With a fantastic history of engineering excellence and innovation in Aberdeen keeping the oil and gas industry in Europe thriving for decades, it is no wonder that other industries may look to Aberdeen's oil and gas innovators for help.

This has been particularly prevalent recently with the drive to meet regional, national and global net zero targets, with Aberdeen's oil and gas professionals demonstrating how adaptable and transferrable their skills are, helping to progress infrastructure for renewable energy sources all over the world.

In an initiative from the Global Underwater Hub (GUH), in partnership with the Royal Navy and Babcock International Group, the defence sector now looks to the oil and gas innovators of Aberdeen to identify technologies and techniques used in the offshore environment that can be applied to their own technologies; aiming to address key problems in the industry and generate efficiency savings. To be more specific, the joint initiative seeks to identify ways to increase the operational uptime of assets and reduce dry-docking periods by adopting and adapting existing in-water inspection, maintenance and repair practices used in the oil and gas industry.

During 2022, the partnership cited three separate calls for innovation, with each being focussed on different inspection and repair capabilities. The three calls focus specifically on:

  1. In-water inspection;
  2. Underwater coating systems, employing new systems for preparing and preserving small areas of submerged and water-backed surfaces and compartments that outperform current systems; and,
  3. Novel Non-Destructive Examination (NDE) to examine and ascertain the structural integrity of a welded joint through a variety of rubberised compound/coatings, with the intention of being able to apply an acceptance standard to the flaws identified through this rubberised medium (with the technique needing to be sensitive enough to identify both surface and subsurface volumetric flaws in the welded substructures).

With respect to the underwater coating systems and NDE techniques using rubberised compounds and coatings in particular, this provides some food for thought from an intellectual property standpoint.

While the 'patent-savvy' may be aware that European protection for an invention related to a substance or composition may only be obtained if said substance or composition has not been disclosed to the public before, there may not be an awareness that further protection may be available in Europe for using the same chemical substance or composition in an entirely new application (i.e. using known oil and gas compositions or substances in applications in different industries/sectors);

For example, a chemical widely used in the oil and gas industry may provide surprisingly good corrosion inhibiting properties when applied to the hull of a vessel. In this instance, a European patent may be available for using this known chemical substance or compound in a new and inventive way.

While there can be nuances in the patent system when it comes to technology with military related applications, the potential for further protection of inventions is something that should be considered when answering these calls for innovation; and may also add a further level of attraction to anyone looking to answer any of the aforementioned calls for innovation.

Ultimately though, this collaboration further demonstrates the high regard and demand for the skills available in the oil and gas industry in Aberdeen, and how Aberdeen's expertise can be applied, and is needed, well beyond oil and gas.

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