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Weekly update, 19th February

Enabling activities:

Delighted to report that Norscot Joinery were the winners of this year’s Innovation of the Year award at the annual awards ceremony held this week by Interface. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago the company, based in Bower, worked with CNSRP partner Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Interface to establish a partnership with the University of Strathclyde to develop a solution to a key issue for the business (customers not being able to see a show house to view the company’s products). The solution is a Virtual Reality/ Augmented Reality headset that allows full integration with building information modelling systems, which it is hoped will help Norscot expand its markets across the UK. More information on the innovation partnership is at

I mentioned last week that the Highlands and Islands Science Skills Partnership had been working on the procurement of a contractor to take forward the creation of a “Newton Room” at North Highland College in Thurso. This week HIE announced that the successful bidder for the work was First Scandinavia, the Norwegian company behind the roll-out of a number of such facilities in Norway (see “communications” below for Gail Ross MSP’s welcome). The space at North Highland College will be designed to act as a hub for providing inspirational learning opportunities in STEM subjects, and once completed will be the first Newton Room in the UK. Representatives of the First Scandinavia team were in Thurso week, so we look forward to seeing how detailed designs for the space now come together.

In recognition of its success as Baker of the Year last year, Reid’s of Caithness hosted the launch of the Scottish Baker of the Year for 2018. More on the launch event is at

Further discussions have been taking place this week to move forward a Skills Investment Plan for Caithness and North Sutherland. CNSRP partner Skills Development Scotland commissioned some work on this, and we are now trying to agree a way forward in terms of delivering actions. In that context I also met today with colleagues from NHS Highland, for whom many of the issues identified in the report are very familiar (recruitment, retention, talent attraction etc). We are in a great position to bring public and private sector partners together on an agreed set of actions.

As part of an ongoing process of helping communicate progress with the delivery of aspects of our economic transition programme CNSRP’s partners work together to generate news stories for local, regional and national media. I also speak on a regular basis to individuals and organisations across the area to update on progress. This week:

The MP and MSP for this area are both represented on CNSRP’s Advisory Board, and it was good to see both politicians active in their respective parliamentary chambers this week on issues relevant to CNSRP. Jamie Stone MP asked a question urging UK and Scottish Governments to work together to ensure “future employment” in the light of the ongoing decommissioning of Dounreay. The reply from David Lidington MP gave an assurance that both governments would be working together on this. And Gail Ross MSP this week tabled a Motion in the Scottish Parliament, the text of which reads “That the Parliament welcomes the news that Scotland’s first Newton Room is to be established in North Highland College in Thurso, with support from Highland and Islands Enterprise and funding from the Inverness and Highland City Region Deal; notes that these rooms aim to encourage and support children and young people in STEM-related subjects; considers that the room in Thurso will complement the scientific research and engineering legacy that the county of Caithness has, and hopes that children and young people of Caithness and North Sutherland will benefit greatly from this new and innovative project.”