SKILLS shortages in the North Sea are likely to be a major barrier to growth in the next 12 months, according to a new report.

Researchers from GL Noble Denton spoke to more than 400 people from within the sector with the ageing demographic of the workforce and lack of qualified professionals entering the industry cited as a concern by 58% of European respondents.

The survey also found 44% of those from Europe expect research and development spending to increase this year, which was above the global average of 37%.

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This year may also see a growing role for gas with more than one-third of those questioned saying they expect European governments to prioritise investment in this area.

Lutz Wittenberg, GL Noble Denton's executive vice-president for Europe, said: "Technological innovation has meant that certain mature fields are becoming viable investments once again, and regional R&D outlay looks set to increase accordingly.

"Despite this innovation, there is a concern that there simply isn't enough available talent in Europe to be able to fully realise this inward investment.

"Technology can go some way to plugging the gap, but if this skills crisis continues, it may damage the North Sea's long-term viability on the global stage."

The report came as it emerged manufacturer OGN has written to MPs claiming up to 10,000 engineering jobs could have been created if the UK government had supported home grown companies bidding to win contracts for North Sea oil rigs. Many of the contracts went to companies in South Korea.