news, upcoming events, courses and more, please click here

Scottish Government Sets out Economic Priorities following Reshuffle

31/05/2016 - The Scottish Government has recently announced its new Cabinet, which has the economy as one of its key priorities.

Keith Brown has taken up the newly created post of Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work and Derek Mackay has been appointed as Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution. The economy will also be at the centre of Fergus Ewing’s remit as he takes up the post of Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity.

Ahead of a parliamentary debate held on Tuesday 31 May, Keith Brown stated:

“Despite uncertain global conditions, and falling oil prices, our economy has continued to grow over the last year. This demonstrates that the fundamentals of our economy remain strong, but I am clear that we must substantially build on this position to help our firms and our people reach their full potential”.

“Today I will set out our plan to make Scotland a more productive country through innovation, investment, internationalisation and inclusive growth. At the heart of our actions will be a clear and unrelenting focus on creating a competitive and supportive business environment. I will listen carefully to constructive ideas about how we can support our economic growth put forward by MSPs from across the Chamber during the debate.

We can see the benefits of this already, as Scotland continues to be a very attractive location for business growth and inward investment. Just last week the Ernst and Young Attractiveness Survey ranked Scotland second to London for FDI across the UK, creating over 5,300 jobs in 2015. That is why we’ll aim to raise productivity and prosperity through the traditional drivers of investment in infrastructure, skills and innovation.

My appointment as a dedicated Cabinet Secretary for the economy should send a clear signal of this Government’s focus on stimulating growth, protecting and creating jobs and promoting Scotland as a great place to do business.”

In the debate, the Conservatives will call for changes to be made to the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT), which has replaced stamp duty on property sales in Scotland.
The party's finance spokesman Murdo Fraser will insist charges have been set too high, causing "a slowdown in the housing market at the upper ends, and a decline in tax revenues".

But he will say that "even a minor tweak could end the stagnation and bring in more, much needed, tax revenue".

Meanwhile, Green MSP John Finnie will call for more investment in decommissioning, renewables and energy efficiency programmes to counter the challenges faced by the oil and gas sector.

He said: "The decline of the oil and gas sector must be met with a managed transition to new industries rather than ever deeper tax cuts to encourage the extraction of resources that are ultimately unburnable.

"By investing now in viable alternatives such as decommissioning, renewables and energy efficient housing, we can transfer workers' skills and provide the long-term stability local economies across urban and rural Scotland need."

Friday, 27 May 2016

Vote in the Young Enterprise Scotland 2016 People’s Choice Award

The awards, designed to celebrate and recognise excellence in businesses created by young people, aged 16-18, are independently judged and require students to set up trade stands; submit a business report and deliver a business presentation.

Over 2000 students have taken part in this year's Young Enterprise Scotland Company Programme, creating more than 200 new businesses. Having already won their regional events the 15 finalists are set to compete for a chance to represent Scotland at the UK Finals held in London.

Follow the hashtag #YESawards on Twitter for regular updates and show your support by voting in The People’s Choice Award.

To see the finalists and to vote, see the original article in the Daily Record

Thursday, 26 May 2016

£200,000 to Develop Collaboration Services in Scotland

26/05/2016 - Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS) has announced it will invest £200,000 over the next three years into developing collaboration services for businesses.

The funds will help augment its existing Consortium development services, which offer consultancy to help businesses develop their collaborative proposition, by adding additional specialist resources for strategically important ventures.

CDS will also establish two new services: Collaborate to Export, aimed at helping businesses harness the benefits of collaboration to take their products or services into international markets; and Best Practice in Collaboration which will provide specialist support to help established collaborations with growth potential to improve operational effectiveness.

These services are set to launch later in the year after an initial period of research and development.

According to a recent independent impact report by ekosgen, 58% of surveyed businesses participating in new collaborative projects reported there was stronger leadership in their member organisations after joining a consortium, while 54% noted an increased confidence to trade. Almost four fifths attributed joining a consortium to increased local performance.

