An event looking at growing research in marine renewable energy is taking place in Inverness this week, alongside Scotland's largest marine energy conference. The Marine Renewables Research Capacity event will gather researchers from across the Highlands and Islands, aiming to agree on how to grow the already developed research expertise in the area and look at how to exploit commercialisation opportunities.
It is estimated that there are over 70 research staff focusing on marine renewables in the region, many of whom are collaborating on Scottish and international research projects and linking to universities. The main universities involved in the region are Aberdeen, Heriot Watt, and UHI, the prospective University of the Highlands and Islands. This research capacity has grown significantly over the last three years, with new research projects being developed by a number of institutions in the area including the Environmental Research Institute (ERI) based at North Highland College UHI in Thurso, the Scottish Association for Marine Science UHI (SAMS) at Dunstaffnage in Argyll and Lews Castle College UHI in Stornoway, all partners in UHI, the prospective University of the Highlands and Islands.
This event will be held in parallel with the Scottish Renewables Marine Energy Conference. The two-day conference, beginning today (November 24 and 25) at the Drumossie Hotel in Inverness, will set out the challenges facing the industry over the next 30 years and raise awareness of the skills and services required by the sector. Over 250 delegates, including international technology and project developers, supply chain businesses and stakeholders are expected to attend.
Morven Cameron, Head of Research for HIE, said: "The strength of the region's research base in this priority sector for HIE is a significant factor in helping to accelerate marine renewables. By growing the number of researchers in this area, increasingly the Highlands and Islands will be seen by developers as the place to access the relevant expertise, resulting in a clustering effect. Ideal next steps will be to ensure improved co-ordination of research activity and the development of a portal for businesses and individuals to be able to easily access this vital knowledge."
Ongoing initiatives include MaREE (Marine Renewable Energy and the Environment), MREDS (Marine Renewable Energy Development in Scotland) and MASTS (Marine Alliance for Science & Technology Scotland). The recently launched MaREE project focuses on the environmental issues surrounding the development of renewable energy and the social impacts and is being undertaken in partnership between ERI, a leading centre for environmental research based at North Highland College UHI in Thurso, and SAMS.
SAMS is a major player in the UK in marine science and is increasingly involved in marine renewables, either through joint initiatives with ICIT such as MASTS or its own BIOMARA project, which is looking at using algae to generate carbon neutral sources of energy.
The Heriot-Watt International Centre for Island Technology (ICIT) is based in Orkney and physically located next door to Europe's pre-eminent marine renewables test site at EMEC. With almost three decades of experience in energy-related research and presently leading the MREDS programme (including involvement from UHI, Strathclyde and Glasgow University) it is well positioned to help drive this agenda forward
Mike Weston, Director of UHI's Energy Research Group, said: "As a result of unparalleled natural resources, world class capabilities and the strong will of key stakeholders, the Highlands and Islands is firmly established as the heart of the growing opportunity that is marine renewables. To deliver the full benefits that this opportunity presents to us demands that strong partnerships with co-ordinated activities are forged both across and outside the region. UHI with its geographical spread of research expertise and world class communication networks is proud to be working alongside its academic and industrial partners in meeting these challenges."