Associate feature: Growing wealth from the sea and marine research
Scotland and ‘Scotsea’ are blessed with great natural beauty, and we are committed to maintaining our natural environment in a healthy state. This is important for the continued flourishing of our tourism industry that is particularly important to the west coast and islands of Scotland.
But the west coast is not a theme park and people living here need more diverse, more permanent and better-paid employment opportunities. I believe that we can enhance the prosperity and wellbeing of the west coast and the islands by further developing a sustainable blue economy and an economy based around research and development.
The University of the Highlands and Islands – of which my organisation, SAMS, is a partner – is allowing the people living here to develop their skills without having to move and is attracting students to relocate into the region, reversing centuries of brain drain.
And we do more than just educate. Increasingly the university delivers world-class research, bringing highly skilled professionals into an area that allows for reflection and ingenuity. And their research in turn provides opportunities for entrepreneurs and related businesses.
Twenty years ago we employed 75 people in marine science at SAMS in Oban. Today we have 160 staff and train 200 full-time students. Additionally Highlands and Islands Enterprise’s European Marine Science Park has grown up around us and is home to more than ten marine-related businesses, from those developing biodegradable plastics to those building photo-bioreactors. All together more than 400 people operate out of our location today. I believe this spectacular growth shows how investment into research and training delivers overall positive impacts.
And we plan to grow further: Our partner Argyll College UHI is working towards a marine industry training centre, while we grow our research into seaweed farming to enable a new industry for the region.
This piece was sponsored by Scottish Association for Marine Science