CDS director, Sarah Deas, said: “As competition for talent, resources and business across many sectors continues to rise, businesses are finding it necessary to look at new ways of tackling old challenges, and business collaboration can be the secret ingredient by enabling access to new ideas, assets and the combined strength which a collaborative venture offers.

“For SMEs looking to increase productivity, collaboration is increasingly a must-have, not a nice to have, which is why we’re developing new services. We aim to work with businesses across all sectors to promote collaboration in a way which drives profit and innovation.”

CDS’s collaboration offering is aimed at small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), for which the research reveals collaboration is not only beneficial, but increasingly an imperative in the face of rising global competition.

BIDs Vacancies

BIDs Scotland is advertising the following vacancies. Please click the links for more information.

Paisley First - Project Leader - Closes 13th June
Hamilton Our Town - Marketing and Events Co-ordinator - Closes 15th June

VentureFest Scotland, 1 September 2016

Venturefest Scotland takes place on Thursday 1 September 2016 at the Glasgow Science Centre and is free to attend.  The aim of the conference is to drive economic growth in Scotland through innovation with 750 - 1,000 high-growth, Scottish SMEs; entrepreneurs; investors and innovators expected to attend.

This year’s event links thematically to the Year of Architecture, Innovation and Design and will offer 12 practical, SME-focused workshops on a range of business topics including digitisation; business growth and funding growth.  The day will also include keynotes from business visionaries; a Meet the Expert programme of 1-2-1, pre-bookable appointments; an Innovation Showcase presenting 20 of Scotland’s most innovative SMEs and their ground-breaking products and services; a dynamic exhibition and two standalone digital training workshops from Google. For more details please visit:  www.venturefestscotland.co.uk

Register your interest now!
You and your networks/members can now register your interest in the event @ http://venturefestscotland.co.uk/.

Exhibition & Sponsorship Available
VentureFest is looking to source some strategic partners & sponsors for the event and there are also a number of exhibition opportunities available – please see the VentureFest website or contact VentureFest for more information.
Social media
The VentureFest hashtag is #VFestScot. Please follow us, like us, tweet us, retweet some of our content and/or join in group discussions on LinkedIn.  
 Feeder Events
There are a great programme of feeder events lined up in the lead up to the event - please do re-tweet about these and let people know they are taking place.  The programme can be viewed:  http://venturefestscotland.co.uk/feeder-sessions/

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Co-operative Development Scotland’s Annual Review 2015/16 Published

Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS) promotes company growth through collaborative and employee-owned business models. During 2015-16, it supported 29 new ventures and buy-outs and continued to nurture co-operative working and succession planning in Scotland.

Scotland can significantly benefit from more businesses adopting collaborative ways of working – it is a natural strategy for a country with a higher-than average proportion of small, ambitious and capable businesses.

In its 2015-16 annual report, CDS shows how it's helping Scottish firms to grow and prosper through collaborative working and employee ownership.
The business models it promotes contribute directly to the core objectives of the Government’s recently launched economic strategy, which aims to make the Scottish economy fairer and more internationally competitive.

Working together
Consortium co-operatives are established when businesses collaborate for a shared purpose – for example, to access new markets, jointly bid for contracts and increase levels of innovation. 
Last year, CDS supported the creation of 20 new consortia in key sectors, including food and drink, tourism, renewables and the creative industries. These strategic alliances will enable 76 businesses to reduce costs, share risks and create new platforms for growth.

Worthy winners
Every year we offer businesses a unique opportunity through our Collaboration Prize to receive £10,000 each towards a new venture. This year’s competition focused on the creative industries sector and attracted many high quality entries.
And the winners were...
  • Heritage technical experts ArchBlue Ltd
  • Aerial archivists Ecosse from Above
  • Literary destination Edinburgh’s Netherbow
  • Craft producers Orkney Tweed
  • Kettle of Fish
Kettle of Fish aims to create inspiring interactive storytelling apps for children, starting with its first idea – ‘Crocodile on the Roof’. Together its members will pool skills and resources to take each new story idea from start to finish. It will also create a platform for collaboration with other writers and artists as it develops new stories.

