New BP Research Centre in Cambridge

The Government has welcomed a series of investments by oil and gas companies that will launch a new research centre and, it is claimed, will create thousands of jobs.

Six separate announcements were made, including plans for new oil and gas fields in the North Sea under a £1.4bn project that should supply around 5% of the UK’s gas production from 2015.

The so-called Cygnus project, involving Centrica  , is expected to create around 4,000 jobs.

BP said it will open an International Centre for Advanced Materials to support science and engineering, spread across Manchester and Cambridge universities and Imperial College, London, as well as the University of Illinois in the US.

Around £60m will be invested in the project, which will create a number of new academic posts.

Other announcements include investment by Italian chemical producer Versalis at its Grangemouth site in Scotland, and recruitment of up to 50 new graduate staff by Oxfordshire-based geosciences business Neftex.

The news will be revealed at a business summit in London.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said: The oil and gas industry’s immense contribution to our skills base, industrial capacity and strength as an exporter are pivotal as we rebalance our economy.

Today’s summit underlines the Government’s commitment to making the UK a great place for energy firms to do business, develop new technologies and recruit the best technicians and engineers.

Collaboration between business and higher education institutions is boosting the status of the UK as a driver of innovation and giving our firms a competitive edge.

I’m pleased that BP has chosen to partner with a number of our world-class universities to find new and more efficient ways of using and generating power.

Bob Dudley, BP’s group chief executive, said: Advanced materials and coatings will be vital in finding, producing and processing energy safely and efficiently in the years ahead.

Energy producers will work at unprecedented depths, pressures and temperatures, as refineries, plants and pipeline operators seek ever better ways to combat corrosion.

Manchester has world-leading capabilities and facilities in materials and it was chosen after a global search to act as the ‘hub’ of the centre, with ‘spokes’ in other university departments worldwide.

The summit is one of 18 organised by UK Trade and Investment to promote British business during the Olympic and Paralympic Games.