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Channel MOR: Developing business within the off-shore energy sector

In June 2013 the University of Chichester was approached by the EU Joint Technical Secretariat (JTS) to undertake further work that would capitalise on the results of their exemplary CAMIS project. Together with other project partners across the Southern England and Northern France, the University has developed a framework for developing the knowledge and understanding of the opportunities available in the off-shore renewable energy sector. It is clear that the Marine Renewable Energy (MRE) sector covering offshore wind, wave and tidal energy generation will play a significant part in the economy of the Channel region over the coming years. Work on the sector has already been undertaken over the last four years by projects funded under the INTERREG IV A programme.  These include: CAMIS (of which the University played a major role), 2OM, BEEMS, CHAIN 2, CHANNEL MARINE ACADEMY, DEEDS, MERIFIC, APC (IVB), MER-INNOVATE, OFELIA, and the ATLANTIC POWER CLUSTER. It is clear from the outcomes of this work that a great deal is left to do.  The principal purpose of the Channel MOR project is to promote global MRE supply chain opportunities for SMEs  in the Channel region.

Drs Dave Cooper, Dawn Robins, Michel Leseure and Emma McKinley, supported by Mark Feast are leading the project on the two main research work packages; to establish a comprehensive picture of the current MRE sector and markets in the Channel region and to analyse and map the opportunities for developing MRE activities in the Channel area. Working in collaboration with Cornwall Marine Network, Le Havre University, Portsmouth University and the Brittany region, the research team has already completed what is probably the most comprehensive global database of off-shore renewable energy sites in the world, and is now working towards populating a supply chain database for businesses that will map their capabilities to specific activities within the renewable energy supply chain. Once completed, this work will be incorporated into a web based portal that will allow businesses, energy operators, innovators and local authorities the opportunity to access the information for their own purpose.

The project, a fully funded EU INTERREG initiative, will run until February 2015 when the final outputs will be launched at a series of events in England and France. Included in these outputs will be the portal:, a series of reports highlighting the opportunities for businesses in the Channel area, a short film highlighting the sector and a comprehensive map of training and skills applicable to the sector along the Channel.

The Channel MOR project has highlighted the continued recognition by other knowledge institutions and government authorities of the significant knowledge and expertise that the research team in SEMAL have accumulated over the last few years in the supply of off-shore energy.

CAMIS: The Final Journey

Representatives of the University, Drs Dawn Robins, Dave Cooper and Emma McKinley, recently attended the final CAMIS event in Rouen, France.  The event was a culmination of four years of partnership, collaboration and research focused on supporting coastal communities across the Channel Region, bringing together 19 partner organisations including local authorities, universities, and specialist institutions.  The event in Rouen was an opportunity for the partners to showcase their valuable research, and for the launch of the Integrated Maritime Strategy (IMS) which will be used to guide governance of the Channel in the future.

The University of Chichester has been an active partner within the CAMIS project, and lead partner of two significant research strands contributing a substantial amount of work to the wider project and to the construction of the IMS.  Research principally focused on the social and economic regeneration of small coastal communities through the development and exploitation of cluster activity.  Specific initiatives considered the role of small ports, marinas and even the Channel Tunnel.  A number of outcomes have been produced including the development of the Marina 2020 Vision and a handbook of best practice for port centric activity.  The University was the driving force behind the production of the Channel Maritime Portal, a prototype online portal that provides an information point for Channel stakeholders and businesses.   It has also supported the development of marine business clusters in Plymouth and Devon.  Dr Robins presented to representatives of the EU in Brussels at a conference on the importance of small ports in supporting local communities.  Together with Dr McKinley, she also presented the work on marine clusters to a conference of maritime Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs).  The project has been of significant value to the University, and to SEMAL.  It has led to the establishment of new partnerships with a range of organisations across the region, raising the profile of the University’s research expertise and generating research that is directly linked to and influencing current UK and European policies, for example the Blue Economy. Additionally, it has strengthened our expertise around stakeholder engagement, and further underpins our ability to facilitate collaborative working and supporting business development and regeneration.