Succession planning
Succession planning continues to grow in importance. Selling an ownership stake to an employee trust is an increasingly popular way for owners to manage their exit and achieve a competitive price while safeguarding the long-term future of the company.
With CDS currently advising 131 companies, an increasing number of businesses are considering this model.
We aspire to achieve a tenfold increase in employee ownership over 10 years.
Edinburgh based lighting and AV specialist company, Black Light started their employee ownership journey in 2016, giving owner Gavin Stewart an exit strategy that allowed the firm
to continue to grow and flourish. A sale to the employees also recognised the contribution and commitment the staff had made to the company’s success.

Community ownership
Community co-operatives enable communities to deliver local projects, such as renewable energy and broadband. We are currently working with 13 community co-operatives in partnership with Community Shares Scotland and Local Energy Scotland.
Community owned Cultybraggan Camp is the last remaining WWII high security POW camp in the U.K (Camp 21). A community share offer provided the final piece of the funding package to refurbish a key group of vacant listed buildings within the camp. This project will give new life to these buildings as bunkhouse and self-catering accommodation. The development of accommodation at Cultybraggan is a key part of the visitor activity plan for the site, which is anticipated to attract 15,000 visitors each year.

Take the next step for your business
Get in touch if you want to:
  • Collaborate with other businesses or share ownership of a community service?
  • Sell your business to your employees?
  • Meet our employee ownership ambassadors?
Click here to access the full annual report.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Record Levels of Inward Investment into Scotland

24/05/2016 - Scotland achieved record-breaking levels of inward investment last year, a survey has found.

The latest EY (formerly Ernst & Young) Scotland Attractiveness Survey revealed 119 foreign direct investment (FDI) projects were secured in 2015.

The figure represented a 51% increase on the previous year, compared with 20% for the UK as a whole.

On the UK regional league table Scotland surpassed south east England to come second behind London.

Mark Harvey, EY senior partner, Scotland, said: "Scotland had a truly spectacular year for FDI in 2015, making some significant strides in key areas, resulting in a major step change in performance.

"Importantly, the majority of FDI projects for Scotland in 2015 were new rather than expansions.
"This ability to attract a higher proportion of new, first-time investors signals a positive future for Scotland.

"The challenge now is to not only maintain performance, but also take it to the next level and excel against the competition."

Scotland's 2015 record was also reflected by a considerable increase (52%) in the number of jobs created by FDI.

A total of 5,385 were secured in 2015, the second highest figure for the decade behind 2011 when 5,926 jobs were recorded.

The survey found:
  • Software attracted the greatest number of FDI projects (19)
  • Business services had a six-fold increase to 12
  • Utility supply achieved 10 projects, a five-fold increase.
  • Edinburgh landed the third spot in the UK top ten behind London and Manchester
  • Glasgow reached sixth and Aberdeen was joint 10th with Bristol and Cambridge.
Mr Harvey added: "Edinburgh and Glasgow have consistently been at the forefront of attracting inward investment to Scotland and have outdone themselves this time with a combined increase in projects of 40 in one year."

The US continues to be Scotland's primary investor but neither China nor India are in the top ten investors in Scotland, despite being the third and fifth biggest sources of investment respectively for the UK as a whole.

Holyrood's newly appointed economy secretary, Keith Brown, said the report showed that Scotland was "a great place to do business".

"In an increasingly competitive global market, it is encouraging that year after year, international firms are seeing Scotland as an attractive place to come and invest," he said.

"Over the next year we will be opening two new investment hubs, in London and in Brussels, to add to our hub in Dublin, and will be working hard to continue to promote the skills, talents and location that make Scotland such a successful place to do business."

UK government minister Andrew Dunlop said the figures demonstrated "a huge amount of confidence in Scotland".

He added: "The country has put the uncertainty of the independence referendum behind it, and it is great news that major international companies are responding to that stability by investing in Scotland.
"This demonstrates clearly the benefit for Scotland's economy and Scottish jobs of being part of the 
UK, one of the world's fastest-growing major advanced economies.

"But we cannot be complacent and it is vital that we continue, working with the Scottish government, to deliver economic growth for Scotland."

