The subsea cluster in Bergen seeks to embody and enhance the pioneering subsea experience from the North Sea. Through flat organizational structures and team spirit companies provide cost effective products and services. Placed squarely in the strict regulatory regime of the North Sea, operational and business processes ensure safety and professionalism. The subsea cluster in Bergen is the Future of Solutions.
In 2008 oil prices plunged from almost USD 150 per barrel to nearly 35 in a short time. Globally, projects were postponed and activities for, such as, EPC contractors and survey companies were almost immediately reduced. Uncertainty about the progress of previously planned new field developments in 2009-2011, together with limited access to new capital, made it necessary for lots of companies to downscale their predictions and activities. From previous downturns in the oil and gas business, we are able to estimate that a 10% reduction in oil companies’ activities can cause a 20% decrease in supplier activities and personnel, and even a 40% decline in R&D and education activities. One of the results can be a negative focus on the stability of the industry making possible new entrants to the subsea business area chose other paths of education. In both short and long term this could become a major problem for the industry as a whole as the activity level increases again in the years to come.
A smart and sustainable long term solution in downturns in a long term competence driven industry as oil & gas, is to engage available personnel in technology development for new and improved products and services. By engaging in cluster activities, companies and R&D institutions are to connect and cooperate in developing future solutions.
Cooperate when You Can, Compete when You Must
Surveys have shown that being part of a cluster with resources and activities that promotes innovation, technology development, interaction and competence is of great importance for the actors involved. Organized clusters have generally higher value creation, more innovations, wider entrepreneurship and better personnel mobility than comparable industry segments not organised. In a mature and effective cluster the saying is “Cooperate when you can, compete when you must”.
In the subsea cluster in Bergen, Norway, a close collaboration has been established between the industry, R&D and authorities. The cluster’s world leading position and the established interaction between participants formed the basis for the Norwegian Government’s appointing of the cluster as a Norwegian Centre of Expertise for subsea technology, in 2006.
The Norwegian Centre of Expertise Subsea is an initiative by the subsea industry in the Bergen area for the strengthening and internationalisation of business, R&D and education. More than 90 companies and organisations form the body of NCE Subsea. The facilitator organisation contributes to technology development, cooperation between companies, international business development, competence building and cluster communication.
||Coast Center Base, the hub of the Bergen subsea cluster.
Urging Innovation Projects
NCE Subsea initiates and organizes joint industry projects and services within the cluster, as well as with external/international collaborators. A number of early phase projects have been conducted, leading to submittal of applications for project funding. Activities supported by NCE Subsea have received more than NOK 245 million in project funding. In addition there is applications for NOK 47 million already submitted, and another NOK 128 million in progress to be submitted in nearby future.
An important part of bringing projects to the table is to connect companies and R&D institutions regionally, nationally and globally. To support coupling for both business and innovation, NCE Subsea has established a database, Subsea Index, offering an outline of companies and organizations that deliver products and services to the subsea industry, nationwide and on a global scale. The main purpose of the database is to provide users and potential customers with information about the companies’ qualifications and products, hence contributing to cooperation in terms of innovation and development of products and services.
The listings included in the Subsea Index database are comprised of NCE Subsea partners and member companies as well as other national and international actors of the subsea segment. Members of the database are registered with supplementary information and that this information is updated regularly according to the companies’ development, in order to maintain the benefit of the users. The Subsea Index database is available through the website www.ncesubsea.no.
Aiming for Competence
The Bergen area’s strong position within the international subsea industry necessitates efforts to strengthen recruitment. A major key to the continued development is the competence that organizations possess in the form of staff and networks. NCE Subsea initiates and arranges courses, education and projects on subsea technology, collaboration and innovation.
NCE Subsea was a driving force in establishing a Bachelor programme in underwater technology which focuses on subsea operation and maintenance. The course was opened at Bergen University College in 2007, in close collaboration with regional industry. NCE Subsea has also contributed to the establishment of two new Master programmes at Bergen University College. These are Master of Science (MSc) in underwater technology and MSc in Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
||Skilled workforce is the core quality of the Bergen subsea cluster. Lise is a service engineer employed by FMC Technologies Customer Support.