A Dundee manufacturer is in talks with a major European wind turbine manufacturer about a joint venture which could give Scotland an early foothold in the offshore renewables industry and create up to 500 jobs.
PressureFab, set up in Dundee by German entrepreneur Hermann Twickler barely three years ago and already supporting 90 jobs, is attracting support from government agencies for its bid to accelerate Scottish participation in the wind turbine industry.
It wants to secure a slice of European-based manufacturing from 2014, which it says is three years ahead of the likely earliest opening of any turbine facility in Scotland.
The Dundee group already supplies oil and gas multinationals with a range of high-specification equipment and is Scotland's only mass manufacturer of offshore containers, having displaced Chinese and European products for its North Sea customers.
Now it wants to build the control units of wind turbines, importing the steel and electronic components, as well as technology transfer know-how, but doing all the manufacturing, fit-out, painting and inspection. It would utilise the port of Dundee, which it says is ideally placed for the northernmost Alpha and Bravo projects in the Firth of Forth development.
"It could create 400 to 500 jobs in Dundee and secure them for the long-term," said Mr Twickler, former operations director at defence giant VT in Portsmouth and manager of major plants in North America, where he worked for Boeing. "It could be like Airbus, where there is no country that builds a complete plane, every country is contributing a bit," he said.
The Scottish Government says offshore wind is "the next industrial revolution with the potential to attract billions of pounds of investment and create tens of thousands of highly skilled and sustainable jobs".
It has in the past year unveiled several announcements by turbine makers, such as Areva of Germany, Gamesa of Spain and Samsung and Mitsubishi of Japan concerning plans to build facilities in Scotland, creating hundreds of jobs.
But Mr Twickler points out that the announcements so far are short on detail about timescale.
He said: "The sentence that is missing is that they won't start building it until they have a purchase order, and the other sentence missing is that they will need at least three to four years to build it up from scratch and train staff.
"None of them has started digging a hole yet, all of them are waiting for the first orders to come through before they start."
He says that means Scotland will miss out on several years of orders from the Firth of Forth, which are due to begin next year.
The control unit or "transition piece" in the turbine is the second most valuable element after the blades, each worth around £4.5m. "It could be built here in Dundee, and we could be ready to build within six to nine months. We need to pick something that can be exported from Scotland now, not in four or five years' time," he said.
Meanwhile, most of the Scottish suppliers who have been encouraged to attend showcase events for the sector are shut out of the supply chain because they are too small, Mr Twickler said. "It is unrealistic to invite five and ten-man companies to these events, most of them will never supply blue-chips, who can then say they have not found anyone who is ready to supply them. But if we took this business on from Dundee and got public support for it, the big manufacturers would have no excuse, and we would cascade the work down to our suppliers."
Mr Twickler said there was also a danger that major inward investors would focus on Edinburgh, bring in their own staff commuting from Europe, and create relatively few manufacturing jobs.
"Even if it is made mandatory for them to set up a final assembly plant, that will not cater for any of the developments over the next three to five years," he said.