Marine Renewable Energy Networking – with Selkie and the Enterprise Hub
Selkie is a new €4.2m cross-border project aiming to boost the marine energy industry in Wales and Ireland. The project brings together researchers and businesses, with the aim of improving the performance of Wave and Tidal marine energy devices. The project activity will establish a cross-border network of developers and supply chain companies in Ireland and Wales.
Selkie will test and validate the technology tools on two pilot demonstration technologies, one wave and one tidal. University College Cork are leading the project in partnership with Swansea University, Marine Energy Wales, Menter Môn, DP Energy Ireland and Gavin and Doherty Geosolutions, Dublin.
The Enterprise Hub – a business support project established to support start-ups in any sector, was joined by the Selkie Project for an online networking session in mid-January. The session was an opportunity to hear from companies working in the Marine Renewable Energy sector, and learn about the business opportunities available.
This was an exciting opportunity for smaller businesses hoping to be part of the supply chain, providing them with an opportunity to network, form new partnerships, and be in a position to collaborate to apply for larger contracts. It was a particularly important event to provide opportunities to start ups in a growth sector.
Attendees included Gareth Stockman, CEO of Marine Power systems, who noted that the company currently has some tenders out for design work, and a lot of manufacturing work on the horizon as well, where they will be trying to secure as much Welsh supply chain as possible.
Opportunities came from diversification as well, as Matt Tuck of Matom, a company historically working in the nuclear sector, noted. “There is a lot of transferability of skills and services between the marine and nuclear environment, as they have similarities particularly in terms of the nature of their environment.”
Tony Collingbourne, of Bartlett Engineering (a provider of machining services) expanded upon the discussion from an ecological viewpoint, bringing into focus the fact that there is increasing global concern around the environment and that working with projects and sectors that help the environment – as well as providing fresh opportunities for growth – are to be welcomed.
Sasha Wynn Davies – Director Sasha Wynn Cyf/Ltd, said, “Wales has a good track record of innovative SMEs working in the growing marine renewables sector and other companies that could adapt their product/services and knowledge transfer in to this growth sector. There are already some excellent networks like Marine Energy Wales, Selkie and the Enterprise Hub @ M-SParc but more North Wales companies should get involved and engage more widely across this exciting sector. I also think there is a real need and opportunity to raise awareness and educate young people in schools, further and higher education regarding the potential and need for marine renewables to be part of the energy mix, as well as explaining future local job opportunities, good ‘home grown’ jobs.”
This discussion brought out a theme of growth and development, with the current developments in the Marine sector being compared to the oil and gas industry in their heyday. The key difference, of course, being that Marine energy is an infinite resource with ample opportunities in both Wales and Ireland for development.
Paul Flower, of Pennant Flower, a company based at the Menai Science Park where the Hub’s main office is located, stated that as Marine is such a new sector, the Health & Safety is being developed extremely well, with no ‘bad lessons’ emerging from previous sectors. A lesson Paul advised could be learnt was to make more opportunity of the ports along the Welsh coast, in order to reduce travel distance of Marine energy equipment to its destination.
All the discussions accumulated into advice for the supply chain, and those companies who hope to benefit from opportunity in the sector. The advice was that many projects and companies carrying out work in the Marine sector are publicly funded, and therefore are required to tender across Europe, and sometimes even further afield. In order to secure an advantage, Welsh companies were advised to:
- Register on Sell2Wales; this is one of the most common ways companies who must procure services will put out tenders, and it’s highly recommended that those who are interested in becoming part of the supply chain register.
- Ensure they had externally approved credentials; anything such as green credentials and Health & Safety credentials all help in terms of tendering, as they show the company keeps up with training and has a safe and reliable workforce.
- Competition is international; however, being in Wales helps Welsh companies make their tender more cost-effective, as there should be less transport and travel costs.
Ultimately, the message was that it’s not just about who can make the quickest and cheapest offer, but about providing real quality and demonstrating value.