A new package of investment for Scotland’s aquaculture sector – to be delivered through a partnership that includes the University of Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture – has been welcomed by researchers.
The Argyll and Bute Rural Growth Deal – signed on 11 February, 2021 – sets out plans to develop the region as a national and international centre for excellence in aquaculture innovation and research, and create a marine industry training centre to support the growth of the sector.
The Deal secures £50 million of funding from the UK and Scottish Governments, which will capitalise on the area’s strengths and drive long-term growth for the local, Scottish and UK economies. Both the Scottish and UK Government will contribute £25m, with an additional £20m provided by Argyll and Bute Council and partners, subject to an approved business case process.
By underpinning sustainable, inclusive business growth through investment in world-class marine science and technology, the 10 to 15-year Deal aims to make Argyll and Bute the leading region for innovation in marine aquaculture in Scotland, the UK and globally.
The marine aquaculture strand of the Deal includes the development of an innovation campus at Machrihanish in Argyll, to provide large-scale research and development capability, in tandem with dedicated business incubation facilities. The investment in aquaculture innovation, which the University will help to steer through the growth deal process, complements £17m in UK Government investment in the University’s Institute of Aquaculture through the Stirling and Clackmannanshire City Region Deal, which was signed in February 2020.
Professor Selina Stead, Director of the University’s Institute of Aquaculture, said: “Investment in the University of Stirling through the Argyll and Bute Rural Growth Deal is further recognition of the Institute of Aquaculture’s role at the forefront of marine aquaculture innovation. By bringing our world-leading researchers closer together with partners in industry, we can ensure that our innovations deliver the maximum benefit, creating jobs and growth locally and supporting impact on a global scale.
“We look forward to working with partners across the region as part of this process and positioning Argyll and Bute at the centre of this pioneering and fast-growing sector.”
The University of Stirling has an established footprint in Argyll and Bute, with the University’s Marine Environmental Research Laboratory (MERL), based in Machrihanish. MERL undertakes a wide range of academic and contract research, working with academic, commercial, and public research partners from across the globe. The development of an innovation campus will enhance the site’s large-scale marine finfish and multi-trophic research and development capability, alongside facilities to incubate and expand businesses which will help industry and harness the potential of the latest marine science and technology.
Welcoming the signing of the Heads of Terms Agreement, University of Stirling Principal Professor Sir Gerry McCormac said: “The University of Stirling’s researchers are tackling the world’s most pressing challenges, from global food security through to resilience and adaptation in the face of climate change.
“Collaboration is critical to our efforts to undertake research that makes a difference. Investment in the University through the Argyll and Bute Rural Growth Deal is another example of how through working in partnership, we can drive growth, support employment, and serve our communities.”