SCOTLAND’S Highlands and islands have enormous potential to develop the marine economy according to a new study.
Entitled ‘The report focuses on supporting the growth of aquaculture, as well as energy and marine biotechnology, all identified as the most innovative sectors.
Opportunities highlighted in the report – Maximising the Marine Economy in the Highlands and Islands (MAXiMAR) – include building on the existing research, testing and demonstration infrastructure to meet the needs of the industry, growing innovation in the sector and expanding the skills base, and attracting new businesses to the region.
A key element will be a pilot test site to explore the potential to cluster marine economy activity across the sectors.
Morven Cameron of Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), which led the consortium that conducted the study, said: ‘Our lochs, rivers and coastal waters constitute a tremendously valuable asset that already makes a massive contribution to the regional economy and has the potential to achieve even more.
‘Sectors as diverse as food and drink, tourism, life sciences and renewable energy are well established, supporting thousands of jobs, many of them in fragile areas of our islands and rural mainland.
‘The audit gives us a definitive assessment of the extent to which businesses and communities are using our marine resource, and assesses the scope for further development to drive economic growth across the region.
‘It also helps to put the Highlands and islands on the UK map as a place where science and innovation are playing an increasingly important role and have potential to go further.’
The report suggests the marine economy in Scotland could reach a total value of £5 billion by 2035.
The consortium included the University of the Highlands and Islands, the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre, Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre, European Marine Energy Centre, the University of Stirling, Heriot Watt University, Wave Energy Scotland, Marine Scotland Science, MASTS and the National Oceanography Centre.
The marine project is one of 12 UK science and innovation audits which were first announced in 2015 commissioned by the UK government.