Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) demonstrated an excellent performance in its 07/08 end-of-year results which were reviewed by its board members this week.
The results set out the agency’s achievements on key projects such as the UHI, health science, renewable energy, international trade and investment and community land ownership. They also described HIE’s performance in meeting last year’s primary measures set by the Scottish Government, such as strengthening communities, growing businesses and developing skills.
HIE chair William Roe commented: “These results chart a highly productive year, particularly in light of the organisational change and refocus which the agency has undertaken over the last six months.”
Among its principal achievements HIE contributed significantly to the infrastructural and organisational development of the UHI. The Quality Assurance Agency recommended earlier this year that full degree awarding powers should now be conferred to the aspirant university.
Proposals for a marine science business park near Oban were developed and submitted to Argyll planning officials and development of a number of commercial premises were undertaken and completed to meet demand in Moray.
At the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney, HIE has been asked by the Scottish Government to develop further infrastructure at the wave test site at Billia Croo to enable prototypes to be tested there. When completed, energy company CRE intends to deploy four devices, making this site the largest wave farm in the world. Discussions with other developers are continuing.
An action plan to help stimulate the Caithness and North Sutherland economy during the wind down of the Dounreay nuclear plant, was approved by the Caithness Regeneration Partnership’s executive board in December 2007. Four staff posts, directly employed by HIE, have been approved and progress on the action plan is already underway.
HIE’s community land unit has been working closely with the South Uist community since their purchase of the island’s estate in 2006. Storas Uibhist now has a chief executive, development manger and administrative staff and is developing strategies on education, transport, coastal erosion and housing issues.
Led by HIE, plans for development of a 200-acre site at Beechwood, Inverness, to include a new campus for Inverness College, were significantly progressed with master planners appointed and an outline planning application likely to be submitted in early 2009.
HIE met or exceeded seven of the eight primary measure targets set by the Scottish Government for 07/08 with outstanding results in raising the private sector earnings index for agency assisted jobs – 85 per cent above target.
Business Growth showed particularly encouraging out-turns with 553 start-ups exceeding the 550 target, and business growth projects, at 219, nearly 10 per cent higher than the target figure of 200.
Mr Roe concluded: “These results were won through hard work and determination. We exceeded expectations of activity in key sectors and undertook radical reorganisation so that from April 1 this year, we are equipped and ready to deliver the Scottish Government’s economic strategy.
“With a clear remit to support high growth companies, increase our region’s competitiveness and strengthen communities, especially in our most remote and fragile areas, HIE is committed to delivering even more impressive results for the Scottish economy during the current financial year.”
To see a summary of HIE’s end-of-year results, click on http://www.hie.co.uk/hie-results-2007-08.htm