Profile: George Morrison, Aquaterra Energy

Five years since its launch, Aquaterra Energy has grown into a thriving �20m business and last week scooped a key accolade, being named EDP Business of the Year.

And with a sea of opportunity at its feet, the offshore engineering firm is well placed for another five years of steady growth, according to managing director George Morrison.

Born in Banff, Scotland, Mr Morrison studied civil and structural engineering at Aberdeen University before starting his career at Nowsco, a Canadian offshore firm offering tubing and pumping services.

The company moved him to Great Yarmouth, where he spent a spell working offshore, which Mr Morrison is quick to admit, he 'wasn't very good at'.

But after continuing his career as an engineer onshore, he worked with energy industry veteran Mark Boyd, who founded Aquaterra in 2005.

Mr Morrison joined the company a few months later as project engineer, before being appointed in his current role in 2006.

And last week he took to the stage twice at the EDP Business Awards, first to collect the Grant Thornton International Enterprise Award, and later after Aquaterra was revealed as the Barclays Corporate Business of the Year.

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Mr Morrison said: 'Working at Aquaterra has been fantastic. I have been extremely lucky to find really good people to work with, really good customers and suppliers.

'That's made it a really good experience.

'Mark Boyd and I are good combination. He has strong points and I have strong points.

'There are things I'm optimistic about that he is pessimistic about and vice versa, so together we get a good balanced view on everything.

'One of my strengths is creativity, finding solutions to problems for our customers.'

And the creative approach has been key to the success of Aquaterra.

The company has developed a range of pioneering technology, primarily for the oil and gas sector, with products designed and tested in the North Sea and exported across the globe.

One key product has been the launch of a unique high-pressure riser system, used in the drilling process.

Unveiled this year, bosses hope it will become a market leading product, enabling faster, safer production, saving clients time and money.

As well as creativity and problem solving, the company has also benefited from its relatively small size, allowing it to focus on quality of work.

'We can't afford to have any bad jobs,' Mr Morrison added: 'Every job has to be a good one, which means we can't have too much work at any one time.

'If we didn't do that we wouldn't get the repeat business that is vital to us.

'Oil is a huge business but it comes down to the people in it. People remember if you did a good or bad job.'

While Aquaterra has grown rapidly, repeatedly outgrowing its premises in its brief history, Mr Morrison said expansion had been constrained not by opportunities but by a shortage of skilled engineers, a key issue in the region.

As Mr Morrison mentioned when he collected his first EDP award on Friday, rival oil and gas hub Aberdeen produces hundreds of engineering graduates each year, while Norfolk produces none.

He added: 'We have had plenty of opportunities but have had various struggles to get the quality of engineers we need.

'This has been the toughest challenge for us.

'It can be a bit frustrating but we would rather grow in a controlled manner and not try and race ahead.

'We have got to take it in managed steps and make sure every job goes well.'

Looking to the future, it is unlikely that the skills issue will be solved any time soon.

But Mr Morrison said Aquaterra still has no shortage of opportunities, and is well placed for another five years of growth.

He said: 'We will carry on growing, we can't stand still. There are lots of opportunities for us.

'All our product lines have room to grow, so there is lots of scope for organic growth.

'There are lots of markets we could look to move into and do more in.

'We have done a little bit of work in wind and renewables, but we could do a whole lot more.

'De-commissioning in the oil and gas industry is also something we haven't really touched on yet.

'There are a lot of areas with potential for us to grow into.'

He added: 'I don't imagine we are going to be a super-sized business in five years as we want to keep the benefits of being the size we are, such as responsiveness, the ability to know about everything going on in the business and to make sure every job is a good one.

'We will grow at a pace we are comfortable with.'

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The runners up in the EDP Barclays Corporate Business of the Year award were offshore firm CLS Offshore and Collier Turf Care.

For profiles on the runners up see the EDP business pages next Friday and the Friday after.