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Scotland’s international competitiveness and benchmarking in subsea engineering: study report


The study aimed to assess the status of competitiveness and innovation in Scotland’s subsea market and how it compares to other international markets. Subsea engineering encompasses all technology and engineering products and services for application below the surface of the sea. The report presents an assessment of Scotland’s competitive advantages in this sector, looking in particular at company capability, strengths, weaknesses, and Unique Selling Points (USPs). It also presents an assessment of international subsea hubs capability, strengths, weaknesses, and USPs, and compares these to that of Scotland. Finally, the report makes several recommendations on how Scotland can most effectively leverage its capabilities. The specific areas covered were: feasibility of new and emerging enabling technologies - covering R&D, support and funding organisations, industry bodies, and cluster organisations; engineering procurement construction and installation (EPCI) - covering all phases of engineering; inspection, repair and maintenance (IRM) - decommissioning; subsea processing; digital/artificial intelligence; offshore renewables; and finally, other – covering mineral extraction/aquaculture/defence.


The study involved desk research in the form of a review of previous studies, industry reports and surveys. It also involved a survey of over 40 industry stakeholders from a variety of locations, 11 workshops with subject matter experts and interviews with 12 experts from a range of organisations including Subsea UK, OGTC, The Datalab, NSRI, the University of Aberdeen, and key individuals from across the Scottish supply chain.


The research found that Scotland has a high standing in the area of subsea engineering with capability standing up well to scrutiny and comparison with other traditional subsea hubs. Scotland has a wide range of engineering specialities with a variety of engineering skill sets; this breadth of experience and the depth of the talent pool is seen as a key factor to the success of the region. Innovation was also found to be strong in Scotland, and there is a strong support network in place to assist companies. Due to the age and the variety of North Sea infrastructure, Scottish engineering companies have tackled challenges that some other international subsea hubs are yet to experience. The breadth of Scottish subsea knowledge and experience has led to Scottish engineering being desired worldwide. Scotland also has a strong pipeline of talent for digital, however, there is a need to attract young graduates to the subsea industry.


A number of areas for further exploration were identified. These include: linking Scottish companies with local partners to provide the experience and assurance while local company provides access/leads and gain capabilities; finding niche capabilities or products; embracing emerging technologies, particularly the sectors involved in floating wind, wave, tidal, aquacultures and mining; the development of intelligent pipelines, fibre optics and other sensors built into the pipeline structure; stronger and ‘smart’ collaboration between with Scottish ports and supply chain; and improvement of the way that integrity data (e.g. corrosion rates) is shared between operators.

Author Xodus Group
Published Year 2018
Report Type Research
  • Enterprise
    Sector-level support
  • Sectors