Amec boss Samir Brikho said yesterday more needed to be done to talk up the North Sea oil and gas industry.
Mr Brikho, chief executive of multinational engineering and consulting group Amec, said it was no longer seen as a “sunset” basin, but that there were challenges for both industry and government.
Mr Brikho was speaking before last night’s Scottish Council for Development and Industry’s annual lecture in Aberdeen, at which he was to talk about the importance of leadership in maintaining Scotland’s lead in skills and innovation for the future and the potential to continue to export it worldwide.
“When I came to the UK six years ago, everyone was telling me of the sunset in the North Sea,” he said. “But now we have seen it is being prolonged for some time.
“We are coming to a decline in production, but there are a lot of projects being worked on to reduce that, like the BP-led Clair project we are working on. The challenges are that we need to talk up the North Sea, not down. There are still more than 30-40billion barrels there.
“We also need to have an environment in which we can attract more foreign investors, like the Korean National Oil Company and CNOOC.
“There is a good opportunity for carbon capture and re-injecting it (into the North Sea); that could be a great opportunity for the UK.
“Technology is also going to play a key role, including enhanced oil recovery, backed up by education and training.
“It is also important we manage the skills base effectively. Amec and others use the North Sea as a school bench – this is a training place we can then export from.”
Swedish citizen Mr Brikho said Scotland had been a leader, winning Nobel prizes and exporting its skills globally, and that it was a challenge to maintain that.
But he said more should be done and spent on targeted research and development as well as supporting British industry to develop capabilities.
He added: “I’m not a British citizen, but I feel I am protecting Britain from Britain sometimes.
“I feel very strongly a lot of business should be given to British contractors to do the job. It is not about giving a contract to British companies; it is about developing skills in the country. It should be seen as an investment; not a contract.”
He said talk by the UK Government on a retreat from its position within the European Union was damaging from a financial and economic perspective, creating uncertainty. He added policymakers also needed to have long-term views, such as on solar power, for business to invest.