Sir Ian Wood launches £4m push for Aberdeen digital economy

Opportunity North East is chaired by former Wood Group boss Sir Ian Wood. Picture: Ross Johnston/Newsline Media
Opportunity North East is chaired by former Wood Group boss Sir Ian Wood. Picture: Ross Johnston/Newsline Media
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Private sector economic development body Opportunity North East (ONE) has unveiled a £4 million initiative to accelerate the development of the digital economy in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.

The organisation, chaired by oil tycoon Sir Ian Wood, has set up a new arm called ONE Digital with the aim of supporting digital company creation and growth, working across the region’s key industries to boost competitiveness.

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Sir Ian said: “We currently have parts of a digital cluster in the region, but there’s a huge market here with industries with significant scope for digital solutions.

“The oil and gas industry, particularly operators, is making major investments over the next few years in automation, artificial intelligence and robotics with the supply chain doing likewise. Food, drink and agriculture are also very active in achieving digital efficiencies, as is tourism.”

He added: “The key ingredients of the successful cluster will be a physical hub to help nurture and grow digital tech companies, a strong focus on encouraging entrepreneurship in the sector, some early-stage seed funding, community events to foster entrepreneurship, and maximising the potentially significant contribution from the city’s two universities, particularly in entrepreneurship teaching.”

Sir Ian said that, over the next five years, ONE Digital aims to help nurture ten to 20 companies “with highly differentiated products and systems” achieve sales of more than £20m.

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“There’s also a significant number of companies in our region now seeking to build digital efficiency into their business and ONE Digital aims to improve the availability of high-quality companies to identify digital solutions and applications to enhance the competitiveness of these businesses,” he added.

“ONE Digital will apply expertise, influence and funding and work with partners to build strong digital capabilities, which will be a transformational factor in delivering the shared goal of long-term economic renaissance for Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.”

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Scottish Enterprise chairman Bob Keiller, the former chief executive of Wood Group, which Sir Ian ran for four decades before becoming chairman in 2006 and stepping down six years later, will be ONE Digital’s lead director on entrepreneurship and mentoring.

ONE Digital will also have three vice-chairmen – Graeme Gordon, chief executive of internet services provider IFB; Neil Logan, chief executive of digital consultancy Incremental Group; and Phil Murray, chief executive of oil and gas technology specialist Petrotechnics.

The £4m of initial funding from the Wood Foundation brings its total commitment to ONE to £29m over five years, while its co-investment approach aims to unlock a further £29m of investment to diversify and strengthen the North-east economy.

ONE has four existing strands focusing on food, drink and agriculture; life sciences; oil and gas; and tourism.

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