A renewable energy conference in Stornoway is set to lead to expenditure of almost £350,000 in the local economy.
Scotland’s First Minister is currently on Lewis for a Scottish Government Cabinet meeting, and welcomed the fact that around 220 renewables experts from around the world will descend on the island in two weeks’ time for the EIMR (Environmental Interactions of Marine Renewables) international conference.
Supported by the VisitScotland Conference Bid Fund and part of the Homecoming Scotland 2014 programme, the event is intended to show how marine energy technologies can be integrated into coastal areas in a sustainable manner. It will also demonstrate why the Outer Hebrides is “one of the best marine energy resources in Europe”.
Organised by the University of the Highlands and Islands, the two-day conference will take place in the An Lanntair Arts Centre from 30 April to 1 May and will be supplemented on either side by two days of workshops and field trips.
It will showcase the findings of the Hebridean Marine Energy Futures project, as well as give delegates from the likes of North America, China and Australia the chance to visit the proposed site of the world’s largest wave farm off the north-west coast of Lewis.
Mr Salmond said: ““The Scottish Government is working with our island communities to make the most of unrivalled natural, economic and cultural assets, creating opportunities and jobs that strengthen island economies.
“Scotland’s islands possess huge, untapped renewables potential and a skilled and enterprising workforce to turn that potential into tangible economic benefits.
“We’ve already seen that the whole of Scotland has a wealth of distinctive venues and top class accommodation and VisitScotland’s Conference Bid Fund is attracting major business events bringing an immediate economic stimulus to Scotland, showcasing to an international audience the rich assets that Scotland has to offer global businesses.
“This conference will provide a significant boost to businesses across the Outer Hebrides and showcase the opportunities to develop a major industry for the islands’ future.”
Neil Brownlee, Head of VisitScotland’s Business Tourism Unit (BTU), said: “The Conference Bid Fund highlights the long-term potential and sustainable nature of business tourism and business events in Scotland and has helped to attract conferences to all corners of Scotland.
“Events such as the EIMR international conference are hugely important to Scotland’s visitor economy, providing a boost for accommodation providers and restaurants and I am sure the event will help to highlight the appeal of Lewis and Harris as a fantastic leisure destination and place to do business.”
Arne Vogler, Senior Research Engineer at UHI’s Lews Castle College and organiser of the conference, said: “This conference will allow the international research community to exchange experiences and findings from marine energy developments around the globe. It is a great opportunity, not just for the Hebrides, but for Scotland to showcase its expertise in the renewable energies industry.”
Andrea Copping, Research Lead for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Washington, will be among those attending the conference. She said: “From the perspective of the marine energy research community in the United States, this is the foremost conference that specifically addresses potential environmental effects of wave and tidal development worldwide.”
Set up in 2012, the VisitScotland Conference Bid Fund has helped to secure conferences in Scotland with a predicted spend by attendees of £106 million.
So far, 46 international association conferences – going up to the year 2021 – have been secured from Bid Fund investments totalling £936,000. This has been match-funded by local authorities from around the country for selected not-for-profit conferences.
The conferences, which are expected to attract a total of around 62,000 delegates, cover everything from life sciences and education to food and drink and renewable energy.
Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee, have all been making use of the Bid Fund, with other conferences taking place in the likes of Perth, St Andrews and Shetland.