Source: BBC News

Regional Employment Patterns in Scotland: Statistics from the Annual Population Survey, 2015

24/05/2016 - The Scottish Government has produced a summary publication of results from the Annual Population Survey 2015, presenting analysis on the labour market, education and training. Results are provided for Scotland and local authority areas in Scotland. See the full publication here.

Executive Summary
• Record high employment level seen in 2015, driven by the second highest women’s employment level since comparable records began.
• Employment rates for women increased to 70.2%, the highest since comparable records began.
• The gender employment gap in Scotland was 6.0 percentage points, 4.0 percentage points lower than the UK and the lowest since comparable records began.
• Gap between employment rates of disabled and non-disabled people was almost 40 percentage points.
• Men driving decrease in employment rates for younger workers since 2008, while women drive increase for those aged 50-64.
• Youth employment rates increased in 21 local authority areas over the year as overall youth employment rate in Scotland increased by 3.0 percentage points to 56.2%.
• Number of workers aged 65 and over has almost doubled since 2004, helping drive higher employment rates for older workers.
• Full-time employment levels for women increased to 727,500, the highest level since comparable records began.
• Private sector employment in 2015 was 1,876,500 - amongst the highest on record since the series began.
• A record high 48.4% of working people (aged 16-64) have Further or Higher education qualifications (or equivalent) in Scotland.
• Over a third (34.6%) of workers aged 25-64 in Scotland were graduates in 2015 – the highest on record from the APS.
• Unemployment rate decreased by 0.4 percentage points to 5.8% over the year, but is still 0.9 percentage points higher than in 2008.
• The youth unemployment rate in Scotland decreased by 2.7 percentage points over the year to 14.3% in 2015.
• The number of 16-19 year olds who were NEET in 2015 increased by 3,000 over the year to 23,000.
• Less than half (48.4%) of all unemployed people in Scotland have been unemployed for more than 6 months.

Scottish Government to Create International Council of Education Advisors

24/05/2016 - The new Scottish Government Cabinet has held its first meeting, discussing the key priority areas of education and the economy.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon convened the meeting with her Cabinet Secretaries at Bute House as the Government continued its return to business.

The meeting comes ahead of a statement to Parliament tomorrow (Wednesday) on the Government’s priorities.

One of the first decisions taken at Cabinet is the formation of an International Council of Education Advisers, which will see a panel of internationally renowned experts advising the government on improvements to the education system and on lessons that can be learned from other countries.
The panel, which will be formed over the summer, will include experts in closing the attainment gap, achieving equity and system reform.

It follows the First Minister and Deputy First Minister’s pledge to ensure Scotland’s education system is world class, to close the attainment gap and to widen access to higher and further education for those from deprived backgrounds.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

“Education is my focus and this announcement demonstrates our determination to learn lessons from around the world to ensure that Scotland is a global leader in education.

“Giving every child in Scotland an excellent education and improving prospects for all our young people is at the heart of the Scottish Government’s priorities this term.

“This independent body of international experts will challenge and scrutinise our plans as we look to return Scotland to the top of class.”

On the Cabinet meeting, Ms Sturgeon added:
“The Cabinet has been shaped to reflect our key priorities of education and the economy, and both topics were top of the agenda at the meeting.

“We have a vision to take Scotland forward and we are wasting no time in getting back to business and implementing this plan.”

Monday, 23 May 2016

Job Opportunity – Principal Economist, Peter Brett Associates LLP (PBA)

23/05/2016 - Peter Brett Associates LLP (PBA) are recruiting a Principal Economist for their Glasgow office. Please read below for details. Click here for details of how to apply.
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Our contribution to development and regeneration is ever expanding and we’re looking for someone to join our team in Glasgow to provide a broad range of economic advice to our clients in support of their development and strategy ambitions.

