The Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC) was set up in 2014, funded by the Scottish Funding Council, Scottish Enterprise, and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, with funding matched by the industry. It is hosted by the University of Stirling.
The role of SAIC is to transform the relationship between the aquaculture industry and research communities in Scotland. By developing connections and collaboration between them, it aims to promote innovative solutions to industry-defined issues and problems.
Aquaculture is a “pillar of rural industry in Scotland”, according to the Scottish Government, contributing as much as £1.4 billion turnover and 8,000 jobs to Scotland. Its industry and academic researchers also contribute to Scotland’s reputation abroad. The main activities within the sector are the farming / culturing of fish, molluscs, crustaceans and seaweed, much of them in the seas west of Scotland and north of Scotland.
Salmon dominates the sector, and Scotland is the largest producer in the EU and the third largest globally. Current annual production of salmon in Scotland is about 160,000 tonnes, generating global retail sales of more than £1 billion. Fresh salmon is exported to over 50 countries, with the US the main export market for fresh whole salmon in 2013, followed by France.
By bringing together the industry and research communities, SAIC aims to foster further economic growth in the industry, introduce more sustainable practices, and prepare the industry for the future. To target its work most effectively, it has identified four Priority Innovation Actions for its first year of operations: • Improved sea lice control in Scottish aquaculture • Alternative sustainable feeds for finfish • Rapid detection methods for viral pathogens and diseases • Development of secure health-certified Scottish mollusc spat production systems.
All these areas have been identified by the industry, its customers and communities as the most pressing areas requiring innovation and collaboration.
Scotland and its rural communities could benefit greatly from action in these areas. It is estimated that each additional 10,000 tonnes of salmon creates an additional £96 million for the Scottish economy, of which over £43 million is at the farm gate.
The Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre was launched by the Scottish Government’s Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Paul Wheelhouse, at the Royal Highland Show at Ingliston in 2014. Its Chair is Jack Perry, a former CEO of Scottish Enterprise, and its CEO is Heather Jones.
One of its first actions was to secure £1.7 million funding for state-of-the-art equipment to help address key issues in the industry. The equipment will be installed at higher education institutions across Scotland, including the University of St Andrews, University of the Highlands and Islands, University of Aberdeen and University of Stirling.
SAIC is one of eight Innovation Centres funded by the Scottish Funding Council, which is investing up to £110 million in core funding over five years. In addition to the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre, they include: the Innovation Centre for Sensors and Imaging Systems (CENSIS); Digital Health Institute (DHI); Oil & Gas Innovation Centre (OGIC); and Stratified Medicine Scotland Innovation Centre (SMS-IC).
Commenting on the launch of the Centres and their work, the Scottish Government Education Secretary Mike Russell stated: “The innovation centre collaborations ... will help develop the skills that Scottish business needs to success in the global marketplace in a range of sectors.
“By using Scotland’s exceptional research base, we are able to respond nimbly to opportunities for potential growth.”