HIE plans to invest over £219m for the next three years – Fishupdate.com

HIE plans to invest over £219m for the next three years Published:  29 May, 2008

PLANS to invest more than £219 million over the next three years in economic and community development have been published by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

The latest operating plan from HIE details key ‘transformational projects’ which the development agency will be backing across the Highlands and Islands between now and March 2011.

It also describes a number of important changes to HIE’s role, now that Careers Scotland and training programmes for individuals have transferred to Skills Development Scotland, and with support for businesses trading only in local markets set to transfer to local authorities.

HIE agrees its operating plan on an annual basis with the Scottish Government to set out the specific actions it will take to deliver the Government’s Economic Strategy in the Highlands and Islands.

From Shetland to Argyll and from the Hebrides to Moray, HIE will focus its activities on three principal areas:

* Supporting high growth businesses and sectors;

* Creating the infrastructure and conditions to improve regional competitiveness; and

* Strengthening communities, especially in fragile areas.

Over the next three years, HIE expects to establish close working relationships with around 400-500 businesses throughout the Highlands and Islands, operating an ‘account management’ model.

HIE will target its business support towards six key sectors in particular, as described in the Government Economic Strategy. These are: creative industries; energy; financial and business services; food and drink; life sciences; and tourism.

Although businesses in other sectors may still receive support, HIE will concentrate on working closely with businesses which have high growth potential irrespective of their size.

New minimum thresholds for capital grants have been introduced as HIE shifts its focus to concentrate on assisting businesses to develop ambitious plans which will impact on economic growth.

In most parts of the Highlands and Islands, the minimum capital grant which will be considered is now £25,000.

However, in fragile areas, where the population is low and opportunities for economic growth are limited, capital grant applications for £5,000 or more will be considered.

Similarly, discretionary start-up funding will be targeted towards new businesses which have high growth potential.

The operating plan also specifies a number of ‘transformational projects’ which HIE is backing to improve the region’s competitiveness. These range from long-term projects which are already under way to new initiatives currently at the planning stage.

They include the UHI Millennium Institute, the European Marine Energy Centre, Orkney, the Caithness and North Sutherland Action Plan, the Arnish industrial site on Lewis, the Centre for Health Science and Diabetes Institute, Inverness, the proposed development of a campus at Beechwood, Inverness, the Moray 2020 Action Plan; Lochaber land development, the Scottish Association for Marine Science at Dunstaffnage, a new Kintyre Action Plan, and developing South Uist estate.

The agency is continuing to work with its partners in strengthening communities, focusing principally on social enterprise, the acquisition and development of income-generating assets; building community capacity; and stimulating growth in fragile communities.

HIE is making a special effort in the most fragile communities, taking an integrated approach to community-led development, cultural activities and support for small businesses.

The operating plan details how HIE plans to significantly reduce carbon emissions in its operations, focusing on energy efficiency of premises and implementing renewable efficiency devices where possible. The agency will also seek every opportunity to share premises and services with partner organisations throughout the Highlands and Islands.

Grant in aid of £219m has been approved by the Scottish Parliament for the three years 2008-11. In addition, £42m of non-cash allocation will be added to this provision, giving a total resource budget of £261m. This funding is to allow Highlands and Islands Enterprise to invest in projects and programmes across the Highlands and Islands.

HIE chair William Roe said: “We have a new board and a slimmer organisation, which fits well with the Scottish Government’s ambition for a more streamlined approach. With 350 staff and a cash budget of almost £78 million in 2008-09, HIE is ready to play a key part in delivering the Government’s targets for sustainable economic growth.

“The operating plan outlines how the organisation will focus its efforts to meet the aspirations for the region in line with the Government Economic Strategy. If we are to achieve the aspirations set out in the strategy, we must work hand in hand with the public, private and third sectors to draw on resources and talent in the Highlands and Islands.

“As an accountable agency, it’s important that we set measurable targets so that our overall performance can be judged objectively every year. Supporting business growth remains a top priority for HIE and the focus will be to concentrate on supporting businesses that can demonstrate real growth potential and are important for growing the national, international and regional economy.”

Mr Roe added: “It is an especially exciting time for the Highlands and Islands economy. Through these strategic priorities we are confident we can take forward the Scottish Government’s ambitious economic strategy and support the Highlands and Islands to show a sustained pattern of growth.”

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