This is a unique opportunity to work alongside acknowledged expertise across a truly multi-disciplinary business to develop new business relationships and deliver excellence for our clients.
 You are likely have at least 5 years post graduate experience in an economics / development environment, marshalling economic arguments in making the case for development and / or policy. 
Key responsibilities:
  • Reinforce our economics team in Scotland in response to a combination of existing workloads, emerging City Deal opportunities and making the economic case in support of our clients development  ambitions
  • Project support through management, analysis and delivery; and delegation of appropriate tasks to junior staff
  • Work winning capability
  • Maintain and build positive client relationships
Key requirements:
  • Understanding and experience of operating in the Scottish market
  • Demonstrated work winning ability through client and network relationships
  • Effective bid writing capability
  • Economics or related degree
  • Experience of public and private sector requirements, economic impact assessments and appraisals, business case development
  • Excellent understanding of economic principles associated with development and infrastructure
  • Preparing evidence bases and analysis as part of Business Cases and/or planning application or Development Plan preparation
  • Good communicator and facilitator, orally and in writing – authoring reports and co-ordinating inputs.
Benefits
We offer a competitive salary and flexible benefits package, which includes contributory pension plan, discretionary bonus scheme and flexible benefits allowance.
To Apply

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

New Figures Give Insight into Key Equality Outcomes across Scotland

Figures of unprecedented detail for local areas and equality groups analysed over a three year period were released today by Scotland’s Chief Statistician.

The Scottish Surveys Core Questions draw data from the three major Scottish surveys (Health, Household and Crime & Justice) into one output. The accepted source of statistics at the Scotland level is from each of the three contributing surveys.

A free by-product of these existing surveys, SSCQ provides a rich source of outcomes data of over 21,000 people per year. This is a large sample and enables detailed and meaningful analysis for small equality characteristic groups, including ethnic groups, country of birth, sexual orientation, religious identity and disability. Statistics are also provided for sub-national geographies including Local 
Authorities, Health Boards and Police Scotland Division Areas.

The figures released today were produced by independent statistical staff in accordance with professional standards set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics. The following are a small sample of the breadth of insights now available.

The SSCQ data continues to show strong associations between deprivation and a range of poorer outcomes, like poor self-assessed general health, prevalence of smoking and disability and lower levels of mental wellbeing. However in the 2012-2014 period, adults in the 20% most deprived areas are increasingly likely to report that the crime rate in their local area has stayed the same or fallen.
Those in the most deprived areas are, compared to the Scottish population as a whole, more likely to be:
  • under 35,
  • disabled people
  • from the White: Polish or "all other" ethnic groups (including those people identifying as mixed or multiple ethnic group, African, Caribbean or Black, Arab or "Other")
  • Roman Catholics
  • Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & other orientation
  • born in the EU outside the UK
Smoking rates amongst those with a limiting health condition is 40% higher than those without; however this has reduced from 2012 to 2014 at the same rate as the national level. Over the three years there has been a clear reduction in smoking rates overall, in particular for those aged 35-44 and 55-64. Those born in Scotland have also reported a clear reduction in smoking rates over time. The White Polish ethnic group has higher smoking rates than the Scottish national average.

Since 2012, there has been a significant reduction in the proportion of 55-64 and 65-74 year-olds reporting long-term limiting health conditions, falling 2.6 and 1.8 % points respectively.

Those born in the wider EU or UK but not Scotland report higher levels of good or very good health and have higher mental well-being scores compared to those born in Scotland. This is not an effect of the different age profiles in these groups. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and other sexual orientations also report poorer levels of general health and lower mental wellbeing scores compared to heterosexuals.

Members of the Church of Scotland are more likely to report providing unpaid care compared to other religions or those identifying as having no religion even when the age distribution of these different groups is taken into account.

The full statistical publication Scottish Surveys Core Questions 2014 is available athttp://www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/About/Surveys/SSCQ/SSCQ2014.

Unemployment in Scotland Rises for Third Time in a Row

18/05/2016 - Unemployment in Scotland has risen for the third time in a row, according to official figures.
The jobless total went up by 8,000 between January and March to stand at 169,000.
UK unemployment fell by 2,000 over the same period to 1.69m, according to data from the Office for National Statistics.
The jobless rate north of the border is now 6.2%, compared with 5.1% for the whole of the UK.
Employment in Scotland fell by 53,000 over the three months to March to stand at 2,578,000.
The rate is now 73.1% - below the UK average of 74.2%.
The number of people claiming Job Seeker's Allowance (JSA) in Scotland fell by 600 between March and April to 57,400 - 21,100 fewer than a year ago.

