Joint Scotland-Japan initiative will focus on ‘disruptive tech’ for the subsea industry

L-R Tony Laing (NSRI), David Rennie (Scottish Enterprise), Neil Gordon (Subsea UK)

A joint initiative between Japan and Scotland will see almost £21million invested into underwater technology projects to promote economic growth opportunities in the ‘Blue Economy’.  

Industry body Subsea UK and its technology arm, NSRI, announced this week that through a ‘close working relationship’ between Scottish Enterprise and the Nippon Foundation, £20.9million will be invested into six R&D projects being developed by 20 companies from Scotland and Japan. 

Scottish Enterprise is supporting the initiative with £6.2 million in R&D funding to 12 Scottish companies, while Japan will contribute £4.1 million to the joint projects.

A further £10.6 million is being contributed by the Scottish companies into six projects with eight Japanese partners. These were chosen based on the potential of their near-to-market technology to solve technical challenges in offshore renewables, carbon capture and storage and oil and gas.

Under the six projects, the companies will collaborate with industry bodies and universities to develop innovations in mooring, installation systems, geoscience and artificial intelligence. 

The additional funding has been secured as a result of the success of the first call, promoted by this partnership, which saw £8.8million invested into five R&D projects centred around digitalisation involving 12 companies.

Neil Gordon, chief executive of Subsea UK, said: “Globally the Blue Economy is forecast to be worth £140 billion by 2035 and Scottish companies who can develop disruptive technology can capitalise on this opportunity. The scale of this opportunity was reflected in the response to the second call which has attracted projects that have applications across the entire underwater industry.

 “The increase in funding is in direct response to the success of the first call and the quality of submissions for the second call. Led by Scottish Enterprise, this initiative is a unique opportunity to engage with industry and academia across Scotland and Japan, renowned for their development of innovative technology.” 

Tony Laing, NSRI director for market research and acceleration, added: “This international programme, has matched industry with the right industry partner to create projects that bring value to Scotland and growth opportunities in the Blue Economy.  This approach, which is fully aligned to the country’s industrial strategy and low carbon targets, will accelerate economic growth but also present a wider opportunity for early adoption of the technology, advancing the sectors and the companies involved.” 

David Rennie, head of Oil and Gas, Scottish Enterprise said: “It is fantastic to see these projects coming to fruition and we are delighted to work with partners here in Scotland and Japan to support. It is particularly welcome to see the focus on the blue economy agenda. While our experience and focus in subsea has been based around oil and gas, these project awards clearly demonstrate that our subsea sector, one of our key global strengths, has the potential to help deliver technology solutions in a range of sectors beyond oil and gas. These projects will create significant value for the Scottish economy, and we are delighted to support them.” 

The Scottish Government’s External Affairs Secretary, Fiona Hyslop, was in Japan this week to strengthen trade and investment links. A launch in Yokohama, attended by senior executives from the subsea industry, heard how 12 Scottish companies will partner with Japanese firms to complete six projects. Collaborations involve companies from Aberdeen, Inverness, Edinburgh, Coatbridge and Livingston. They include an £8.3 million project to develop an offshore and subsea Internet Of Things infrastructure, and a £3.3 million venture to build a digital system which monitors floating structures.

Ms Hyslop said: “I am encouraged by the continued collaboration between Scotland and Japan in marine resource development and subsea technologies. In Scotland’s Climate Week, it’s good to see that a number of these projects contribute directly to reducing long-term CO2 emissions.

“The Scottish Government is committed to retaining our position as a global leader in subsea engineering – investing in our innovation infrastructure to grow Scotland’s market share and supporting opportunities in other sectors.”

Executive director Mr Unno from the Nippon Foundation said: “The theme of the second round of the Joint R & D is “Blue Economy”, which includes not only oil & gas but also a wide range of offshore wind and fisheries fields; and we have selected five projects utilizing the strengths of Japanese and Scottish technology.”

“I hope these projects will promote multisectoral collaboration, global partnerships and develop the new ocean development market.’’

The project forms part of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which was signed between Scottish Enterprise and the Japanese philanthropic organisation, The Nippon Foundation, at SPE Offshore Europe in 2017.

The extensive collaboration with Japan will make a strong contribution to the delivery of the Subsea Engineering Action Plan, launched by Scottish Enterprise in 2017, with the aim of helping Scottish companies capture an even bigger slice of the £50billion global subsea market.