Scotland’s aquaculture sector will benefit from a £10 million boost which, it is hoped, will help reaffirm its position as a global leader in innovation and seafood production.
The investment in the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC) will be provided by the Scottish Funding Council, Scottish Enterprise, and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).
It is expected to be supplemented by £3.5m secured from third parties, ranging from competitive grants to income generated through services.
During its first five-year phase, SAIC turned its initial project funding package of £6.75m into a portfolio valued at £42.6m, spread across 47 initiatives.
Of the total figure invested, £33.8m came from industry and other partners – leading to the creation of more than 200 jobs, largely in rural areas.
SAIC also supported the development of the aquaculture talent pool by funding the studies of 92 MSc and PhD students.
SAIC played a key role in the development of the Aquaculture Growth to 2030 strategy, the industry’s plan to sustainably double the sector’s economic contribution from £1.8 billion in 2016 to £3.6bn by 2030.
The innovation centre has also brokered relationships between the industry and its stakeholders, particularly through the establishment of the Aquaculture Industry Leadership Group (AILG).
Richard Lochhead, Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, said: “Scotland’s innovation centres have the potential to have a transformational effect on our economy.
“The government is working hard to ensure the aquaculture industry continues to thrive, and today’s announcement means the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre will remain a catalyst for growth in a key national industry which enjoys international success, securing future jobs and sustainable economic growth.”
SAIC chairman David Gregory said: “Saic was built to do things differently.
“We have sought to act as a fulcrum for industry, the public sector, and academia, bringing everyone with an interest in aquaculture together for the good of the Scottish economy.
“We have also helped the industry deal with some of its biggest challenges – which individual businesses, or even groups of companies, wouldn’t have been able to tackle on their own – through access to academic expertise and applied research.
“The level of investment from industry is testament to that success: our original goal was to attract £1 of industry investment for every £1 we spent on projects, but we have delivered significantly more than that.
“The projects have been industry-relevant, attracting hard cash from partners and delivering outcomes that could make a real difference.”
In its Phase 2 strategy for the next five years, SAIC said it plans to drive innovation by leveraging new sources of funding, develop aquaculture skills and talent across Scotland through a focused programme, and share innovation throughout the industry.
The innovation centre will host Gill Health Initiative 2020 in April next year in a bid to inspire and share new ideas around an important industry priority.