Marine Economy Week
Watch sessions you may have missed from Marine Economy Week on-demand.
A week in review
Professor Lorne Crerar, Chairman of Harper Macleod, provides his review of the firm's first-ever Marine Economy Week, which saw more than 250 people attend live sessions throughout the week.
As Chairman of Highlands and Islands Enterprise for eight years, Professor Crerar saw many of the organisations and companies involved in the sector up close, and watched fantastic projects and investments begin to deliver incredible results. He believes that Scotland can be a marine powerhouse if we can make the most of the opportunities that the marine, or blue economy as it is also known, offer. He also believes that, as a fundamental part of Scotland's Natural Capital, how we nurture, protect, manage and make use of our marine economy is central to having a healthy and sustainable economy and helping in the battle against climate change.
His review picks up on some of the common themes that emerged from the week – collaboration and cooperation among them - and some highlights for those who have not yet watched the sessions.
The week launched with a session providing a broad overview of the marine economy sector and its importance to Scotland.
Chris Kerr, who heads up the Marine Economy team at Harper Macleod, was joined by Morven Cameron, who led HIE's involvement in the influential MAXiMAR study which highlighted the economic potential of the marine economy for the region.
Chris and Morven capture the scale and importance of the marine economy. From the economic imperative on a national scale to marine's importance for the modern rural economies of our more remote coastal communities, they introduced some of the themes which would run throughout the week – collaboration, innovation, sustainability and investment.
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the session is the comparison with other parts of the world that are making enviable advances in the Marine Economy. Morven highlights initiatives in Iceland and Norway, who have embraced the idea of marine clusters that bring together connected enterprises and the knowledge sector in areas from fisheries to biotech.
A huge positive is that the Scottish Government is committed to Blue Economy Strategy and Action Plan which is essential to ensure that the growth and development is done in a planned and co-ordinated way.
MEW's second session examined the cutting edge of marine innovation and where Scotland could play a leading role in developing and commercialising the future.
Jamie Watt and Paula Skinner, partners at Harper Macleod, who specialise in advising on investment, commercial and regulatory issues, were joined by Paul Chapman, a patent attorney at Marks and Clerk, to share their insights on innovation and opportunities in the marine economy.
One of the main themes to emerge was the importance and value of data for many areas of the marine economy, including logistics, shipping, medicines, aquaculture, and simply the development of know-how and consultancy services. In aquaculture, for example, we may not lead the way in infrastructure, compared to Scandinavia for example, but we can lead the way in providing expert resources and consultancy.
A picture emerges of Scotland as a place which still punches above its weight in terms of innovation and invention, and growth areas such as the genetics of fish breeding, AI and machine learning, the extraction of marine products and decarbonisation technology.
Echoing a theme which resonated through the week, Paul Clark emphasised the importance of looking at activities in the context of the whole marine sector, both here and globally.
The third session welcomed MEW's first international speaker, Trond Hatland, who heads up the Bergen office of Norwegian law firm Thommessen AS and is a specialist advising that country's fishery and aquaculture sector
As we adjust to trading in a post Brexit world, the session led by our own Peter McLuckie focused on the EU-UK Trade & Co-operation Agreement and in particular its Food & Drink sector implications including Rules of Origin and export requirements for fish and seafood – of which so much has been reported.
Trond's insight into the Norwegian experience offered a fascinating perspective. Norway has been held up as a model for Scotland in a variety of contexts, however there is little doubt that in terms of aquaculture Scotland can learn a lot from a nation with so many similarities to it.
Norway is leading the way in tackling the issue of moving from land-based food production – with all the sustainability issues that brings – to sea-based food production. One point Trond highlighted, and that should be noted by ambitious Scottish companies, was that the capital markets in Norway are extremely buoyant with a number of successful seafood company listings take place.
The penultimate session turned to things that float, with a focus on vessels, finance and funding. Harper Macleod Banking & Finance Partners, Tony Cameron and John Pringle were joined by MEW's second international speaker, Mike Besijn of Dutch shipyards group Damen.
Tony Cameron gave an instructive overview of the impact of the move away from using Libor for the rates associated with lending in this sector. Tony also highlighted a theme which ran throughout the week – the increasing importance of the sustainability agenda and how that is even leading to economic incentivisation of certain benchmarks within loan documents.
Mike Besijn was the perfect counter-balance to the legal and banking perspective, presenting a very practical viewpoint of a shipbuilding firm such as Damen, which has built up trust over decades and for whom the contract is almost the last point to be dealt with in any transaction. Mike also said that, at present, Brexit is not posing any significant issues in terms of selling boats to the UK.
One interesting outcome of the conversation was the feeling from all concerned that the marine economy still has some way to go in terms of being 'joined-up', particularly in relation to regulation. While overall strategy is slowly being improved, that has yet to translate fully to practical action.
The final day of Marine Economy Week focused on an area in which Harper Macleod has long been involved, both practically and in the thought leadership around the sector – renewable energy.
David Bone, the Senior Partner at Harper Macleod and one of Scotland's pre-eminent renewables lawyers, was joined by fellow Partners Omar Ali and Peter Ferguson for a detailed session on the current renewables outlook and future projections for Scotland and the rest of the UK.
Jason Schofield, Managing Director of Green Marine UK, an Orkney-based supplier to the marine renewables industry across the world, was the external speaker and he set out how a Scottish company can build expertise locally and then take that to the rest of the world. Jason emphasised the importance collaboration, and that engagement with the main stakeholder organisations and building up contacts and introductions to developers at any early stage is crucial for growth, as well as engaging with enterprise bodies.
Jason made clear that Scottish companies are renowned globally for being able to deliver large projects. He also shared his belief that more Scottish companies will step up to the mark if they get early engagement and commitment from the key stakeholders and policymakers involved in bringing large projects to fruition.