Built on the site of the city’s former tyre factory, Dundee’s ambitious Michelin Scotland Innovation Parc (MSIP) will pool the talents of industry, academia and the public sector to lower carbon emissions on the road to net zero. By Andrew
DUNDEE has undoubtedly endured its fair share of economic problems in recent years. The latest blow arrived last year when the Michelin tyre factory closed its doors after nearly 50 years in operation.
Now however, there is brighter news on the horizon. A bold and exciting new venture has been launched in its place, capitalising on the green revolution and holding the promise of creating hundreds of jobs.
Michelin Scotland Innovation Parc (MSIP) stands on the site of the former plant and aims to become a world leading innovation centre in sustainable mobility and low carbon energy.
The tyre giant remains a key partner in this innovative new project along with Dundee City Council and Scottish Enterprise. It is hoped that the transformation of Michelin’s 32 hectare former site will put the area at the very heart of the climate change agenda.
“We felt there was an opportunity to do something different and to recreate the 850 jobs that were lost when the plant closed”, says the Innovation Parc’s Chief Executive, Greig Coull. “It’s about contributing in a meaningful way to Scotland’s very ambitious targets for greenhouse gas reduction and decarbonisation.”
The facility is still in its early stages, but the plan is to create a home for innovators, manufacturers and skills leaders, enabling them to come together and develop the technologies and skills required to meet the challenges of the future.
It will pool the talents of industry, academia, the public sector and the local community to transform Dundee into a key centre for innovation. Companies on the parc will range from small technology startups through to large industrial businesses.
“There are 700,000 square feet of industrial buildings. We already have eight tenants signed up and five of these are on site, accounting for 75 jobs so far”, says Mr Coull.
“We should have more than 120 jobs by the end of the year, so that’s a good start.”
Chief executive of Michelin Scotland Innovation Parc (MSIP) Greig Coull
Innovation Parc facilities will include an innovation hub, skills academy, hydrogen production facility and refuelling centre, and events and community spaces. There will also be supporting services including a coffee shop and also outdoor and indoor meeting and collaboration spaces.
The innovation hub, which will be built towards the end of the year, has been specifically designed with collaboration between industry and academia in mind. The aim is to make it the focus of a cluster of activity by both small and large companies, all working towards the goal of achieving zero carbon.
It will house activities associated with incubating and growing companies and moving technologies towards their market. While a number of buildings at the Innovation Parc will be new, others will be repurposed and upgraded for a new future.
“Some were purpose built for Michelin and were at the end of their lifespan”, Mr Coull explains.
“We have taken away the obsolete boiler house and will now receive steam and electricity from a waste energy plant next door and we will be generating our own power from two onsite wind turbines. We also have plans for small innovation labs where people can take a temporary rental to try out something and manufacture it. They can then scale it up and potentially move into one of the bigger buildings.”
The Innovation Parc is now two years into its 10 year plan. “We aimed to have 850 jobs onsite by the end of that period, with all our existing space rented and another 250 learners coming through our Skills Academy annually. But we actually think we can move more quickly and beat that target. We have a really healthy pipeline of interested organisations and could continue expanding.
And we’re also attracting supply chain organisations that may not want to be physically on site but want to be close to the action.”
How does the new Dundee facility differ from other, similar technology parks elsewhere in Scotland and the UK? Mr Coull lists a number of reasons.
“Firstly, we have industrial space for companies to set up operations, bringing a real economic benefit to Dundee and the wider region.
“We have green energy from the two 2.1 megawatt wind turbines on the site, plus we have solar panels on the roofs of the buildings and sustainable energy from the waste-to-power plant next door.
“We also have the skills academy we are creating with the help of local colleges and universities, and then there’s the business support – we can help smaller companies move through our accelerator programme and scale up. Finally, we can offer real back-up on innovation in that we can provide access to academia and advice about things like funding.”
There will be a particular concentration on what is termed sustainable transport. “However, we won’t be looking directly at mainstream electrification, but rather at particularly challenging areas such as heavy goods vehicles, cranes, diggers and tractors.
“We will be helping companies that are trying to establish themselves in that area – for instance by working on using hydrogen as fuel instead of diesel.
“We have to recognise that there are a great number of vehicles out there that we can’t just sweep aside. Potentially some of these could be converted to hydrogen fuel cells and electric. power. Then there are completely new technologies that can be built from the ground up. There are also opportunities in testing and certification.”
One of the great strengths of the Innovation Parc is its ability to collaborate with academia in testing out new ideas. It has strong connections to Scotland’s world renowned network of universities and colleges, including the University of St Andrews and the nearby Eden Campus Energy Centre.
A strategic partnership with Dundee University has also identified opportunities in a range of areas and this will grow and adapt according to the requirements and expertise of tenants.
Mr Coull pays particular tribute to Michelin for its involvement in the venture. “You can often judge an organisation by what it does when things are difficult. It wants to ensure that everyone is taken care of and that things are done to regenerate the local economy.Michelin is actively participating in the parc by being on the board and letting us use its brand, which is one of the most credible in the world.
“It shows it is ethical and caring, and potentially, it could benefit from some of the on-site activity. So It could be a winner too.”
New skillsets will take pole position in the vision for Parc’s future
ONE of the most important parts of the Michelin Scotland Innovation Parc will be its new Skills Academy. This is designed to connect learners of all ages with businesses and new technologies, training the workforces of the future.
The facility will be located within industrial spaces and classrooms equipped with the latest technologies. “There’s been a recognition that within these new industries, there’s something of a dearth of skills”, explains Greig Coull.
The grand vision for Michelin Scotland Innovation Parc includes
a wide-ranging new Skills Academy
“We need people to build and maintain the technologies and we need to teach them everything from basic skills right up to degree and masters’ level. For instance, how do you service a wind turbine? Or how do you put together a hydrogen fuel cell? Unless we can address that skills gap, we’re not going to be able to scale up.
“One way of doing that will be to retain people coming from industries like oil and gas that are potentially in decline.”
An advisory board has been put together with industry and Dundee and Angus College, which will be playing a leading role in delivering the skills required.
As part of the project, a dedicated space will be made available to allow local schools and colleges to attend. “We have a fairly large building set aside for this and we are now working out what tools and equipment we need in it.