'Ongoing challenges'
Scottish Fair Work Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: "Today's statistics highlight ongoing challenges in Scotland's labour market.
"Despite this, there are 141,000 more people now working in Scotland compared to the low during the recession.
"We saw record numbers in employment in Scotland during 2015 but employment rates are perhaps now starting to reflect the current economic challenges we are facing, in particular in the oil and gas industry."
Scottish Conservative finance spokesman Murdo Fraser said it was "deeply disappointing" that unemployment had risen for a third time in a row in Scotland.
He added: "The SNP government cannot evade responsibility for this failure, as the gap between UK and Scottish unemployment rates continues to grow.
"The UK government is doing its bit on the economy - that's been proven beyond doubt over the last few years.
"But the Nationalists like hiding behind the constitution, and are coming up with no fresh ideas to find people the work they need."

'Urgent action needed'
Scottish Labour public services spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: "It is clear that there is no future for Scotland as a low-wage, low-skill economy.
"We have to invest in education to give our people the skills they need to compete for the jobs of the future."
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: "We need urgent action to ensure that we can build a strong sustainable economy and that starts with a transformational investment in education so businesses can hire the skilled staff they need."
Scottish Trades Union Congress general secretary Grahame Smith said the latest statistics were "worrying".
He added: "The Scottish labour market is experiencing a grim year and survey evidence suggests employment will continue to fall.
"The Scottish government must quickly reassess whether its programme for the current year is sufficiently employment maximising."

'Unsettling figures'
The Federation of Small Businesses said the "unsettling jobs figures should trigger an amber alert for Scotland's governments".
The organisation's head of external affairs in Scotland, Colin Borland, added: "The decline in the oil and gas industry is obviously a factor - with the impact now being felt beyond the north of the country and the immediate supply chain.
"But, right across the economy, many small businesses are grappling with a raft of new regulatory changes, including the National Living Wage and new pension rules.
"These changes may be dampening recruitment intentions in our vital service sector."
Source: BBC News

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Highlands and Islands Enterprise Reports End of Year Results

17/05/2016 - The chair of Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), Professor Lorne Crerar, has praised the region’s businesses for their role in delivering a successful year of investment and job creation.

Year-end figures compiled by HIE show an estimated 855 jobs are expected to be created or retained in the region, as a result of the organisation’s investments during the year; 124 of these in fragile areas. Turnover among supported businesses and social enterprises is anticipated to increase by £140 million over three years and international sales by £90 million, following HIE’s support.

The region’s social economy turnover is forecast to increase by almost £4 million, £1.8 million of this by community-owned assets.

A number of major infrastructure projects moved forward, including the opening of Inverness Campus, Nigg South Quay and and Lochboisdale Port, and completion of new business premises at Sandbank near Dunoon.

HIE subsidiary Wave Energy Scotland completed its first full year inoperation. And digital connectivity continued to improve for businesses and households across the region, with the number of premises with access through the HIE-led Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband project reaching 122,000.

Professor Crerar said: “The current challenges facing industries, businesses and commercial growth worldwide are well documented. The progress we have seen in the Highlands and Islands over the past year, in the context of those challenges, is testament to the superb levels of ambition, entrepreneurship and innovation that thrives in businesses, social enterprises and communities across our region.

“HIE’s role is to foster those qualities and invest in initiatives that stimulate and enable growth. I am delighted we have been able to make such good progress and look forward to working with partners and clients to continue to grow the region’s economy in the years ahead.”

The organisation also helped attract six foreign direct investments which are expected to deliver 218 jobs and secure investment of £111 million for the region. These include Norbord’s plans to invest £95 million in its Inverness mill and CS Wind UK’s acquisition of Wind Towers Scotland in Machrihanish, which is set to safeguard over 130 skilled jobs and create a further 70.
In delivering its community development remit, HIE is now supporting 84 groups to acquire and manage assets ranging from shop premises to lifeline services to whole estates. Last year, 14 groups received £301,000 HIE investment against total project costs of £2.4m.

