Sir Ian Wood is to plough £25 million of his family’s fortune into the economic “renaissance” of the North-east to help secure its future beyond the oil and gas years.
The oil tycoon and former chairman of the Wood Group will lead a group of influential business figures to drive forward investment in traditional industries – such as farming, food and tourism – to create jobs and stimulate growth as the North Sea industry contracts.
It comes after Oil and Gas UK reported 65,000 jobs linked to the offshore industry have vanished since early 2014, with more losses expected.
Investment in biosciences and the technology required to keep oil and gas sector viable are also a key focus of Sir Ian’s new organisation, Opportunity North East (ONE).
Sir Ian said ONE was to be firmly led by the private sector with action required to stop the North-east turning into a “museum to the golden age of oil and gas”.
It is hoped total funding of £50m will be raised over the next five years to invest in companies, innovations and job creation.
The first project could be financed by the second half of 2016, it is hoped.
He said: “This region faces really serious challenges in the medium to long term. We have got a challenge in the short term with the oil price reduction and to avoid the museum scenario, we have to maximise the economic recovery of the North-east. If we don’t do anything about balancing the economy, well frankly we have a very bleak outlook.
“We will have no jobs for young people and a lot of young people will leave the region. What we are doing now is about the next 25 to 30 years time.
“If we are looking at the renaissance of the North-east, well this is just the very start of it.
“Let’s stop sleepwalking. I think we have woken up now. Let’s stay awake.
“We can’t leave this another five years.”
Sir Ian said it was not the case that the private business was taking control of the area’s economic strategy, but that all sectors had a role to play in the future viability of the area.
A senior figure from both Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire councils will sit on the board of ONE.