East Anglia: North Sea Marine Cluster conference hears about future of region’s marine economy

The North Sea Marine Cluster alliance has launched a new document on maximising the potential of Eas

The North Sea Marine Cluster alliance has launched a new document on maximising the potential of East Anglia's marine eocnomy. - Credit: www.chpv.co.uk

The need to steer East Anglia on the right course to fully exploit the potential of the UK’s expanding marine economy has been underlined at a major conference.

Nearly 60 delegates, including local government officials and representatives of companies across the region, attended the breakfast event in Norfolk.

The event was hosted by the North Sea Marine Cluster (NSMC), an alliance of private and public sector and academic interests formed to promote the marine economy, and saw the launch of its pamphlet “Realising the potential – East Anglia’s blue economy”.

The document, intended to focus the attention of local and central government as well as business, highlights the fact the region’s coast currently has “the most concentrated and diverse activity in England and contains the majority of oil and gas activity and of proposed renewable energy in the form of offshore windfarms round three”.

However, it starkly poses the question: Is East Anglia positioned to secure the economic benefits as the blue economy expands?

To ensure that it is, the pamphlet suggests a collaborative approach is needed by all involved, including activities as disparate as aggregate dredging, fishing and tourism, as well as oil and gas and offshore wind, brought together in a regional marine policy.

It also signals the need to foster inward investment, identify and fill skills gaps, ensure research supports the marine economy and deliver focused funding from the EU and UK.

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NSMC, a not-for-profit organisation, founded in 2009 by Gardline Group, the UEA’s environment team, Norfolk County Council and risk and insurance broker Mark UK, brought together speakers to drive home its key messages at the launch event.

Mark Goodall, a board member of New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), highlighted the importance of future marine activities taking place off our shore.

Recognising that the marine sector crossed nearly all of Norfolk and Suffolk’s strongest commercial sectors, he spoke of the ways government had placed LEPs at the centre of distributing several key business funds.

Peter Wortley, who led an Eastern Wind Energy Group project at Hethel Engineering, aiming to engage local firms in the wind energy industry, highlighted the fact that the offshore wind turbines which would be constructed and erected locally were being designed and manufactured abroad.

Without the development of a manufacturing industry and supply chain, it was likely that the UK would miss out on thousands of jobs.