Blog & News

Here you will find out all of our latest updates through News and Blog pages.


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Weekly update, 16th July

UK Vertical Launch Sutherland:

Around three years ago, Roy Kirk and colleagues from CNSRP partner Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) began to investigate the potential economic benefits of developing a facility somewhere on the north coast from which to launch small scale satellites into polar and sun synchronous orbits. The market for small scale satellite applications continues to grow, with Glasgow already a centre for space industry businesses. Investigation work supported by CNSRP partners and led by HIE identified the Mhoine peninsula west of Tongue, on land owned by the Melness Crofters’ Estate, who have subsequently engaged in discussions on the proposed project, along with key environmental and planning bodies. It was therefore great to see this week’s major announcement at the Farnborough International Air Show by Prime Minister Theresa May that the UK Space Agency (UKSA) is to invest in the vertical satellite launch facility proposed for North Sutherland ( A key driver for the spaceport project was the UK Government’s call for proposals to enable low cost access to space from the UK. The UKSA news was followed by confirmation from HIE of its financial support for the projected £17M project, which is projected to create significant job opportunities locally, regionally and nationally (

An artistist impression of the proposed Spaceport on the Moine, north Sutherland (image courtesy Perfect Circle PV)

The announcement also included awards to two space industry companies (Lockheed Martin and Orbex) who will develop launch technologies to support small satellite payloads ( Representatives from both companies have visited Caithness and North Sutherland a number of times as their own business cases were being developed for submission to the UKSA. These visits have included discussion with representatives of the Melness Crofters’ Estate and have been supported by representatives from CNSRP partners such as Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd and Cavendish Dounreay Partnership ( and from local supply chain companies. Lockheed Martin has compiled a short promotional film to illustrate its proposed launch vehicle, and it can be viewed at

Energy & Business Services:

July continues to be a milestone month for the Beatrice Offshore Windfarm project, and this week saw perhaps the most significant milestone yet: on Thursday 19th the first 7MW Siemens Gamesa turbine to be installed began generating power to the grid! You can read the company’s press release at and watch see a brief video of the installed turbine on the BOWL Twitter feed here –  You can also read a very useful wider update on the project from the perspective of Wick Harbour Authority at – in talking to WHA staff today it’s clear that operations at the harbour continue to increase, with new jobs being created.

Following last week’s news that Simec Atlantis Energy is to remove two of the four tidal turbines for maintenance from its array in the Inner Sound of the Pentland Firth, the large vessel Viking Neptun arrived in Scrabster this week to begin operations at the Inner Sound site, making it one of the largest energy-related vessels ever to visit the port. The work is necessary after a generator fault was detected by onboard monitoring systems. It is expected that both turbines (built by Andritz Hammerfest Hydro) will be back in operation within two months, and meanwhile the other two turbines (One Andritz and one Atlantis) continue to operate.

The Viking Neptun prepares to dock at Scrabster, July 2018.

The “Viking Neptun” dwarfs the Northlink “Hamnavoe”

Enabling Activities:

I’ve previously mentioned that new employment opportunities with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) would be coming up at Vulcan NRTE, and Commander Ken Dyke has now passed on information relating to three new locally-based posts with the Submarine Delivery Agency (SDA). The SDA was established in 2017 and since April 2018 has assumed status as an Executive Agency of the Ministry of Defence. The posts are  SDA Project Manager; Engineering Manager – Waste Management; and Engineering Manager. Full details on each are available at (searchable under “Thurso”).

HIE will be running a session in Thurso next month as part of its Pathfinder Accelerator programme. The Accelerator programme is aimed at businesses in the technology, engineering, IT or life sciences sectors that are looking to grow The event will be on 22nd August, and you can find out more (and sign up) at


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:

  • Local reactions to the news that a site in north Sutherland has been selected to have the UK’s first Spaceport (see above) have been very well captured in both The Northern Times and the Caithness Courier/ John O’ Groat Journal. They include reactions from MP, MSP, Scottish Government, UK Government, Highland Councillors as well as both SNH and RSPB. Neither are yet online, but it is well worth picking up a copy of either paper to read.
  • Next week myself and Simon Middlemas are due to deliver lunchtime presentations to staff at the Dounreay site. When we have previously delivered these the response has been good, so I am hoping for similar levels of interest next week.