Keynote Speakers

Keynote Speakers

Kristopher LEASK

Orkney Islands Council

Kristopher currently serves as an elected councillor in Orkney Islands Council and as the policy manager for Community Energy Scotland. As a councillor Kristopher’s work focuses on sustainable development, decarbonisation, strategic planning, and biodiversity. In this role Kristopher also chairs the Sustainable Development Delivery Group within the Orkney community planning Partnership. As policy manager for Community Energy Scotland Kristopher oversees stakeholder engagement with government, MSP’s, and MP’s, and engagement on policy issues such as consultation, policy creation, and consultation with member organisations. Studying International Relations MA(Hons) (St Andrews) before undertaking an MSc in Renewable Energy Development (Herriot Watt – ICIT), Kristopher continues to work on issues which involve the inter-relation of energy relations, decarbonisation, and policy.

Brian Polagye

University of Washington

Brian currently works at the University of Washington as a Professor leading a research group focussing on marine renewable energy systems including laboratory experiments to understand the hydrodynamics of tidal turbines and wave converters, as well as field studies of their environmental effects. The group’s current environmental research involves measurements of radiated noise around marine energy converters using drifting hydrophones and developing algorithms to detect, localize, and identify noise sources. Brian is involved in several key, relevant research groups including the Washington Coastal Marine Advisory Council, TEAMER (Testing Expertise and Access for Marine Energy Research) Technical Board as well as formerly the director of the Pacific Marine Energy Centre. He received his Bachelors of Science and Engineering in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from Princeton University in 2000, Masters of Science in Mechanical Engineering from University of Washington in 2005 and finally his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from University of Washington in 2009.


Alexander Gilliland

Scottish Government

Alexander currently works for the Scottish Government’s Offshore Wind Directorate as a Senior Research Programme Officer as part of the Scottish Marine Energy Research (ScotMER) Programme.

Alexander and the ScotMER Team collaborate with wider government, academia, industry (developers and fishing), environmental charities and statutory nature conservation bodies to improve the evidence base on the interactions between offshore renewables, the marine environment and socioeconomics.  

The ScotMER programme meets with stakeholders to discuss key evidence gaps in our knowledge, which are captured on evidence maps. Together with stakeholders these evidence gaps are then formed research ideas which are developed internally by Scottish Government into research projects and taken forward by the ScotMER programme. Project outputs are then made publicly available on the Scottish Government website, presented at conferences such as EIMR, and feed into the National Marine Plan, Sectoral Marine Plan for Offshore Energy, as well as licensing and consenting decisions.

In his current role Alexander works across the ecosystem, supporting research into physical processes, benthic ecology, fish and fisheries, diadromous fish, marine mammals, ornithology and socioeconomics. He received his Bachelors of Science with Honors in Biological Science with Management (Ecology) and Masters of Science in Biodiversity, Wildlife and Ecosystem Health from the University of Edinburgh.

Richard Williams

Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Heriot-Watt University

Professor Williams is an academic leader and entrepreneur with expertise in radical technologies, in energy storage, sustainable cooling technology and environmental technologies. He has founded several innovation-based businesses. He is a minerals engineers graduate of Imperial College and has held posts at Anglo-American Corporation (South Africa), University of Manchester/UMIST, University of Exeter (Camborne School of Mines), and as Pro Vice Chancellor at the University of Leeds and Birmingham. He is a Fellow Academician of the Royal Academy of Engineering (UK), the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering and the Royal Society of Edinburgh and an Honorary Fellow of The Manufacturing Technology Centre (UK). He is Co-chair of UK-UAE Business Council (Education Advisory Group) and has worked extensively in establishing new educational and research collaborations in Middle East, Africa, Singapore, Malaysia and China. He is a visiting professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Beijing) and Tianjin University of Finance and Economics. He is the recipient of the Royal Academy of Engineer President’s Medal. He is an Advisory Board Member of the Lloyds Register Foundation, a member of the Converge Challenge Strategic Advisory Board, a non-executive director of both Entrepreneurial Scotland Foundation and Scottish Enterprise and Trustee of Carnegie Foundation for Universities. His impact statement reads: “I am an innovator and driver of change. My purpose is to bring enjoyment and security of life to others by creating a globally sustainable society.”

Neil Kermode

European Marine Energy Centre(EMEC) Ltd

Neil has been the Managing Director of EMEC – the world’s leading test facility for wave and tidal energy converters – since 2005 and has overseen the deployment of more marine energy technologies in the seas around Orkney than has been deployed at any other site in the world.

Through Neil’s leadership, EMEC also pioneering the production of hydrogen in Orkney and that has led to multiple projects to seek the best ways to use it, particularly in transport. Most recently EMEC hosted the demonstration of production of synthetic fuel for aviation from hydrogen.

Prior to working at EMEC, Neil worked as a project developer of a potential tidal scheme, following six years at the Environment Agency dealing with regulation and development issues.

Neil is a Chartered Engineer, Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers and a Chartered Environmentalist. He has spoken on marine energy extensively in the UK and internationally and is passionate advocate for a sustainable energy future.

He was awarded and OBE in the Kings Birthday Honours in 2023 for services to Renewable Energy and the community of Orkney.

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