Days before the cabinet reshuffle that saw him replaced as Environment Secretary, Michael Gove announced a boost for innovation in the UK fishing and seafood industries with the establishment of a new £10 million research and development fund.
According to DEFRA, this move paves the way for the potential use of artificial intelligence by fishermen and providing a potential double return on investment for the UK economy. Unlike existing funding programmes, the Seafood Innovation Fund will focus on delivering longer-term, cutting-edge innovation.
‘This government is investing record amounts in research and development, with this £10 million fund further driving UK innovation,’ Michael Gove said.
‘As the UK establishes itself as an independent coastal state, the Seafood Innovation Fund will bring together our world-leading fishing, seafood, and technology industries to deliver more sustainable and productive fisheries for the future.’
Satellite technology and virtual watch rooms to track vessel movements are already in development by UK companies. He commented that with the global fishing industry worth nearly £300 billion, this fund will encourage further technological development and unlock export opportunities around the world for UK technology pioneers.
‘This fund is a call to action for fishermen and engineers to work together to bring forward sustainable and productive solutions at scale to the industry’s greatest challenges,’ said Dr Joanna Cox, Head of Policy at the Institution of Engineering and Technology.
‘Technology continues to deliver transformational change across the food sector, for instance, boosting the UK farming sector through AI and robotics. We welcome the Secretary of State’s announcement and urge the UK engineering community to apply the same pioneering zeal to positively impact the UK’s seafood industries through this £10m Seafood Innovation Fund.’
Opportunities will extend across the seafood sector as a whole, from catch techniques and fish feed to the management of fisheries. Potential funding could go to minimising unwanted catches and monitoring catches, innovations to fishing gear to reduce environmental impact and better capturing of real-time catch data to avoid unwanted catches and sensitive species.
Also on the list are catch sorting and processing of catch, information for fisheries management and advances in sustainable aquaculture.
‘The fishing and seafood sectors are vital to many of Scotland’s communities and help to support thousands of jobs across the country. The UK Government’s Seafood Innovation Fund is helping to support the industry with the technology needed to improve environmentally sustainable fishing practices while streamlining costs.
By contributing to research and development in the sector, the UK Government is looking after the industry’s long term interests and supporting Scotland’s economy,’ commented UK Government Minister Lord Duncan.
The delivery of the fund will be overseen by an Executive Board, including representatives from the Devolved Administrations in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
The fund, which was first announced in the 2018 budget, will be delivered by the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), with oversight from Defra using money from the Chancellor’s National Productivity Investment Fund.
Organisations are encouraged to bid for funding through the Delta procurement portal.