Up to 50 new Highland fish farm jobs are promised with the aid of a £1million public subsidy.
The development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has approved a funding package and will work closely with the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC) on a pilot programme to boost innovation in the sector.
The 30-month project hopes to attract matched funding from the private sector.
The initiative is aimed at helping small to medium enterprises achieve greater commercialisation of new innovative products and services.
It is expected to boost industry turnover in the region by about £8million.
The agency regards aquaculture as a priority sector.
It is estimated to contribute £1.8billion turnover a year to the Scottish economy and supports 8,000 jobs.
Industry projections estimate that the sector has the potential to increase job numbers to 18,000 jobs by 2030.
Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “Scotland’s aquaculture industry is a real pillar of our rural economy, particularly for the Highlands and Islands, and this Government is committed to working with partners across the sector to support continued sustainable growth.
“Maximising the opportunities that innovation can bring will be central in delivering the industry’s vision for the future of aquaculture. That is why it’s pleasing to see this collaborative programme come to fruition, which will provide a boost for the sector and support job creation.”
HIE interim chief executive Charlotte Wright said: “We anticipate significant investment in the years ahead from aquaculture firms operating in the region.
“It’s important that we use public sector funding to support innovation in a way that benefits the whole sector including firms in the supply chain. In turn, this will support the sector’s growth as well as strengthen resilience of rural communities, particularly those in some of our most remote and fragile areas.”
SAIC chief executive Heather Jones added: “This new pilot scheme is a truly landmark moment and shows just how much can be achieved when different players unite over a shared goal.”