Orkney Islands-based engineering company Leask Marine has begun its research and development into a new £1.5m submersible drilling rig, said to be the largest of its kind, to support offshore renewable projects.

The firm will invest the full sum into the project, with financial support from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and Scottish Enterprise (SE). It will allow Leask Marine to design, create and test the submersible drilling rig, which is suitable for drilling in turbulent sea conditions.

Leask Marine’s aim is to help offshore renewable companies to explore new commercial opportunities in the sector by using the cost efficient and mobile submersible drilling rig.

As per the funding, SE will contribute £488,688 as an R&D grant towards the drilling rig.

SE head of innovation grants Michael Cannon said: “Leask Marine is a fantastic example of an innovative company with global ambitions. Increasing business innovation is critical to maintaining Scotland’s competitiveness and helping companies compete in the global marketplace.”

Leask Marine also purchased the Numitor Mobile Marine Test Platform (MMTP), a 30m steel pontoon that will serve as the testing platform for renewable companies to lease.

“We are delighted with the support from HIE and SE which has helped us to expand our growth plans locally and internationally,” said Leask Marine founder Dougie Leask.

“The Numitor is a welcome addition to our fleet of vessels which provides a boost to our business and will enable us/has enabled us to recruit new jobs. We look forward to developing the R&D project which will help us achieve our international ambitions.”

HIE will contribute £70,000 towards the purchase of the Numitor and other equipment.

HIE Orkney area manager Graeme Harrison added: “Orkney has become the global epicentre of marine renewables research based around the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) and this has led to the development of a skilled and experienced local supply chain. Leask Marine’s skills are in high demand and we are delighted to support them extend their services to the marine renewable energy sector.

“Scotland continues to be a world leader in the development and support of wave and tidal energy technologies. The availability of an MMTP in Orkney will be a complementary service to the innovative drilling rig being developed by the company and will cement its position as an important supply chain partner in this sector, further strengthening Orkney and Scotland’s global reputation.”

The Orkney Islands are a key region for the development of renewable energy technology and are home to Orbital Marine Power’s SR2000 2MW floating tidal turbine, and the EMEC, the world’s first test centre for grid-connected wave and tidal power.