£7.6 million from the UK Seafood Innovation Fund has been awarded to 57 projects hoping to transform the future landscape of the UK seafood industry.
The UK seafood sector has experienced an influx of innovation, as the second round of projects funded by the UK Seafood Innovation Fund are underway. More than £3.3M was awarded during the latest round of funding from the UK government programme.
Each of the 26 projects have been awarded between £24,900 and £250,000, to support innovative ideas designed to improve the sustainability and resilience of the UK fishing, aquaculture, and seafood sectors.
‘We were overwhelmed with the number and diversity of applications we received to our second funding call. Through a highly competitive process, we have funded a brilliant group of innovative projects that we hope can make a significant contribution to the future sustainability, profitability and efficiency of the UK seafood sector,’ said Professor Fiona Lettice, Chair of the UK Seafood Innovation Fund Steering Group and Pro-Vice Chancellor of Research and Innovation at the University of East Anglia.
The successful projects address diverse issues across the UK industry. Ten focus on innovation in aquaculture, eight tackle the future of UK fisheries, and six aim to improve seafood processing and the supply chain. Other projects are investigating sustainable energy for the fishing and aquaculture sectors, challenges in the underdeveloped seaweed market, and seafood product traceability.
Many of the projects are hoping to use new and emerging technology to improve the sustainability, profitability and efficiency of the UK’s £987 million fishing industry. A feasibility study led by Two Brothers Fishing in Devon has investigated the extent to which the inshore fishing industry could be powered by electric and solar energy – reducing the industry’s reliance on diesel for fuel.
Fishing from Brixham, this sustainability-focused enterprise has been trialling the use of an electric motor on their inshore vessels. They have also been investigating the feasibility of more eco-friendly traditional Cornish crab pots, made using responsibly-sourced willow.
The concept of a dual sustainable fishing system, whereby steps are taken to improve the environmental credentials of both energy use and fishing gear, has been tested and proven to have great potential for inshore vessels. The ability to fish with lower fuel costs whilst fetching higher market prices could lead to an improved economic situation for many inshore UK fishermen.
A project led by the University of St Andrews is working with the Scottish inshore fishing industry, and hopes to perfect a prototype device that uses machine learning to automatically identify the size and sex of brown crabs and lobsters. Once finalised, the team aims to install the device on Scottish inshore vessels so they can collect data about the stocks of these shellfish, and ultimately inform future fisheries management decisions.
Since its inception, the UK Seafood Innovation Fund has now supported 28 feasibility studies in testing novel, innovative ideas at the early stages of development. Five of the 14 feasibility projects funded in the first round in 2019 have demonstrated excellent potential to benefit the UK seafood sector – with the creation of new markets and jobs, and improved productivity through sustainable methods. An additional £1.2million has now been awarded across these five projects, to continue their research and development over the next 12 to 18 months.
To work towards the continual improvement of the UK Seafood Innovation Fund throughout its life, an independent evaluation is being conducted alongside the full three-year programme. Spring 2021 marks the second anniversary of the launch of the programme, and the evaluation team have recently delivered recommendations to guide the programme’s evolution.
Although it is currently too early to assess the full impacts of many projects, initial findings are positive and evidence from consultations across the sector indicate that the innovations awarded funding are delivering the anticipated objectives – kick-starting a step-change in innovation across the UK seafood industry.
At the start of 2021, 31 newly-funded projects joined the cohort, which now totals 57 projects funded by the UK Seafood Innovation Fund over the past two years. This wide-ranging compilation cements the UK government’s programme as a key driver behind innovative research and development, focused on transforming the future of seafood.