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Brixham in Devon wants to develop 'The Blue Environmental Hub' brand.
Brixham in Devon wants to develop 'The Blue Environmental Hub' brand.

Plans to create a full-service aquaculture and fisheries research and development centre at a former AstraZeneca laboratory in Devon should be scaled down, authors of a feasibility study have concluded.

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The proposed concept at the Brixham Laboratory site, which is owned by Plymouth University, was intended to support aquaculture supply chains and sea fisheries with market-led research, development and analytics capabilities.

But based on the information gathered during the study process, the project team concluded that the scale of operation envisioned in the original concept is not feasible at this time for the following reasons:

• The current public sector funding environment is not conducive to securing sufficient capital for a new, start-up laboratory as envisioned;

• Capacity exists in the current array of UK laboratories for some of the proposed research themes;

• The target area of the laboratory has some limitations with the current systems for seawater flow-through studies, which would require capital investment;

• Market demand for general office and lab space within Brixham Laboratory has been high and will likely restrict the amount of space for a large R&D operation.

Innovation centre proposed

On a more positive note, the team – led by Tim Goodwin of Sustainable Leadership Ltd and supported by ABPmer’s Caroline Roberts and Suzannah Walmsley – suggested an innovation centre supporting industry-focused research, and embracing the latest technology while working across sectoral divides, would be the best approach.

They wrote: “Spaces available within Brixham Laboratory, together with the strategic relationships and programmatic offerings of Plymouth University, Seafish, the Torbay Development Agency and interested sector stakeholders, present a range of capabilities that can drive innovation and test new technologies. The project team believe there is a unique opportunity to further define and enrich the brand ‘Brixham Laboratory: The Blue Environmental Hub’ with an offer that includes:

• Outreach and participative research to promote collaboration between R&D players (including academics, independents and entrepreneurs), fishers and aquaculturists, processors, retailers, NGOs and regulators;

• An interactive platform with both virtual and physical presence;

• Social and knowledge networks, which offer a mix of engagement opportunities with academia, the seafood industry and the public;

• A branded engagement mechanism.”

Aquaculture supply challenges

The potential also exists for this hub to become home to a diverse and forward-facing community fostering new ideas and collaborations between sectors; generating dynamic, fresh approaches to the UK's biggest seafood and aquaculture supply challenges.

The report, titled “Feasibility of an Aquaculture and Fisheries Research and Development Centre at Brixham Laboratory”, is the main output of a Seafish Strategic Investment Programme (SIP) supported project and is available to download here.

Lee Cocker, aquaculture manager at Seafish, said: “We are proud to have supported this strategic and innovative SIP project. We hope that good use is made of the findings, and the innovative and collaborative opportunity the report presents will assist not only the growth of the UK aquaculture sector, but UK seafood supplies in general.”

Outputs generated by aquaculture-related SIP projects can be downloaded from the new Seafish aquaculture web page.

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