A further 20 projects across the country (11 in the Highlands and Islands) received Scottish Land Fund support for land acquisition. Investment of £3.2 million, administered by HIE and Big Lottery, brought 42,121 acres into community ownership. A total of 52 communities have been awarded £10.8 million since the fund was launched in 2012.

There was major progress in specific sectors, such as life sciences, tourism, food and drink, energy and creative industries. This included £8.5 million investment by HIE subsidiary, Wave Energy Scotland, in 35 research and development projects, and two new life sciences ventures at the Alexander Graham Bell Centre in Moray.

Last year marked 50 years since HIE’s predecessor, the Highlands and Islands Development Board (HIDB), was established. The anniversary, combined with Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink provided a platform to showcase the region’s produce and the growing success of the food and drink and tourism sectors in particular.

New creative industry networks helped 250 businesses receive in-depth support and held 40 events across the region. These included the first Shetland Creative Industries Forum and the successful HIE-funded XpoNorth festival, which drew a record attendance of 1,465 to Inverness.

The year also saw the completion of a three-year entrepreneurship programme. This enabled account managed clients to tap into the knowledge and expertise of one of the world’s leading business schools, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The number of premises with access to superfast broadband through the HIE-led Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband project, reached 122,000 in 2015/16. HIE-led Community Broadband Scotland (CBS), which supports communities in the country’s most hard-to-reach areas beyond the scope of mainstream fibre rollout, approved grants totalling £1.6 million and covering 2,100 premises.
HIE’s regional IT Engagement programme focused on helping organisations understand and capitalise on the new opportunities that improved connectivity presents. More than 35 businesses received a 

‘Digital Health Check’ and 750 delegates attended 68 digital workshops.
Activities to improve the region’s appeal to young people meanwhile included the extension of ScotGrad , the popular graduate placement programme run in the region by HIE, to include placements with social businesses. Fifty two new graduates were placed with businesses across the Highlands and Islands during the year.

A HIE study into the attitudes towards and aspirations of young people towards the Highlands and Islands reported that more than half of those who took part said they believe the region is a better place to live now than it was five years ago. A similar number think it will be better still in the next five years.

Professor Crerar added: “Many of the challenges facing our economy last year remain with us still. Oil prices are still very low. Public sector budgets are under pressure; something that will affect social enterprise in particular. However, a growing resilience, coupled with the innovation and drive across the business sector means that the Highlands and Islands is well placed to meet these challenges, continue to grow and prosper and remain competitive internationally.”
Source: HIE News

Monday, 16 May 2016

Resource Efficient Scotland: Free Training in June

There are many actions you can take to reduce energy, water and waste costs and improve your organisation's environmental impact. But to ensure performance and costs are kept under control, knowing how to effectively measure and monitor your resource use is a critical business skill.
During June, the Resource Efficient Scotland programme is delivering training to teach these valuable skills to Scottish SMEs, for FREE. Join the training and you will be able to:
  • Save money by identifying patterns of wasteful behaviour.
  • Engage staff with accurate performance information.
  • Impress senior management with the savings your projects achieve.
  • Fix problems quickly such as burst pipes and faulty equipment that otherwise go undetected and eat away at profits.
  • Compare your performance and see how you shape up against others.
The training includes an interactive half-day workshop at Edinburgh Zoo on 1 June (with free Zoo entry and lunchtime Panda viewing) and a webinar series.
Find out more and book your place here (http://ow.ly/4ngYXE

Have your say - what free support would help you save energy, water and waste?
Resource Efficient Scotland runs very popular, free training events and develops supporting resources to help Scottish organisations use energy, raw materials and water more efficiently. Their aim is to help all organisations in Scotland save money and reduce environmental impact.
They would like to better understand what help you may need in the future by knowing what steps you’ve already taken and any new initiatives you are planning. Just 5 minutes of your time will help Resource Efficient Scotland continue to offer training and resources that you and your business would value most. Pleaseclick here to share your views before the survey closes at noon on 26 May.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband Programme at Two Years

Written by Sara Budge, Programme Director, Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband on 9 May 2016 in Holyrood Magazine.

