Development body highlights Blue Economy opportunities

Industries in the “Blue Economy” offer transformational economic opportunities for the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, according to a report published today.

Aquaculture, along with marine environmental services and marine renewable energy, is highlighted as one of the key industries for the region in The Blue Economy in the Highlands and Islands, a study commissioned by Highlands and Island Enterprise (HIE) and carried out by ekosgen.

The report says: “…the sectors that HIE should focus on in terms of taking a strategic role are: Aquaculture; Offshore renewables; and Marine Environmental Services. They are not simply the sectors with the biggest existing footprint, they reflect where the Highlands and Islands has a particular advantage that will lever significant opportunities.”

Marine environmental services are vital for monitoring and sustainably managing the marine environment at regional, national, and international levels, the authors argue.

With Scotland’s strong digital tech activity in innovation, research and development, they add, there is a “large, valuable, and developing market for technology, expertise, knowledge and systems.”

In marine renewables, the report points to the region’s existing competitive advantage in wind, wave and tidal energy, and highlights this as another potentially transformational opportunity.

To fully capitalise on these and several other opportunities, the study urges stronger collaboration between industries, the public sector, academia and communities.

The report recommends HIE should take a strategic lead in both marine environmental services and marine renewable energy, as well as aquaculture, which it describes as another key sector with significant potential.

The report also proposes HIE should remain clearly sighted on emerging opportunities in marine biotechnology, in the decommissioning of renewable energy installations and in supporting a co-ordinated approach to investment in ports and harbours infrastructure.

Martin Johnson, HIE’s director of strategy and regional economy, said: “The blue economy makes a substantial contribution to the prosperity of the Highlands and Islands and to Scotland.  Our outstanding marine resource provides new commercial opportunities linked to net zero transition. As well as contributing to economic growth, these can help ensure the future resilience of rural communities.

“This report provides a thorough examination of the broad range of marine industries, where the Highlands and Islands region has particular advantages, and how to capitalise on these… we will be using this to steer our own operating plan and sharing it with stakeholders across the region and various sectors with a view to developing a regional-level delivery plan for the blue economy.”

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