Open day for new Orkney Research & Innovation Campus building

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A special open day, aimed at showcasing the new Orkney Research and Innovation Campus (ORIC) Robert Rendall building in Stromness, is set to take place later this month.

The facility, located on the site of the former Stromness Primary School, represents the first phase of the £6.5 million ORIC project – a joint venture by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and Orkney Islands Council (OIC).

Work on the second phase of the project, which involves the redevelopment of the old Stromness Academy buildings, is also nearing completion.

The ORIC project seeks to strengthen Orkney’s global lead in the field of renewables research and innovation, providing purpose built business and educational facilities within Stromness, where much of the sector’s activity is currently focused.

First phase tenants, including Heriot-Watt University’s International Centre for Island Technology (ICIT), Solo Energy, and Robert Gordon University, have already moved, or will soon move, into the new Robert Rendall building – named after the renowned Orcadian naturalist and poet.

In addition to providing study and workspace for its main tenants, the Robert Rendall building also offers areas that can be rented by external organisations and local businesses involved in relevant sectors. 

Members of the public will have the opportunity to view the ORIC Robert Rendall building, and learn more about the campus project, during a special open day being held on Saturday 26 October, from 2pm until 5pm.

An additional open day is being planned for the second phase of the ORIC project at the former Stromness Academy, with a formal opening of the entire ORIC campus set to take place at a future date.

John McGlynn, executive manager for ORIC, said: “We’re hugely excited to now have the ORIC campus up and running with the opening of the Robert Rendall building. This is a great project for Stromness, and for Orkney, providing a new state-of-the-art facility for the pioneering research and innovation work taking place in the islands.

“Feedback from our new tenants has been excellent and the atmosphere within the building very much one of collaboration, which has always been a key aim of the project. It won’t be long now until the second phase is also complete, providing a further catalyst for cooperation between all the organisations, companies and agencies who share the common aim of furthering crucial Orkney based research and development work.”

Heriot-Watt University support manager, PJ Dewar, said: “The development marks an exciting way forward for Heriot-Watt’s Orkney campus as we embrace the immediate challenges of climatic change. Our master programmes continue to attract students from all over the world. From marine planning, renewable energy and marine management, our courses offer a dynamic starting point from which to begin a career in the energy sector.

“With scholarships going a long way to support students financially, we aim to grow our student base here in Stromness. The modern facilities and immediacy to other organisations based within this building and throughout ORIC will facilitate industry collaboration. We are all looking forward to the opportunities this development presents and seeing in the months and years ahead how valuable this will be for a number of stakeholders, and Stromness itself.”

Robert Gordon University’s Orkney Project development manager, Elsa Cox, said: “Robert Gordon University is delighted to have a presence in the new ORIC development. With co-creation and collaboration at its heart, the RGU Orkney Project is focused on finding effective solutions to some of the challenges of island life, with key themes including healthy ageing, smart tourism, circular economy and transport. Joining the wider ORIC community will support RGU’s growth and impact locally, enhancing opportunities for academic, student and commercial activity while building on our long-term commitment to Orkney.”

Explaining the process behind the naming of the new ORIC buildings, Mr McGlynn said extensive consultation had taken place with local historians, organisations on the campus and Stromness Community Council to identify individuals who best represented the ethos of the new project.

“In addition to the Robert Rendall Building, one block at the old Stromness Academy will be named after Orcadian scientist and minister, Charles Clouston, with another block paying tribute to notable Orcadian businesswoman, Christian Robertson.

“Gender balance in the names was very important to us, as was the input of local people through Stromness Community Council. We also greatly appreciate the help of Stromness Museum, which Charles Clouston established, and local historians, including Bryce Wilson. The final list of names are all people who very much reflect the core values of the ORIC project and our themes of innovation, exploration and collaboration.”

Mr McGlynn added: “I’d take to take this opportunity to commend the work of our project contractors, R Clouston Ltd, and all the other local businesses and contractors who’ve brought the campus to fruition.”