New portal helps Highlands and Islands firms

An Lochran and Inverness Campus stock photography, July 2016 Picture Credit Tim Winterburn / HIE

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An extended online portal that helps small to medium enterprises in the Highlands and Islands find new business opportunities from large contracts was launched earlier this month.

The Open4Business (O4B) portal was originally set up in 2012 by SSE to link supply chain firms with large SSE construction projects.

In just over five years, it led to more than £174 million in contracts to local businesses, contributing directly to the economic wellbeing and sustainable development of many communities across the region.

In 2018, SSE passed O4B to Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) so it could be extended to include new industries and developers and encourage them to advertise their requirements on the portal.

HIE has now appointed Inverness Chamber of Commerce to promote and manage the portal for the next two years. The two organisations will work together to further develop the platform, to include opportunities in other key sectors.

There will be an emphasis on recruiting new contractors to push their upcoming works through the service, opening up more opportunities for Highlands and Islands businesses.

The increasing energy-related activity across the region – onshore and offshore – creates new opportunities for local supply chain firms. It also allows top tier contractors to get a strong appreciation of what is available locally.

Elain MacRae, head of energy strategy at HIE, said: ‘The Open4Business portal has been fantastic in bringing opportunities direct to local businesses and enabling top tier companies to find out what is available locally.

‘We congratulate SSE for creating this tremendous asset and are delighted to be working with the Inverness Chamber team to take it to the next stage. In the next two years we can expect the portal to expand its reach in a way that will benefit even more local firms across the region and beyond the energy sector.’

Nolan Miller, SSE strategic supplier manager, said: ‘We are very proud of what the Open4Business platform has achieved to date and we are excited to see what the next chapter will bring.

‘In working with HIE and Inverness Chamber of Commerce, we are confident the O4B portal will continue to grow and go from strength to strength, reaching across multiple industry sectors and widening the opportunities for local businesses.

‘SSE will remain a stakeholder in the Open4Business portal and most importantly, we will continue to drive business opportunities into the portal from our various projects across Scotland.’

Stewart Nicol, chief executive of Inverness Chamber of Commerce, added: ‘I’m delighted to be running the Open4Business programme for HIE.  Open4Business Highlands and Islands is a great resource for businesses of all sizes, delivering projects across the region.

‘Programmes such as this are really important to Inverness Chamber and other Highland-based Chambers, as we connect, support and represent our memberships and the whole of the SME community across the Highlands and Islands region.’

Businesses not already registered on the portal can do so in around five minutes by visiting www.04b-highlandsandislands.com.

More information is available at https://www.inverness-chamber.co.uk/events/event/open4business-highlands-and-islands-launch