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SAIC boss Heather Jones has welcomed the opportunities offered by the Industry Strategy.
SAIC boss Heather Jones has welcomed the opportunities offered by the Industry Strategy.

Heather Jones, chief executive of the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC), has welcomed the UK government's new Industrial Strategy, and stressed that the industry must grasp the opportunities Westminster's focus on innovation offers.

The government has said it will set what it calls "Grand Challenges" to put the UK at the forefront of the industries of the future.

They are: putting the UK in the vanguard of the artificial intelligence & data revolution; clean growth; becoming a world leader in shaping the future of mobility; and harnessing the power of innovation to meet the needs of an ageing society.

Key policies include:

  • raising total research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027
  • increasing the rate of R&D tax credit from 11 to 12 per cent
  • investing £725 million in new Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund programmes.

World-class research teams

The government also intends to agree "Local Industrial Strategies that build on local strengths and deliver on economic opportunities".

Jones said: "Much of the Industrial Strategy’s thinking around R&D and innovation clusters chimes with what SAIC and its members are already doing - world-class research teams and business coming together in public-private partnerships to drive exports and inward investment, and promote clean growth and food security. We welcome this thinking, along with the focus on place and building on local strengths.

“The key point for aquaculture is that we are able to grasp the opportunities here: demonstrating to the UK government our significance as a regionally-concentrated sector; connecting to the Grand Challenges such as big data; and showing our value as an R&D-committed growth sector in a post-Brexit UK. A lot of industries will also be chasing the opportunities here, so it’s important for the aquaculture sector to state its case and get its voice heard.”

Expert witness

Earlier this year Jones gave evidence to the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee on behalf of the Scottish aquaculture industry as one of a panel of expert witnesses consulted on the Green Paper, Building Our Industrial Strategy, upon which the new policy is based.

She said afterwards: “It was an honour to represent the industry – and, at the same time, Scotland’s wider Innovation Centre programme itself – and help lay the foundations for more balanced growth across the UK.

“Aquaculture is a sector that is standing on its own two feet. It is globally profitable and is already harnessing innovation in robotics and other technologies. The industry is investing tens of millions of capex in the UK economy, and is driving up productivity through management leadership and training.

“Yet within the proposed Industrial Strategy there is little mention of niche sectors or sectors with particular regional importance. That is why I welcomed the aspiration for balanced growth across all four home countries, but also urged the Select Committee to reflect the contribution of industries vital to rural and coastal communities within the advice it gives to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and the Industrial Strategy.”