The Granite City. The Oil Capital of Europe. The Silver City with the Golden Sands (well most of the time). Aberdeen has gained many a moniker over the years. But as we approach another Offshore Europe, it’s worth asking: do these names capture the spirit of our city today?
One thing is for certain, while Aberdeen might be grey, it’s far from monotone. We’re the only UK city to feature on the New York Times’ list of must-see global destinations in 2019, City Fibre will make Aberdeen Scotland’s first gigabit city by 2021 and we’re the home of iconic craft beer maker BrewDog.
Since we established the Aberdeen office of Aspectus three and a half years ago in the midst of one of the oil industry’s worst downturns, I’ve seen the city transform akin to that of a snake shedding its skin. What’s left behind isn’t dissimilar to what was there before, but it’s fresh, shiny and has a renewed sense of self.
Gone are the days where Aberdeen was mostly an oil companies’ playground; instead the city is awash with opportunity from renewables, infrastructure, food and drink, financial services and tech too. At Aspectus, we’ve always had faith in this city, that’s why we set up here when the chips were down. We knew that in a downturn, we could offer true expertise and counsel to businesses looking to survive and thrive. To us, it just made business sense. And as the oil and gas sector feels renewed, and Aberdeen flourishes with new opportunity, the team at Aspectus also feels a sense of optimism and excitement.
Don’t get us wrong, oil and gas is one of Aspectus’ areas of specialism. But so is the broader energy industry, and right now the oil and gas sector in particular, is in the midst of a transition. The sector is figuring out its image and how it wants to play on the world stage with pressing issues, such as climate change at the front of society’s mind.
This shouldn’t be seen as a risk, but an opportunity for oil and gas, and in part Aberdeen, to refresh its brand. Rather than the oil capital of Europe, what about the energy capital of Europe or even the engineering capital of Europe? On the map for more than our oil rich roots and instead positioned as a pioneering city, one that is driving us towards a sustainable future.
But we mustn’t forget our heritage, we should celebrate it, it’s made us who we are as a city and has given us the experience to take that step forward. Whatever that looks like. Our city shouldn’t follow in the footsteps of its infamous AWPR by-pass: too little, and perhaps too late for its citizens.
So what’s next for Aberdeen? Well one thing’s for sure, it needs to grasp hold of the energy transition with both hands and jump on board. Seventy-five per cent of the world’s subsea engineering talent is situated here – how do we market to wind developers and utilities? How do we become more than an energy hub but a tech hub – attracting fresh talent and pioneering new mobility options or the latest digital offerings? And how can we create models to help oilfield services sell their propositions to a wider customer pool?
The answer lies not only in the companies themselves and the exceptionally talented people behind them, but businesses like Aspectus, who can support organisations on this journey. Aberdeen can be an energy hub, a tech hub, a financial services hub.
So as we look forward to Offshore Europe next week. Let’s forget the tired, grey image of Aberdeen. It’s a city full of colour and opportunity at every turn – let’s grasp it.