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Funding windfall for Highland aqua

the Fish Site Editor
13 March 2017, at 12:00am

A 1 million programme, which could create up to 50 more aquaculture-related jobs in Scotlands Highlands & Islands, has been approved.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has approved the funding package – which is targeted at helping small to medium enterprises (SMEs) achieve greater commercialisation of innovative products and services that offer a positive and sustainable economic and social impact – and will run the programme in conjunction with the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC).

The 30-month pilot is expected to attract a similar level of funding from the private sector and is expected to boost industry turnover in the region by around £8 million and create up to 50 jobs, including many in fragile areas.

Aquaculture is a priority sector for HIE and of growing importance to Scotland’s economy. It is estimated to contribute as much as £1.8 billion turnover a year to the Scottish economy and support around 8,000 jobs. The Aquaculture Growth Strategy 2030, ‘A Strategic Plan for Farming Scotland’s Seas’, states the industry has potential for this to increase to £3.6 billion and 18,000 jobs by 2030.

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “Scotland’s aquaculture industry is a real pillar of our rural economy, particularly for the Highlands and Islands, and this Government is committed to working with partners across the sector to support continued sustainable growth.

“Maximising the opportunities that innovation can bring will be central in delivering the industry’s vision for the future of aquaculture. That is why it’s pleasing to see this collaborative programme come to fruition, which will provide a boost for the sector and support job creation.”

Charlotte Wright, HIE’s interim chief executive, said: “We anticipate significant investment in the years ahead from aquaculture firms operating in the region. It is important that we use public sector funding to support innovation in a way that benefits the whole sector, including firms in the supply chain. In turn this will support the sector's growth as well as strengthen resilience of rural communities, particularly those in some of our most remote and fragile areas.”

Heather Jones, SAIC CEO, added: “Through our extensive engagement with companies large and small across the supply chain, it became clear that SMEs in the HIE region would benefit from, and openly welcome, support to innovate and grow. To see those early discussions result in this new pilot scheme is a truly landmark moment and shows just how much can be achieved when different players unite over a shared goal.”