New funding from OWGP will enable VRAI to provide training through virtual reality with £400,000 project
UNITED KINGDOM: VRAI, a Gateshead-based company that specialises in data-driven simulation training for high hazard environments, has today announced it has been awarded an Offshore Wind Growth Partnership (OWGP) grant. This funding will be used to develop an immersive training solution which will support the transition of oil and gas workers to the offshore wind industry. VRAI is an immersive technology company specialising in virtual reality production. It is one of nine UK companies to secure a share of the £3.5 million OWGP funding pot.
VRAI’s technology combines virtual reality (VR) with data capture, analysis and machine learning (ML) in order to measure, evaluate and predict human performance and improve training outcomes. The company’s clients include giant organisations such as IAG in Heathrow Airport, the United Nations in Somalia, and the RAF.
This is the second time VRAI has benefitted from OWGP funding; the first grant was awarded in February 2021. This latest round follows the success of VRAI’s initial project to find more efficient ways of training employees remotely and at scale, all the while using data-driven insights to help improve safety and performance.
With the help of the latest grant support, and through this new innovative project, VRAI will leverage cutting edge simulation technology to support the transition of oil and gas workers to the offshore wind industry. In addition, it will investigate how VR can help deliver accessible, affordable and standardised training to support a just transition for this highly-skilled, critical workforce.
The company’s total budget for this new offshore wind industry training project is approximately £400,000, and OPITO – a global not-for-profit skills and standards body for the energy industry – is set to provide expert support on training needs and product validation.
In 2021, VRAI and Durham University’s Prof Simon Hogg, Ørsted Professor in Renewable Energy at the Durham Energy Institute, were awarded funding to develop a practical VR accompaniment to industry standard fire awareness training. Subject matter expertise was also contributed by the Port of Blyth Training Services and Vestas, as part of their commitment to global industry safety standards.
Simulation training is renowned for providing a safe, immersive and highly realistic environment in which to learn and practise skills, or demonstrate competency, while data analytics can deliver insights about user performance and trends to help improve outcomes. Once the sole method of training for fighter pilots and formula one drivers, VRAI believes that virtual reality can make training experiences, particularly in hazardous environments accessible to all.
According to the 2021 UK Offshore Energy Workforce Transferability Review, by 2030 the offshore energy workforce in the UK is expected to reach 200,000. 50% of these, the Review states, will be filled by personnel transitioning from the oil and gas industry to renewables, new graduates, and recruitment from outside the existing offshore energy sector. The Review also found that 90% of oil and gas workers have medium or high skills transferability to other offshore energy sectors. Meanwhile, a 2020 Platform and Friends of the Earth Scotland and Greenpeace UK Report showed that 53% of current oil and gas industry workers would choose to train in offshore wind as part of a career move. In addition, the Report revealed that workers seeking to make this transition can encounter challenges, citing affordability and duplication of training as common obstacles, suggesting a need for disruptive and innovative solutions to help streamline the process.
Speaking about the grant and its significance, OWGP Programme Manager Claire Canning said:
“We are delighted to continue our support for VRAI. This project will not only develop a first-of-its-kind suite of VR training specific to offshore wind, but will directly support the transition of the oil and gas workforce into the sector – an important step in the energy transition and the pathway to net-zero.”
Welcoming the support from OWGP and commenting on the company’s plans, Fran McNulty, Sustainability Lead of VRAI, said:
“The energy workforce is rapidly changing, creating an exciting space for innovative technologies that support a just transition for oil and gas workers into offshore renewables. We are delighted about the opportunity this funding gives us to expand our offering and develop new ways of leveraging data and simulation technologies to deliver high quality, accessible training. We’re looking forward to developing new solutions that deliver real value to this rapidly growing sector.”
Commenting on the partnership with VRAI, Andy Williamson, Senior Vice President of Energy Transition at OPITO added:
“As a leading global not-for-profit skills and standards body for the energy industry, OPITO is delighted to have been selected by VRAI to collaborate and provide expertise for this project. Continuous improvement to enhance training – without compromising on safety and competence – is in our DNA, and supporting the workforce to upskill and transition into other sectors of energy is a primary strategic focus for the organisation, particularly given our work under the North Sea Transition Deal with industry and government.”
– ENDS –
For interview requests or media enquiries, please contact:
+353 87 987 2282
VRAI is an immersive technology company specialising in virtual reality production. It is a content creation organisation with over 30 years’ combined staff experience in delivering VR and AR. In addition to providing immersive technology services to corporations, VRAI also aims to improve training and development through the combination of technology and data with its flagship product, HEAT (Hazardous Environment Awareness Training). HEAT aims to improve the quality and safety of high-hazard training and development schemes and consists of three main elements: onboarding, VR training, and AI reporting and analytics. VRAI has offices in Gateshead, NE England and Dublin, Ireland. The company employs over 12 people. For more, see www.vraisimulation.com
About the Offshore Wind Growth Partnership
The Offshore Wind Growth Partnership (OWGP) was launched in June 2019 and is a key part of the sector deal between industry and Government. It is funded by the Offshore Wind Industry Council (OWIC) with a budget of £100m over a 10-year period. It is a long-term business transformation programme that will promote closer collaboration across the supply chain, implement structured productivity improvement programmes and facilitate shared growth opportunities between developers and the supply chain. Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult will manage the delivery of OWGP with support from specialist delivery partners. For more, visit owgp.org.uk
OPITO, a global not-for-profit skills and standards body for the energy industry, was mandated by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to lead the ‘People & Skills Action Plan’ under the North Sea Transition Deal. OPITO will provide expert support on training needs analysis, product development and training standards, as well as connections with relevant stakeholders. For more, visit opito.com