SAIC secures £1.5 million funding package from the Scottish Government

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Research organisation the Sustainable Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC) has secured new funding to continue its support of fish health research and development.

Last year the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), which funds a huge range of educational and research institutions across Scotland, previously SAIC’s chief source of finance, announced that it was ceasing its support for the aquaculture body, much to the disappointment of the industry.

The new £1.5 million package, made up of £500,000 from the Scottish Government’s Marine Fund Scotland and £1m of transitional funding from the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), will allow SAIC to build on its work over the past decade and sharpen the innovation centre’s focus on driving positive health and welfare outcomes for farmed fish.

SAIC works in collaboration with the private and public sectors, and academia, to support research focused on achieving results for the aquaculture sector.

Since its inception, SAIC has supported more than 100 projects, turning £10 million of investment into sector-critical research with a combined value of over £71 million. These research projects have led to the creation of spin-out companies, new products and services, and innovative approaches to tackling sector-wide challenges.

As part of the funding, SAIC is also launching a new funding call for businesses and higher education institutions for projects exclusively focussed on finfish health and welfare. The deadline for applications is 19th June 2024.

A minimum of £800,000 in funding is available to applicants, with an emphasis on gill health, the mitigation of challenges potentially arising from climate change, such as harmful algal blooms and micro-jellyfish, and emerging issues affecting fish health. SAIC is particularly keen to receive proposals focussed on potential preventative techniques and technologies for these areas.

Mairi Gougeon, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands, said: “SAIC is one of Scotland’s success stories, having played a significant role in supporting innovation and development in aquaculture. We are now supporting SAIC to move to a refreshed and updated role that will ensure it and Scottish aquaculture have a bright future. The need to make aquaculture sustainable and the rewards for doing so have never been greater nor more urgent.

The funding we are making available from Marine Fund Scotland will enable SAIC to sustain work and fund new projects to support the sustainability of our valuable aquaculture sector. Our Vision for Sustainable Aquaculture recognised the importance of innovation and this investment is a demonstration of our commitment to the sector and its future.”

David Gregory, chair of SAIC, said: “The funding provided by the Scottish Government and SFC will allow SAIC’s vital work to continue. The model of combining funding from the sector and government, which has underpinned our work over the past decade, is now very well established and has delivered a broad range of positive outcomes in aquaculture.

SAIC’s more concentrated remit is aligned to the sector’s priorities, and we look forward to fostering greater collaboration on R&D projects to tackle the most pressing health and welfare challenges faced by the fish farming community.”

Tavish Scott, chief executive of Salmon Scotland, said: “Scotland’s salmon sector welcomes SAIC’s sharpened focus on research and development in fish health and welfare. This is a top priority for our members and will help to drive the sustainable growth of salmon as the UK’s number one food export.

It is important that the Scottish Government continues to fund SAIC and play its part in supporting the Scottish salmon farming sector to operate in the most sustainable way possible. As the government’s own aquaculture vision made clear, the blue economy can increase food security at home and feed the growing global population.”

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