Later this month, Subsea Expo 2023, the world’s largest annual subsea exhibition and conference will return to Aberdeen.
Organised by the Global Underwater Hub (GUH), the series of events, exhibitions and conferences promises to showcase more than ever before the sheer size, scale and opportunity of the blue economy.
The blue economy is defined by many as the sustainable development and stewardship of a range of economic activities concerned with sea and ocean resources.
The GUH was established in 2021, adding to its forerunner Subsea UK’s powerful legacy largely built up in the oil and gas sector from a base in the north-east of Scotland.
This is a legacy we are reminded of on the familiar roadside sign in Westhill, on the outskirts of Aberdeen, which reads “Global centre of excellence in subsea engineering”.
Much of Westhill and the UK’s success in subsea engineering is attributed to the maturity of the oil and gas sector in the North Sea. Decades of experience have encouraged niche businesses, the supply chain, specialist skills, jobs, knowledge, and experience to gravitate into clusters, most significantly in the north east.
This cluster not only serves the North Sea market, it also is centre for significant export trade. It is a centre for advanced development and deployment of underwater technology with a lot to offer to other industries and sectors.
It goes without saying today however that the GUH and blue economy represent a lot more than the just the north-east and the oil and gas sector. Crucially, this is a key theme of the GUH and at Subsea Expo 2023.
Other vibrant and key underwater sectors in the UK include maritime, aquaculture and defence amongst others.
There are other hub clusters too, notably in the north and south of England. Alongside energy, for businesses in these sectors there are countless cross-selling and cross-fertilisation opportunities in the blue economy in either accessing or offering advanced technology, skills, research and development, experience and understanding to each other.
As a strategically focussed trade and industry development body, the GUH is a multi-sector organisation representing all underwater industries.
What this means for its members and stakeholders is the ability to offer an unrestricted view to grow out and develop products and services from their established sectors and locations into similar blue economy markets and environments.
Throughout the UK, GUH therefore exists to accelerate growth and innovation in businesses by building on the strengths of the national underwater industry, reported today to be worth £8 billion per year.
From an internationally enviable position of having the largest global market share of underwater sectors and industries, and with centre of excellence credentials, this offers the UK significant export opportunities as well as prospects to transition skills and services into new sectors.
Excellent examples of this transition can be found in the energy sector, where subsea companies that were established to serve the oil and gas industry are addressing opportunities in the growing offshore renewables market in the UK, and exporting their products and services overseas
Not only do these opportunities offer routes to new markets, help to address the energy transition and the journey to net zero, they help businesses to protect revenue and pursue growth opportunities in new overseas markets.
This is a theme that we are seeing at AAB in our client portfolio and in our new business development activities.
At Subsea Expo 2023 later this month, we congratulate the GUH for providing an important focal point and strategy to outstanding development opportunities for UK businesses and our economy.
Alasdair Green is a Partner and Head of Energy at AAB.