SCOTLAND - £1.7 million capital investment for Scottish aquaculture

The Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC) has secured £1.7 million funding for state-of-the-art equipment to help address key issues within the industry. The equipment will give researchers and the aquaculture industry new tools for tackling priority areas such as alternative sustainable feeds for finfish
November 6, 2014

The equipment will give researchers and the aquaculture industry new tools for tackling priority areas such as alternative sustainable feeds for finfish, rapid detection of diseases and sea lice control. Their solutions could support Scottish companies’ commercial success both at home and abroad.

The award came following a successful application to the Scottish Funding Council’s capital investment fund, part of a wider £14 million capital investment in Scotland’s Innovation Centres announced in August. 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.

New equipment will include:

•State-of-the-art LC-MS/MS systems capable of high-level lipid and protein analysis, which will advance researchers’ and producers’ development of sustainable alternative feeds. The first of its kind in Scotland, LC-MS/MS is also the system of choice for analysing shellfish toxins. (See Notes for Editors for more technical detail about the equipment.)

•A digital PCR (polymerase chain reaction) system, a new technology that enables the detection of viral pathogens and diseases at very early stages. It will add significantly to Scottish researchers’ ability to detect and tackle disease outbreaks in Scotland.

The award gives SAIC access to the essential equipment needed to address its four priority innovation areas:

1.Improved sea lice control

2.Alternative sustainable feeds for finfish

3.Rapid detection methods for viral pathogens and disease: improving ability to tackle known threats & emerging disease

4.Development of secure, health certified Scottish mollusc spat production systems. 

Speaking at the UK Aquaculture Forum meeting in Brussels on 5 November, Heather Jones, CEO of the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre, said: “I am delighted that within its first six months of existence, SAIC has leveraged a substantial sum for specialist capital equipment into Scottish universities, creating the capability for new innovative research projects to be developed in response to needs identified by the aquaculture industry.

“Businesses and researchers could find high-profile and profitable innovation opportunities by working together, and we look forward to seeing the fruits of the research projects that these new equipment purchases will enable.”

On hearing the news of their successful bid, Professor Ian A. Johnston FRSE, Director Scottish Oceans Institute, University of St Andrews said: “The digital PCR system funded by SAIC at the University of St Andrews will be used for the rapid detection of viral pathogens and for genetic analysis associated with the development of sustainable feeds and selective breeding technologies in finfish and shellfish. It will add significantly to our capacity to support the priority innovation actions identified by the SAIC board.”

Speaking on behalf of the University of the Highlands and Islands, Professor Ian Bryden FRSE, Vice-Principal (Research), said: “I am absolutely delighted that SAIC is supporting our aquaculture research through the provision of state of the art technology. This will give benefit to the sector by enabling advanced research into alternative sustainable feeds and the rapid detection of pathogens.”

Education Secretary Michael Russell said: “Innovation centres are helping to develop the skills that Scottish business needs to succeed in the global marketplace. By using our exceptional research base, we are able to respond nimbly to opportunities for potential growth.

“We will invest up to £124 million, over six years, in these projects which bring together excellence within our universities and entrepreneurship within our business sector to deliver real social and economic benefits.

Scottish Environment & Climate Change Minister, Paul Wheelhouse MSP, said: “The aquaculture industry is increasingly important to the Scottish economy supporting employment in many remote and fragile rural communities where there are often few alternative options to generate secure, well paid employment. If the industry’s 2020 sustainable production targets are met this could mean a turn-over value of well over £2 billion annually to the Scottish economy and the on-going support of 10,000 jobs.

“Innovation Centres are large-scale, ambitious projects that promote research and innovation excellence. They are part of a cultural shift that is necessary to bring the innovation and creativity we want to see at the heart of our businesses and to help business to source expertise to address specific challenges. The SAIC will help the academic and research community better understand the needs of the aquaculture sector and also help the sector understand the assistance that can be delivered through leading research centres in Scotland, which rank among the World\'s foremost centres for aquaculture research and innovation.

“There is a huge prize within our grasp. For this potential to be fully realised, the sector must continue to demonstrate its commitment to improved environmental performance and sustainable growth; aided by a research and academic community that is exceptionally well positioned to underpin the sustainable development of the sector.”