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Renewables: R&D is key

Oilfield Technology,

Much has been made of the Scottish Government’s laudably ambitious renewables target. With last year’s interim 31% target having been met, the country is on track for 100% by 2020, as planned. Yet there is a risk that despite such early success, Scotland may struggle to attain the truly low carbon society that is possible without the right set of conditions in place.

In theory it’s simple: The recipe for success calls for bold and innovative thinking combined with political will and sustained commercial investment to build a renewables industry that can generate sufficient clean energy at the least possible cost to manufacturers, operators and consumers.

Yet barriers to the innovation required remain. Statistics released in November by Scotland's Chief Statistician showed that between 2009 and 2010 expenditure on manufacturing research and development decreased by 9.2% in real terms. This is worrying because there are few immediate signs that levels of private-sector R&D investment will substantially increase in the year ahead.

NGenTec is an example of a Scottish company that would not exist without the vital investment required to commercialise academic groundwork. The company now designs and supplies novel generators for wind turbines; using technology that could significantly decrease the cost of wind energy and reduce the lifetime operation and maintenance costs of an offshore wind turbine.

That’s why many see Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond’s trip to Abu Dhabi today to sign a groundbreaking deal on renewables as a real step in the right direction. The landmark agreement will see Scottish universities working with renewables giant Masdar to produce new wind, wave, tidal and solar energy technologies.

If, as has been suggested, today's deal sees Scottish R&D projects tapping into Abu Dhabi's massive financial resources, the net result would likely be a flourishing of the technical innovation needed to get renewables firms off the drawing board and into production.

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