As we all know, the oil and gas industry is facing challenging times and the fundamental economics have shifted as a result of the fall in the price of oil. The challenge of Maximising Economic Recovery (MER) in a low cost environment has focused minds on costs and efficiency, and, irrespective of where oil prices move, there has been a necessary recalibration for the industry.

Hopefully, this will have a positive impact by encouraging true collaboration and a greater openness towards innovation and the implementation of technology, processes and business models in what has historically been a risk-averse sector. The rewards of a greater openness to innovation will be even higher when the oil price recovers.

R&D budgets have been impacted over the past two years and companies are increasingly looking for other options to fund innovation. Fortunately, there are a number of organisations that offer funding. While each funding package is appropriate to different circumstances, they can all be an enabler for a project to progress.

Key providers of funding for oil and gas technology developers include:

The Oil & Gas Innovation Centre (OGIC), connects companies looking to develop innovative technologies to academic resource within Scottish universities and can part-fund up to 50% (70% for a micro-business) of the academic project. To qualify for funding, OGIC projects must be innovative, involve university input and, ultimately, be of benefit to the oil & gas industry. The funding is placed directly with the university partner. One further service that OGIC can provide, where a company's requirements need other forms of support, is assistance to identify other appropriate public funding sources.

Scottish Enterprise, which provides a range of innovation support and funding, including 'Make it to Market' grants; R&D grants; 'Seek & Solve' grants; and specialist innovation support, as well as a range of specialist advice across intellectual property, manufacturing, organisational development and market development.

Innovate UK, which, since 2007, has dedicated more than £1.8 billion to innovation and helped over 7,600 organisations. Innovate UK allocates funding of between £25,000 and £10 million to individual projects and runs funding competitions that are open to projects led by UK-based companies. Funding can be sought to test the viability of your idea, progress the idea and to demonstrate the idea as a prototype.

The Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) is a three-way partnership between a business, an academic institution and a graduate, which is part-funded by a grant. It is one of a number of programmes led by the Technology Strategy Board, which aims to accelerate business innovation.

Interface operates several funding schemes, allowing academic institutions to develop new products and processes through research and development projects.

  • The Innovation Voucher Scheme provides an opportunity for Scottish small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) to work with academics to help solve problems that may help expand their business and offer solutions that cannot be obtained commercially. It funds projects with a value of up to £5,000 with the overall objective of benefitting the Scottish economy.
  • The Follow On Innovation Vouchers Scheme aims to encourage existing partnerships between universities in Scotland and SMEs that have jointly received funding, with a value of between £5,000 and £20,000.

Even in a downturn many individuals are willing to take significant personal risk to turn their great ideas into deployable technology products. The good news is that there is funding and support available to back them.


Audrey Sheal

Oil & Gas Innovation Centre