MEMBER companies of Energi Coast, the North-East’s offshore wind cluster, plan to create about 1,200 new jobs in the next few years to meet demand from the global offshore wind industry for their products, services and expertise.

On the eve of major conference and exhibition, Offshore Wind North East, which takes place today (Thursday, November 7) in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the cluster has revealed the significant role it is playing in the global offshore wind market and the opportunities and challenges for the coming years.

On average, 40 per cent of the total turnover of the Energi Coast cluster is offshore wind related with all of the companies expecting to see an increase in business in offshore wind, with turnover growth anticipated of minimum 10 per cent during the next five years.

To support the development of their businesses in the offshore wind market, and the combined strength of region’s collaborative cluster, Energi Coast companies have invested more than £160m in facilities, equipment, skills and innovation.

Energi Coast companies employ more than 3,000 people, with 2,500 based in the North-East. The companies plan to increase the overall headcount in the coming years, which will include a three-fold increase in the number of apprentices and doubling the recruitment of graduates.

Exporting is a key area of success for Energi Coast companies with 85 per cent of the cluster members expecting to see international trade increase. Currently, their main export markets include Taiwan, Netherlands, USA, Belgium. China, Germany and Denmark.

The cluster has also highlighted some key areas for future focus, such as the opportunities for the conversion of decommissioned oil and gas assets for use in offshore wind and a keen interest in floating wind developments.

In addition, the cluster is encouraging increased sharing of knowledge and technology transfer across complementary sectors, the need to grow a globally competitive supply chain, with further collaboration, and an enhanced focus on skills development.

Energi Coast companies also believe there is a need for additional finance for investment in equipment and facilities and an increase in the level of UK content in offshore wind projects.

Originally established in 2011 as a steering group, Energi Coast has undergone a major reconstitution and expansion as a result of the Offshore Wind Sector Deal and is now one of eight offshore wind clusters around the UK working to promote the sector. Energi Coast is seen to be one of the leading and most advanced UK clusters.

Managed and administered by business development experts NOF, Energi Coast consists of developers, ports, supply chain companies, academic institutions, innovation and research organisations and the two North-East Local Enterprise Partnerships.

Joanne Leng MBE, deputy chief executive of NOF and deputy chair of Energi Coast, said: “These figures demonstrate how North-East England’s offshore wind cluster has evolved into a key player within the global offshore wind industry and the confidence that exists among the cluster companies to continue in investing in their operations and support further job creation and expansion.

“Offshore Wind North East provides the perfect platform for the region’s cluster to showcase the broad range of expertise, innovation and infrastructure North-East England is providing the sector and how it can support emerging international markets.

“The conference and exhibition will also highlight the intense levels of collaboration that takes place within the cluster, which brings advantages to every stage of offshore wind farm developments and is enabling the region to be recognised for its capabilities on a global stage.”