SAIC secures £10m to help industry thrive

Heather Jones, CEO of the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre

THE Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC) plans to focus on small and medium sized enterprises over the next five years, after securing its second phase of funding, worth £10 million.

It will also use the money to develop aquaculture skills and talent across Scotland through a mentoring scheme; working with undergraduates and schools to build awareness of aquaculture as a career; and furthering the Women in Scottish Aquaculture (WiSA) network.

The investment, announced yesterday, comes from the Scottish Funding Council, Scottish Enterprise, and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, and is expected to be supplemented by an additional £3.5 million secured from third parties.

During its first five-year phase, SAIC turned its initial project funding package of £6.75 million into a portfolio valued at £42.6 million, spread across 47 initiatives.

Of the total figure invested, £33.8 million 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.

In the latest phase, SAIC said it will share innovation throughout the industry by organising workshops, conferences, and ‘disseminating information in new ways’. The innovation centre will host Gill Health Initiative 2020 in April next year.

Heather Jones, CEO of SAIC, said: ‘The world has an insatiable appetite for protein. In salmon and other seafood, Scotland is producing globally recognised, sustainably sourced premium products to match that need.

‘Innovation has been, and will continue to be, an integral part of how we help the industry enhance fish health and wellbeing, reduce losses, and enable businesses of all sizes to grow.

‘Over the next five years, we will build on Scottish aquaculture’s existing foundations to establish a low carbon, hi-tech, data rich, and cutting edge sector that is led by pioneering research aligned with genuine industry need.’

SAIC chairman David Gregory said the organisation 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.

‘We have also encouraged the industry to talk about the good work that is being done and re-invent the way it shares information, not only with itself, but the wider world too.’

Richard Lochhead, Scottish minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, said the announcement means SAIC will ‘remain a catalyst for growth in a key national industry which enjoys international success, securing future jobs and sustainable economic growth’.

‘The government is working hard to ensure the aquaculture industry continues to thrive.’

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