VR defence tech company secures funding to power UK Offshore Wind workforce

Energy & Low Carbon Industry | Funding | North East | Technology

Data driven virtual reality company VRAI has today announced they have been awarded part of an Offshore Wind Growth Partnership (OWGP) grant worth £1.2m to help improve training within the sector across the UK.

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In partnership with Durham University Professor Simon Hogg, Ørsted Professor in Renewable Energy at the Durham Energy Institute, VRAI is one of 12 companies to secure such funding. VRAI creates data driven VR simulation training for high hazard environments with clients including the IAG in Heathrow Airport, the United Nations in Somalia, and the RAF. The innovative company is headquartered in the North East’s tech hub at the Proto Centre, Gateshead.

This latest project will see VRAI bring their groundbreaking virtual reality simulation training (previously used in military training) to the UK’s growing offshore wind industry. The project is intended to find more efficient ways of training employees remotely and at scale, all the while using data-driven insights to help improve safety and performance.

It follows VRAI’s expansion into England’s North East last year. By focusing on the region, the company hopes to align with its ambition to stay close to its customers and recruit local talent. With over 5,000 computer science graduates qualifying annually in the North East, VRAI hopes to create further opportunities for graduates looking for a career within the VR sector.

The OWGP launched in June 2019 as a long-term business transformation programme that aims to support offshore wind supply change growth in the UK. It has a budget of £100m over a ten-year period. T

he programme is a key element of the Offshore Wind Sector Deal between industry and government and is funded by members of the Offshore Wind Industry Council (OWIC) and delivered by Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult. Expansion of offshore wind is central to Government plans for sustainable economic growth in the UK and a net-zero future. It includes the target to reach 40GW by 2030, enough to power every home in the UK, which alone will support up to 60,000 jobs.

The Durham Energy Institute and its strategic partners will be responsible for ensuring the UK achieves its target. The Durham Energy Institute’s strategic partners include Ørsted, The Energi Coast, Aura Offshore Wind Clusters, and ORE Catapult.

According to recent figures from renewableUK, Britain is a global leader in offshore wind, with more installed capacity than any other country. In addition to this, it is estimated that the sector powers over 4.5 million UK homes annually. On the back of these findings, a research study commissioned by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (NELEP) has identified significant opportunities for economic growth and employment in offshore wind across Britain, with the potential creation of up to 9,500 jobs both indirectly and directly servicing the sector.

VRAI Managing Director Niall Campion, said: “We are delighted to be part of this exciting partnership with Professor Hogg to support the expansion of the offshore wind industry workforce. I think this partnership shows the potential for the “levelling up” agenda to be supported by the high-quality technology companies in the North East of England, as well as our top research institutes. Data and technology could fuel the next economic boom, as oil did in the past.”

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