Given the current and potential importance of the marine economy for the Highlands and Islands, Highlands and Islands Enterprise in early 2017 led a bid with key stakeholders from the sector to secure a marine economy focused UK Government Science Innovation Audit (SIA). SIAs have been developed to inform the UK government’s industrial strategy as they give regions the opportunity to demonstrate areas of research strength and identify potential opportunities for globally competitive innovation.
As recognised the world over the Scottish Highlands and Islands is an area rich in natural beauty and resources. It has an extensive coastline - 86% of Scotland’s coastline is located within the Highlands and Islands, along with 73% of inland waters – and it is this marine environment which provides a valuable resource to the area and offers a wealth of potential for the development of the local economy.
Aquaculture is already a significant sector in the area and 96% of UK aquaculture industry and salmon farming industry is based in the Highlands and Islands. It contributes over £1.8bn and 9,000 jobs to the UK economy.
Further opportunities to exploit the natural marine resource in the Highlands & Islands exist within marine renewables and marine biotechnology. Marine renewables is a growing sector and it is projected that the global market will be worth over £450bn by 2050. The Highlands & Islands has some of the best marine energy resources in Europe and there is a key opportunity to develop world-leading innovation in this area. Similarly, marine biotechnology is also growing in Scotland and the sector has a target to contribute £3bn GVA to the Scottish economy by 2030.
HIE’s bid to the Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy was successful and ekosgen is delighted to have been commissioned to carry out the SIA. It is aimed at maximising the Highlands and Islands’ marine economy across the three sectors of aquaculture, marine renewables and marine biotechnology and is entitled ‘Maximising the Marine Economy’ - MAXiMAR. To achieve this aim we will be carrying out research with key stakeholders to establish the current and potential value of the marine economy and how this could be developed and extended. The study is underway and we look forward to contributing to a key area of innovation and economic development for the Highlands and Islands.