Prof. Cooper, Professor in Management and Economic development at the University highlighted; “Through our work, we have learned a good deal about maritime economies on both sides of the Channel and the similarity in the difficulties faced by small coastal communities. We have also enjoyed working effectively with partners across the project and have made some long- lasting contacts and friendships. It has not always been easy as there are real business culture, and process, differences between the two countries but these have been overcome and have contributed to our combined understanding. We have used the experience we have gained to undertake additional funded work on analysing the supply chains for the Sussex and Kent wind farms and also to inform strategy development work for The Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership.”  For the University its work will continue with the fully funded Interreg Channel MOR capitalisation project, further developing the Channel opportunities for Offshore Renewable Energy.

The final output of the project has been the launch of the Integrated Maritime Strategy (IMS), which sets out 23 Actions and Plans for Delivery to take move the Channel region towards a sustainable and collaborative future.  The University has contributed considerably to the development of these Actions, with 7 of the proposed actions capitalising on the work done by SEMAL.  Finally, as the project draws to an end, it is important to recognise the value of the project on a national and European scale. The major output of the project, the IMS, will be used to guide future national and European policies, supports the member states in their aim to meet the objectives set out by the EU Blue Growth Strategy and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.  Further to this, the IMS will support the formation of future funding programmes, including INTERREG V, directly impacting the identification of priorities for the Channel region. 

University study highlights the importance of marinas for coastal business

Collaboration is the key recommendation of a six-month study from the University of Chichester on the potential economic impact of the marina business sector on both sides of the English Channel.

Data was collected from 32 marinas along the southern coast of England and 16 in northern France, including information regarding berth spaces, average occupancy and business activities.  Respondents were asked to comment on the business and economic strengths and weaknesses of marinas and their opinions on specific marina activities.

The research, which is part of an EU funded INTERREG IVa project that aims to define and inform marine policy on business clusters in the Arc Manche (Channel) region, was led by Dr David Cooper, the University’s Director of Business Development, and Dawn Robins, Research Coordinator at the University.

Commenting on her research, Dawn said: “It became apparent during the research that marinas in France and the UK differed considerably in their ownership status, funding streams and business focus. These differences underpin the potential for marinas to learn from each other, thereby strengthening their business focus by diversifying and adopting additional practices pertinent to their individual needs.

The differences are not just in the main marina activities but also in the business outlook: French marinas are mainly publically owned and have a local focus that is led by local policy; English marinas are, in contrast, all privately owned and commercially focused. Marinas are ideally located to provide a central hub for business cluster activities such as collaborative training, logistics and bulk buying.

“Local authorities in the UK do not seem to have fully appreciated the opportunities for economic growth and employment presented by effective business clustering within marinas. In France, local authority influence is apparent, but the scope for clustering is limited by funding and policy direction.  The next phase of the project will be to create a vision of Marinas for 2020 using best practice from both sides of the Channel as its basis.”

Channel Arc Manche Integration Strategy (CAMIS)

INTERREG IV research project involved in developing an integrated maritime strategy recognising the Channel area as a distinct region. The University is the UK lead in the investigation of innovation, clustering and transport to support maritime business growth in the region.  The project allows us to develop our profile along the South Coast of England and specifically with Marine South East.  We are also beginning to develop contacts with regional authorities and the University of Caen in Northern France. 

The project is match funded to a value of £385,000 over a 4 year period.  The University hosted a mini-conference for CAMIS members on the subject of Innovation and Clustering in 2010.

Bognor Regis Watersports Centre

An investigation into the feasibility of installing a watersports centre on the sea front at Bognor Regis. 

The study was a joint project between Butlins, Arun District Council and the University, and examined the proposal  that a new Watersports Centre be built on the Gloucester Road car park with the main building ‘stepping-over’ the promenade, bringing visitors closer to the sea and creating space for a raised terrace café with panoramic views.

This is still being developed into a proposal by the Bognor Regis Regeneration Board.

Outreach 3Way

School of Enterprise, Management and Leadership (SEMAL) staff worked with Outreach 3Way, a charity in Crawley, to develop a business plan for a new development on their Ifield site. The brief called for a garden centre incorporating a coffee shop, retail space, new poly tunnels and plant growing areas to provide an outlet for their social and therapeutic horticulture (STH) activities and attract more footfall to the existing sales activities.

Funded under the Short Knowledge Transfer Project (KTP) Scheme, SEMAL’s Senior Lecturer in Enterprise Lyn Batchelor supervised graduate employee, Lynne Andrews during her work onsite at Outreach 3Way (January – July 2011).

Many other exciting possibilities for maximising the use of the facilities and buildings on the site arose during the project. These are being explored as an alternative to the original brief.