EVENTS of the past year have underlined the economic challenges that we face in the North-east of Scotland and focused minds on what must be done to address them. The collapse in the oil price in late 2014 served to bring to a head many of the issues associated with a mature production basin. With the price of oil reaching a 12-year low in mid-January, there appears to be little prospect of relief in the short term for the industry that has dominated our economic life for decades. Last year saw a number of moves by the public and private sectors towards securing our economic future, including ongoing work on the City Region Deal bid, a new regional economic strategy and the creation of Opportunity North East (ONE) – a new private sector led and funded economic leadership board. Concerted and coordinated efforts by the business community, government, our universities, public sector agencies and others offer the prospect of capitalising on our economic strengths to ensure that this region enjoys a prosperous future with a diversified economy that offers high quality employment opportunities. The stakeholders involved in the region’s economic development share a vision of the North-east playing its full role in the maximising economic recovery challenge for North Sea oil and gas and achieving greater balance in its economic base. This will involve consolidating Aberdeen’s position as Europe’s oil and gas capital by transitioning from an operational centre of excellence, as UKCS reserves deplete, to a major centre for technology research and development. Alongside this, we will broaden the economy using our strength as one of the UK’s most enterprising regions with established industry sectors with potential for further growth including food, drink and agriculture, life sciences and tourism. In oil and gas, current thinking is dominated by the downturn. The industry is tackling cost and efficiency challenges and inroads are being made towards greater collaboration and new ways of working. We also need to strengthen our technology base in areas consistent with maximising economic recovery in the UKCS, including small field development, asset integrity, subsea engineering and decommissioning. This process will ultimately better position us for making the most of the North Sea opportunity that remains and ensure that skills, know how and technology are also exportable while anchoring the supply chain here for the long term. We have primary industries in farming, fishing and forestry with scope to develop new export markets, technology and added value diversification while our food and drink sector could double its revenues of more than a £1billion per annum by the end of the decade through developing its research base, entering new markets and focusing on provenance, health and wellbeing. Our considerable life sciences expertise often goes unrecognised but is world class – 80% of Scottish companies with therapeutics in advanced stages of clinical trials are based here and we already account for more than 20% of Scottish biotech employment. New research, new products and new companies can all flow from this given the right investment. Meanwhile tourism is another field rich in potential, especially if Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire combine their efforts under a new destination-marketing organisation for the region. Business tourism is already strong but our natural and cultural assets have lots of leisure potential. Notwithstanding these strengths, time is very much of the essence if we are to achieve the economic renaissance that will secure jobs and growth for the long term. In the North-east, we are a strong, enterprising community with a global outlook. By acting now, we can successfully lay the foundations that will ensure our region continues to play a significant role in the economic future of the country.