Small to medium enterprises (SMEs) working in the aquaculture supply chain in the Highlands and Islands can now apply to a £1 million innovation fund, which has opened for applications.
Announced in March, the 30-month pilot programme, Accelerating Aquaculture Innovation (AAI) is led by HIE and delivered in partnership with Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC).
It offers SMEs the opportunity of match funding to help commercialise innovative new processes, products, services or technologies. The programme has the potential to boost industry turnover in the region by £8 million and create up to 50 jobs.
The value of innovative concepts can take different forms – financial, commercial, economic, social or public – but it must be measurable, and it must benefit both the industry and the Scottish economy.
Aquaculture is a priority sector for HIE and of growing importance to Scotland’s economy. It is estimated to contribute as much as £1.8 billion turnover a year to the Scottish economy and support around 8,000 jobs.
The Aquaculture Growth Strategy 2030, A Strategic Plan for Farming Scotland’s Seas, states the industry has potential for this to increase to £3.6 billion and 18,000 jobs by 2030.
Elaine Jamieson, Head of Food and Drink at HIE, said: “The full range of projects, from £25,000 to £1 million, will be considered. Where applications are successful, the AAI programme could typically provide up to half the project cost.
“Where applications don’t quite meet the programme criteria, the AAI team will point SMEs to more suitable support avenues so that they still receive the help they need to develop their concept.”
Jason Cleaversmith, Aquaculture Innovation Director at SAIC, added: “Since news of the AAI programme was first announced, we have had informal discussions with over 20 aquaculture SMEs in the HIE region interested in exploring innovative new concepts. With the fund now officially open for applications, we look forward to progressing those discussions – and others – to the next stage, and have deliberately kept the process as straightforward and fleet of foot as possible.”
Companies can apply for AAI funding by submitting a short Expression of Interest (EOI) form. This will then be assessed by the AAI team and, if successful, the submitting company will be invited to complete a fuller application.
Full details on how to apply, along with downloadable forms and guidance notes, are available at http://scottishaquaculture.com/work-with-us/accelerating-aquaculture-innovation-programme/