‘Extreme’ subsea engineering centre to be built

28 March 2013
By Edd Gent
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The £7 million Neptune National Centre will be created on the River Tyne in Newcastle (CREDIT: Peter McDermott)

The £7 million Neptune National Centre will be created on the River Tyne in Newcastle (CREDIT: Peter McDermott)

An "extreme" engineering centre will be built in Newcastle to help develop subsea technology.

The £7 million Neptune National Centre will be created on the River Tyne in the city and was unveiled as part of a Government oil and gas strategy that will be announced later today to secure thousands of jobs and billions of pounds of investment.

Business Secretary Vince Cable, Scottish Secretary Michael Moore and Energy Secretary Ed Davey will speak to business leaders about the strategy later today.

Cable, unveiling the centre, said: "The UK's oil and gas sector is crucial to the economy, so we've worked closely with the sector on today's industrial strategy. But its future success relies on it being underpinned by the latest science and technology.

"This cutting-edge new facility will help put our academic community and industry at the centre of subsea and offshore engineering research. It will drive up skills and develop the innovations needed to fuel growth in the North Sea."

The centre will be built on the north bank of the river on Neptune Energy Park, part of Shepherd Offshore. It is billed by Newcastle University, which is providing funds for the scheme, as a centrepiece for economic revival.

Project lead professor Nick Wright, pro-vice-chancellor for Research and Innovation at Newcastle University, says: "The Neptune Centre will create a unique facility that will significantly enhance research capacity, not just at Newcastle University but in the UK as a whole, providing a focus for the development of both new technology and academic-industry relationships that underpin future growth."

The project, also supported by Newcastle City Council, includes plans for a hyperbaric chamber capable of testing technology and materials at temperatures and pressures equivalent to those found at the deepest ocean depths.

David Sweeney, HEFCE Director, Research, Innovation and Skills, said: “HEFCE investment, combined with contributions from the university and the private sector, will enable this important research centre to be created. It will make a significant long-term impact not only on research, but also on skills and the economy.”

The Neptune Centre already has the backing of leading UK companies through the Subsea North-East Consortium including Shepherd Offshore, BEL Valves and SMD.

Richard Dodd, director of BEL Valves which is part of the British Engines Group, says the investment would further boost the North East’s reputation as a world leader in subsea and offshore engineering.

“This partnership between Newcastle University and companies such as BEL Valves is a major opportunity for the region,” he says. “It will allow us to grow our capabilities and skills base to keep us at the forefront of this highly specialised field of engineering.”

Andrew Hodgson, vice chair of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership and Chair of Subsea NE, says: “The subsea sector is a vital part of the economic regeneration within the North East of England.

“There are a significant number of technology-led world leading enterprises in the region and this centre will provide a significant capability to generate new and exciting collaborative projects.  Our vision remains to make the North East the recognised centre for subsea technologies on an international scale.”

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