The Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC), based at Stirling University Innovation Park, 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 rapid detection of diseases and sea lice control. Their solutions could support the commercial success of companies based in Scotland both at home and abroad.
New equipment will include a state-of-the-art system capable of high-level lipid and protein analysis to advance researchers’ and producers’ development of sustainable alternative feeds. This will be based at the University of Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture and at the University of the Highlands and Islands. The first of its kind in Scotland dedicated to Aquaculture research, the liquid chromatography with mass spectometry (LC-MS/MS) system is also the system of choice for analysing shellfish toxins.
Other equipment funded by the SFC award will include a digital polymerase chain reaction (PCR) system, a new technology that enables the detection of viral pathogens and diseases at very early stages, which will add significantly to Scottish researchers’ ability to detect and tackle disease outbreaks in Scotland.
Speaking at the UK Aquaculture Forum meeting in Brussels on Wednesday 5 November, Heather Jones, CEO of the SAIC, said: "I am delighted that within its first 6 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."
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 Stirling, the University of St Andrews, University of the Highlands and Islands and the University of Aberdeen.
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.
"Investment in the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre represents a significant boost for the sector and will help our innovative firms to enhance their worldwide reputation."
The digital PCR (polymerase chain reaction) system is able to detect low levels of circulating DNA in blood, or other body fluids, enabling the detection of bacterial, parasitic or viral infections at very early stages, so that early measures can be taken to tackle the disease outbreak. A new technology not previously available within the SAIC consortium, it offers significant advantages over conventional technology, because it achieves absolute quantification and does not rely on references or standards. It will be situated at the Scottish Oceans Institute, at the University of St Andrews, and available to all SAIC consortium members.
Other equipment funded by the SFC award will include 3D tracking and imaging equipment, which will inform research on sea lice control and practice at fish farms.
The Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre:
The Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre brings together industry and research to provide innovative solutions to industry-defined problems within Scottish aquaculture.
We aim to deliver transformational change in the relationship between the aquaculture industry and research community to support the growth, sustainability and profitability of the Scottish aquaculture industry and, in doing so, impact positively on the Scottish economy.
Specifically, the SAIC will focus on areas such as fish and shellfish health and welfare; feeding, quality and nutrition; breeding and stock improvement and engineering to contribute towards increased production of clean, safe and sustainable food.
The SAIC is funded by the Scottish Funding Council in partnership with Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise. Launched in June 2014, it involves 26 aquaculture companies and 13 research organisations.