Earlier this year, the Sustainable Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC) conducted their summer internship completely online following previous success during the COVID-19 restrictions. SIF took the opportunity to work in partnership with the SAIC Interns to discover interesting trends in the SIF funding data. Using SIF Call 1 and 2 summary information, the interns analysed correlations between project support success and location, field of research and other factors, and provided some excellent insights. This has both highlighted positive delivery areas and helped us to understand where additional engagement would be beneficial going forward.
Hazel was a third-year Neuroscience Student from the University of Glasgow and, as a keen environmentalist, had gained experience through volunteering with her local National Park. With interests in microbiology, immunology and disease prevention, she was particularly keen to work with those leading research in gill disease and sea lice prevention. Her admiration of SAIC’s multi-disciplinary approach to tackling key issues, is mirrored in her own desire to couple her scientific knowledge with her valuable skills in marketing and innovation in her future career.
Conner graduated from the University of Glasgow with a first-class degree in Marine & Freshwater Biology and is now studying an MRes in Ecology and Environmental Biology. With previous experience in zookeeping, Conner’s passion for environmental conservation and animal welfare drew him to SAIC – their commitment to sustainability, animal welfare and reducing environmental impacts through innovative research. Having a keen research focus, his internship has helped direct him towards a future career in aquaculture with its potential to be truly sustainable and beneficial to us all.
Roxanne is in her final year of a BSc (Hons) Applied Bioscience and Zoology at the University of the West of Scotland. Her dissertation research on the rewilding of oysters in Scotland helped to build her aquaculture knowledge, and she became fascinated by shellfish aquaculture having a natural inclination towards sustainability. The internship offered the opportunity for first-hand experience of supporting sustainable projects and raising awareness of the benefits of aquaculture for the future of seafood. She is now considering a career in aquaculture auditing.
For Calls 1 and 2, SIF received 206 applications, of which 52 were successful: 25% of all applications received funding of up to 100% of project costs. The total investment in these feasibility studies and full research and development (R&D) projects that received funding exceeded £6m, with SIF providing an average of 84% of project costs. Because SIF projects centre on truly innovative and high-risk ideas, this is research that may not have been viable without SIF support. SIF has been able to support research into potential solutions to some of the most significant challenges facing UK Seafood.
The SIF programme funded projects that were led by organisations from across the UK and Ireland (see Fig. 1). Approximately 90% of successful applications were from England and Scotland, and 7.5% from Wales. Only one feasibility study was awarded funding from Ireland and one from Northern Ireland, which can be explained by the low application rates from these areas.
The average amount of feasibility study funding was evenly spread across the nations (ranging between £40k and £50k, see Fig. 2). The average R&D investment was evenly spread across England, Scotland and Wales (ranging between £210k and £250k), with the highest level in Wales. However, neither of the feasibility studies based in Ireland and Northern Ireland were successful in obtaining R&D funding.
With SIF’s desire to support projects from across UK Seafood, these trends highlighted a need for further engagement with the Northern Irish Seafood Sector, considering the size of the sector against the low application and consequent success rates.
Applications were received from a range of UK Seafood industry stakeholders, including private sector, academic, public sector and non-profit organisations (see Fig. 3). The private sector represented the highest proportion of applicants, by far, with academic organisations submitting approximately half the number of applications and public sector/non-profit organisations submitting half that number again.
All sizes of organisations were successful in receiving SIF funding, with success concentrated at either end of the scale: micro businesses received the highest total funding for both feasibility studies and full R&D (approx. £3m), followed closely by large businesses (approx. £2.5m) and then small and medium organisations falling somewhat behind (approx. £1m and £500k respectively) (see Fig. 4). Despite the difference in the number of successful applications for each size of organisation, the average funding awarded per project was very similar across all organisation sizes (see Fig. 5).
As with type and size of organisation, successful applications came from a range of sectors (see Fig. 6). However, there was a skew towards aquaculture, which represented over 60% of successful applicants; only 18.5% of successful applicants came from the fisheries sector. The lower success rate was reflective of a lower application rate, which prompted a focus on additional engagement activities for fisheries, seaweed and processing.
The trends showed that successful applications involved an average of 3 partners (1 more partner, on average, than unsuccessful applications). Partnerships came from across industry and academia, with 60% of partnerships within industry, 6% within academia and 34% involving both industry and academic partners.
Alongside the programme evaluation, the Interns’ work has helped us to direct enhanced engagement activities for Call 3 appropriately in order to maximise SIF’s impact on UK Seafood innovation: