Manufacturers looking to take advantage of the growth in the offshore wind market have received a £7m windfall of business support and capital funding.
Bosses at the GROW:OffshoreWind service made the announcement at a recent supplier event to promote the £1.5bn Dudgeon Wind Farm project in Norfolk and immediately pointed to further investment in Hornsea as a sign that the sector is finally maturing.
More than 900 companies have benefited from the assistance to date, which has helped firms bring new innovations to market, purchase and explore R&D.
The grants have also been used to facilitate relocation to new built premise, an important feature for suppliers looking to increase capacity and manufacture larger components than they’re normally used to.
“When we launched at the end of 2013 we had the single aim of getting more manufacturers and technology providers in a position where they could effectively supply into offshore wind,” explained Dominic Brown, head of GROW:OffshoreWind.
“We feel we have achieved this, providing strategic advice and access to funding for over 900 companies, ranging from steel fabricators and composite specialists, to blade tip innovators and toughened glass specialists.”
He continued: “Early estimates suggest that the £7m we have allocated will safeguard in excess of 1150 jobs and, importantly, could create nearly 2500 new ones.”
GROW:OffshoreWind is delivered by Grant Thornton and programme partners the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS), Renewable UK and the University of Sheffield.
Working closely with the government and industry leaders, the service has been instrumental in raising the profile of offshore wind and how suppliers can tap into £bn of opportunities slowly coming to fruition in and around the UK’s coasts.
Eight dedicated GROW specialists have been working with companies on the ground, whilst senior officials have been forming relationships with Tier 1s and the big contractors responsible for delivering the wind farms.
Dominic continued: “Another focus has been around building links with the organisations responsible for developing the supply chains.
“We are starting to see a noticeable change in Developers and Tier 1s engaging with SMEs. There seems to be a genuine commitment for local supply and, as a result, we are now putting on events that are bringing suppliers in direct contact with tier 1s (A2Sea, Carillion and Sif Group for example) and operators, such as Statoil and Siemens.
“It has taken a while for the potential to turn into reality and suppliers need to work hard to prove themselves. However, with investment being seen in East Yorkshire and off the Norfolk Coast, the appetite to be involved has definitely grown.”