Commercial providers’ projections showed that by the end of 2017, they planned to have rolled out the technology to 66 per cent of Scottish premises. This meant that 34 per cent of Scottish premises would still be unable to access and benefit from the faster upload and download speeds which come with this new technology.

As a result of these findings, in 2014 the £410m Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband (DSSB) programme was launched to installthe infrastructure required to bring faster speeds to as many people as possible, in the areas which weren’t going to be covered by the commercial roll out of fibre broadband.

The DSSB programme is a key part of the Scottish Government’s plans to ensure that Scotland is a world class digital nation by 2020, The level of funding invested in the programme means that, by the time the programme’ s rollout is complete in March 2018, 95 per cent of homes and businesses across Scotland will be able to connect.

The DSSB rollout consists of two projects – one covering the Highlands and Islands area and the other covering the rest of Scotland. Funding partners include the Scottish Government, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, BT, the UK Government through Broadband Delivery UK (BUD), local authorities and the European Regional Development Fund.

The DSSB programme is one of the most ambitious infrastructure programmers in Europe. Sara Budge, Programme Director for the DSSB rollout explains the challenges: “When planning a rollout on this scale you need to take into account many factors including geography, planning requirements, the existing engineering infrastructure, getting electricity to the new roadside cabinets and even the weather and local nature. “

Despite these challenges the programme is currently running ahead of schedule. It’s now two years since the first DSSB funded fibre cabinet went live and the following milestones have been reached:
  • Over 400 km of cabling has been laid under the sea in 20 sub-sea connections
  • A further  6,200 km of cabling has been laid  in the ground
  • People in all local authorities across Scotland are already benefitting from the programme
  • 2484 fibre cabinets have been stood, of which 2455 have gone live
  • Over 580,000 premises are already able to connect to fibre broadband thanks to the Digital Scotland rollout, with more to follow. This, figure, together with the commercial rollout means, that already 85 per cent of homes and businesses in Scotland are able to receive fibre broadband (according to Ofcom’s Connected Nations report.)
In order to reap the benefits of fibre broadband, people need to contact their internet service provider and ask to switch to superfast broadband, as upgrades over to the new network are not automatic.

For more information on the DSSB programme and to find out where and when fibre broadband will rollout in your area visit www.scotlandsuperfast.com
Source: Holyrood.com

Monday, 2 May 2016

Crowdsourcing Initiative for a World Towns Agreement Launched

02/05/2016 - A key result of the World Towns Leadership Summit 15-16 June, Edinburgh, will be the creation and signing of the World Towns Agreement: A Public-Private-Social Vision for Urban Centres – co-produced with the Academy of Urbanism, CLES and Architecture and Design Scotland. A milestone in urban development for the 21st century, the Agreement will be shared worldwide to help influence international authorities and governments, and to drive forward a new vision of civic governance.

In his article Working Globally to Shape Policy Locally, David Downey, CEO of the International Downtown Association and leading urban development figure, explained the importance of the Summit and the Agreement, stating they would “shape the leadership positions we will convey to the world for years to come”. 

Meanwhile Phil Prentice, Chief Officer of Scotland’s Towns Partnership, has added his voice to the need for a new agenda on towns and urban districts, which the Agreement will embody. In a recent article he stated, “All roads are leading to Edinburgh this summer; the world is coming to talk towns, the future, social justice and environmentally sustainable communities…join us at the World Towns Leadership Summit in Our Dynamic Earth in June to see how we can start building a better world”.

This document pulls together all the early thinking around the Agreement and creates a platform for debate around the four pillars of Economy, Identity, Environment and Governance.  We want to hear from you! Do you think that this approach will work? How can it be improved?

This is your chance to comment, feedback and add your own thoughts to this developmental stage of the World Towns Agreement.