The UK’s underwater industry, currently valued at GBP 8 billion with a third of the global market share, has the potential to grow to GBP 45 billion by 2035, creating an estimated 180,000 new jobs and around GBP 20 billion or more in exports for the UK.
The Global Underwater Hub (GUH) has been established to ensure the industry achieves this growth, capitalising on the “unprecedented” scale of opportunity globally in the energy transition and the underwater segment of the Blue Economy, estimated to be worth GBP 140 bn by 2035.
Officially launched at Subsea Expo, the GUH is a new strategic, intelligence-led organisation that will lead the transformation of this industry to deliver one of the biggest opportunities for revenue generation and job creation in the country’s sustainable recovery from the pandemic.
Backed by the Scottish and UK Governments with GBP 13 million in funding but led and governed by industry, the GUH will support and accelerate growth to deliver new high value, sustainable green jobs, technology and exports and net-zero targets.
A recent survey of the sector by the GUH revealed that almost 90% of subsea companies expect to recruit in the next 12 months, with a longer-term outlook already suggesting an additional 8,000 jobs over the next 3 years.
Neil Gordon, chief executive of the GUH says, “The exponential growth of the blue economy presents an unprecedented scale of opportunity on which the UK’s world-renowned underwater industry can capitalise. As the industry emerges from the uncertain and challenging pandemic period with a degree of optimism fuelled by opportunities in the energy transition and blue economy, the GUH will provide the specific market intelligence and support to help companies make informed decisions on which markets and sectors to target to deliver a step-change in growth.”
“Already expanding on a global level, with multi-billion opportunities in emerging sectors where skills and technology are eminently transferable, such as floating offshore wind, wave and tidal energy, CCUS and hydrogen, the industry is also buoyed by the growth potential in aquaculture, oceanology, defence and the continuing evolution of the oil and gas sector,” he adds.
“Unleashing this potential requires addressing the challenges facing the industry, not least of which is the increasing competition from other countries. Given the scale of the opportunity, Norway, France, Canada, Japan and Brazil are investing heavily in challenging the UK’s competitiveness with significant public sector intervention and investment,” says Gordon.
“The UK’s current position can be strengthened by bringing together existing skills and knowledge to develop technology and services for use in multiple sectors. As the single authoritative body for the underwater industry, the GUH will provide the necessary leadership and strategic direction in navigating the future landscape of its market sectors,” continues Gordon.
By harnessing, promoting and supporting all sectors of the industry, the GUH will deliver a step-change in the development and internationalisation of underwater technologies and services. Promoting greater cross-sector collaboration will fast-track service and technological innovation to solve challenges in multiple underwater sectors.
“This will cement and grow the UK’s world-leading reputation, positioning the UK as a centre of underwater excellence globally and attracting inward investment,” says Gordon.
Commercially focused market intelligence gathered by the GUH will give companies clear routes to market that inform strategic decision-making within the supply chain. Greater visibility of the opportunities and clarity around accessing funding and specialist support are crucial to growth.
Through specialist support, it will help companies scale-up and accelerate their growth and work across the supply chain to develop the skills and capability that will drive the UK’s competitive advantage.
The GUH currently employs 15 staff in Aberdeen, with a view to reaching around 30 in total across the organisation. Two further hubs in the South and North of England are due to be launched in the next 12 months to ensure that specialist, sector specific support is available the length and breadth of the country.
Gordon concludes, “The GUH will play a pivotal role in delivering transformational change and exponential growth in this highly important industry. Unlocking the depth of opportunity under the oceans is key to meeting the long-term shift towards a low carbon society and sustainable use of the oceans’ resources and, in turn, to creating significant additional revenues, jobs, technology and exports for the UK.”