Successful results delivered by region’s development agency

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has invested £80m across the region over the past year.

HIE’s 2012-13 end of year results, reviewed by Board members this week, reveal that the agency has met or exceeded its targets for increasing turnover and international sales for supported businesses and social enterprises.

It also highlights the delivery of a wide range of ambitious projects which are making a real difference to the region’s economic and social sustainability.

The agency invested £23m to support businesses and social enterprises in projects such as graduate placements, leadership development and innovation. This is forecast to generate an increased turnover of around £90m – with almost half being generated from new international sales. The investments have also supported 800 jobs in the Highlands and Islands.

And as well as impacts from the agency’s own budgets, the region is also benefiting from millions of pounds of additional investment through projects lead by HIE. A £146m fibre broadband project announced earlier this year will see next generation broadband spread across the region reaching over 80% of premises.

HIE’s expertise has also been called upon to deliver two Scotland wide projects – the Scottish Land Fund in partnership with BIG Lottery and the agency is also leading on Community Broadband Scotland.

HIE Chairman Professor Lorne Crerar said: “In the same year where we concluded the details of what is the UK’s most ambitious broadband project ever, these results are excellent.

“HIE’s focus on investing in and attracting funding for projects which broaden our region’s economic base and appeal is delivering results. We continue to build on and promote our considerable assets to support business and community growth.

“Such is our capacity to respond quickly to opportunity and demand that we were successful in securing an additional £22.5m from the Scottish Government during the year to progress projects across the region. Sites to benefit have included Inverness Campus, the Enterprise Park Forres, Warness Park in Orkney and Arnish Business Park near Stornoway.

“This is not the whole story. We have helped over 600 account managed businesses, social enterprises and community groups over the last year, with a mix of finance, advice and support. And our figures reveal a busy year for international trade and exporting activity. In partnership with Scottish Development International (SDI), HIE supported 158 businesses to develop international trade activity.”

HIE works to develop regional opportunities across seven key sectors and notable projects which HIE led or contributed to in the past year include:

In the food and drink sector, HIE invested £4.9m to support 77 projects, from global brands to smaller niche producers.

In the energy sector, HIE established Memorandum’s of Understanding with key ports - aimed at facilitating the development of these sites and attracting new users to them - and supported the redevelopment of Scrabster Harbour

In the creative industries sector, Mareel opened in Lerwick in November 2012 and is already proving a popular attraction with locals and visitors. The new Creative Industries and Media Centre in Stornoway is promoting local knowledge, networks and business opportunities.

In Life Sciences a growing cluster of over 80 companies are joined by new inward investors including BASF in Lewis and American firm Daktari Diagnostics in Inverness. HIE also invested in further research at LifeScan Scotland in Inverness, part of the multinational Johnson & Johnson.

In tourism, in excess of 500 businesses took part in HIE’s ‘Year of Natural Scotland Live’ Tourism Masterclass series in 2012/13. The £6m redevelopment of John O’Groats, supported by HIE, opened its doors, providing a new tourism experience for Caithness.

Hundreds of jobs have been created in the business services sector and a new skills register is under development.

The figures coincide with the release of new census data which shows the population of the Highlands and Islands rose by 7.3% between 2001 and 2011. It shows that Highland Council area (11.1%) and Orkney (10.9%) are two of the fastest growing places in Scotland, complementing population rises in Moray, Shetland, and the Outer Hebrides.

Professor Crerar concluded: “The last year has seen the establishment of large infrastructure projects which will change the economic and social face of the Highlands and Islands for generations to come.

Projects such as the rollout of Next Generation Broadband, the development of Inverness Campus, the European Marine Science Park and the Alexander Graham Bell Centre in Elgin will cement our region’s place at the forefront of research, development and innovation. Over the forthcoming year many more projects will build upon this success and we look forward to continuing to work with our ambitious businesses, communities and social enterprises.

“Notwithstanding the challenges of the economic climate it is a great pleasure to be able to report such outstanding results from our organisations efforts in 2012/13. In the year ahead we are absolutely determined to maximise the unique strengths of the Highlands and Islands to ensure continued sustainable economic growth across our diverse region.”