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Taking the northeast for granted or wanting what’s next?

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Uploaded on behalf of Colin Campbell

It’s sometimes easy to take what we have for granted and to lose sight of the positives. We have to take a step back and look at the bigger picture to really appreciate what we have and what we have achieved despite adversity.  

That’s just what happened at last week’s Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce’s Investment Tracker launch here at The James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen.

Stepping back highlighted some incredible figures: £6.5 billion worth of projects have been delivered since 2016, while there’s planned investment of around £16 billion in infrastructure and regeneration projects in the north-east over the next decade.

These are big numbers and despite the perception many on the outside might have, it’s not all about oil and gas. It certainly does make you think again about suggesting “there’s nothing to see here min”, as chamber chief executive Russell Borthwick commented at the event.

No greater example of that is the work we do here at the Hutton, one of Aberdeen’s hidden gems. Together with our Dundee campus and three research farms, we employ more than 500 people, making us one of the UK’s largest independent research centres.

Our work is about finding solutions to the challenges posed by the climate and nature crises on the sustainability and resilience of our crops, land, natural resources and communities. We are very serious about this and produce scientific studies that help us understand and suggest better ways of managing our land. There are many spin offs from this too. Many might be surprised to learn that includes developing new varieties of soft fruit like blackcurrants that are more resilient to the changing climate and a 100% of the varieties used in making Ribena are Hutton varieties.

Whether you watch Test match cricket, international golf or just the Premier League football you’re likely to be looking at a grass pitch that’s been tested by a soil moisture probe we invented. And did you know we not only host the National Soils Archive with soil samples from every 5 sq km of Scotland stored in our vaults in Craigiebuckler the knowledge from this has helped solve over 100 criminal cases where soil was evidence at the crime scene.

That’s just scratching the surface, which is why we were delighted to work with the chamber to host the Investment Tracker launch and welcome many new faces to the institute.

Colin Campbell at the Investment Tracker launch

We’re an open campus, which means we’ve opened our doors to companies and organisations that share our purpose to come and locate here and benefit from the use of our facilities and the expertise of our scientists.

We have offices, meeting and event/video conferencing space, laboratory space and the latest high performance analytical equipment. We have huge strengths in analytics, whether that’s organic or mineral, and more than 300 scientists and researchers active across a wide spectrum taking in ecological, social, economic, biological, environmental, computational and information sciences.

We also have fantastic grounds, canteen facility, plenty of parking and EV charging points, all nestled into a stunning arboretum where we often spot red squirrels and woodpeckers. We’re a friendly bunch and want others who share our purpose to share this amazing resource we have.

One of our most recent tenants is sHYp who are developing ground breaking technology to make green hydrogen from sea water at same time as extracting other valuable compounds. This complements our own Green Hydrogen projects and fully exploits the extensive chemistry facilities and knowledge we have.

We’re also now home to Aberdeen Scientific Services Laboratory (ASSL), an arm of Aberdeen City Council which provides comprehensive testing and analysis to local authorities, businesses and members of the public.

Joining us last year was community interest company North East Climate Action (NESCAN) and we are rapidly developing a unique mix of private and pubic sectors organisations all helping to keep our energy, water and food supplies safer and more secure in the future while putting more back into the earth.

There is significant investment coming, which will make it an even more exciting and relevant place to work. This is through our Just Transition Hub, which will see a major remodelling of our campus here to make it even more open as a hub for accelerating nature-based, net zero solutions here in the northeast. The £7.2 million hub – one of the projects highlighted in the Investment Tracker – is expected to create more than 200 jobs and bring in £1.6 m annually to the regional economy.

We’re getting investment at our farms. For example, in Aberdeenshire, our £6 million HydroGlen project, at our at Glensaugh research farm, off the Cairn o’ Mount road, will demonstrate how 100% of a rural farm community’s electricity, heating and transport fuel energy requirements can be self-generated renewably. It will provide a scalable and replicable concept for farming and other rural communities to demonstrate how to become self-reliant, net-zero carbon energy producers and exporters.

This is critical in an area where 45% of people live in rural areas. We all remember the effect of Storm Arwen on our energy supplies – we cannot afford to have that sort of disruption again and with our science then we are hoping to mitigate against such events. Both projects are going ahead thanks to Scottish Government Just Transition Fund support.

We’ll soon be announcing another initiative at Glensaugh, which will open the farm as a test bed to innovators and technology developers to turn their ideas into proven tools to help farmers and land managers address the climate and nature crisis.

In Dundee, we’re investing £62 million from the Tay Cities Region Deal into our Advanced Plant Growth Centre (APGC) and International Barley Hub (IBH). These are institute-led innovation centres at Invergowrie that will help to establish Scotland as a leader in global food security and crop resilience.

Investing in facilities like these will not only make us more resilient, but will attract others to come here, grow and innovate, benefitting the whole region.

So, let’s not take what we have for granted. As Russell said, “Let’s be restless, let’s want what’s next.”

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post are the views of the author(s), and not an official position of the institute or funder.



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Printed from /blogs/taking-northeast-granted-or-wanting-what%E2%80%99s-next on 27/09/23 11:48:38 PM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.