Vicky Grant, HIE's head of international trade and investment (credit: Gillian Frampton/HIE)

This year is shaping up to be a strong one for inward investment to the Highlands and Islands, as the global appeal of the region continues.

Four projects already confirmed represent combined investment of over £1.1m and are set to bring more than 65 jobs.

Meanwhile, we have a strong pipeline of 50 or so enquiries from companies interested in the region as a location for new inward investment projects. Nine of these are at an advance stage of engagement. Then there’s the additional 60 early-stage enquiries.

It probably goes without saying that investment from companies owned outside of Scotland is crucial in growing the economy of the Highlands and Islands.

We only have to look at some of the previous projects led by many of the region’s largest employers to see the impact it can have.

In recent years there’s BASF in the Outer Hebrides, Orbex in Moray, LifeScan in Inverness, and Webhelp in Argyll. These are all companies owned elsewhere but making significant investment in the region.

Our role in all this is two-fold. On one hand it’s about attracting new companies to the region and on the other we’re looking to support new projects by existing investors.

The current interest in the region continues to be diverse and across many sectors. Space, health technology and life sciences all feature strongly, but energy is definitely the dominant theme. Two of the three confirmed projects are energy-related (the third being in the financial and business services sector).

The energy sector’s interest in this part of the world is of course not new. We have a long history of association with the oil and gas sector and many natural advantages in areas such as green energy and offshore wind. These regional qualities, along with the skills and experience of the workforce, has helped attract interest for many years.

Now, the Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport is generating a lot of additional energy related enquiries, not just at the Freeport site but across wider supply chain opportunities around the region.

We’re seeing increasing numbers of enquiries from Asia Pacific, which is in line with national trends and the opportunities around green energy and the supply chain.

Japanese company, Sumitomo Electric Industries, plans to establish a subsea electric cable manufacturing plant in the Highlands. We are working hard to secure this project, which could see £250m in new investment and 150 new jobs created.

It takes many months, often years, for inward investment projects to come to fruition but with interest at its current level, we can be optimistic about attracting many new projects in the years ahead.

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