With the launch of a third call for applications, Fishing News will, over the next few weeks, be looking at projects already supported by the UK Seafood Innovation Fund, including promotion of Cornish seafood and evaluation of electric power in Brixham. In this first article, CEFAS explains the overall objectives of the programme

Operating since 2019, the UK Seafood Innovation Fund (SIF) is now newly funded through the government’s recently announced £100m UK Seafood Fund – to invest in science, boost innovation, level up coastal communities and support job creation across the UK.

Also under the new umbrella fund, the Fisheries Industry Science Partnerships (FISP) scheme focuses more specifically on science delivery, working in partnership with the industry to improve and share knowledge on fisheries and aquaculture. Together, SIF and FISP form the Science and Innovation pillar of the UK Seafood Fund.

SIF is now renewing its focus on sector-wide innovations, with the launch of a third call for applications. The fund is looking to invest in new ideas that support the long-term sustainability and security of the sector through novel, practical solutions – and is offering up to £50,000 for projects to undertake small-scale, real- world testing prior to full research and development (R&D).

SIF funding provides the opportunity to test new technologies or approaches to sustainable, resilient seafood production before commencing a larger project. Any organisation, of any size, can apply for an initial five-month feasibility study to test their innovations and develop a robust R&D plan.

For third-call feasibility projects with a successful outcome, there will be the opportunity to apply through a closed call for an extended R&D phase to fully develop the idea – with the chance to secure up to 100% R&D funding.

The key ingredient is a novel idea that has the potential to solve any of the significant challenges facing seafood industries across the UK, and to deliver something that has never been done before.

To date, SIF has funded a wide range of ideas from across the spectrum of industry stakeholders. These include start-ups, micro-organisations, small/medium-sized businesses, academic institutions and producer organisations.

Projects can involve groups of organisations working together (through one lead organisation) – which is something SIF actively encourages as it seeks novel partnerships and new collaborations to bolster the sector. These collaborations can involve interested parties from across the supply chain – from capture fisheries and aquaculture to packaging and logistics, and on to the end consumer.

R&D that integrates technology and expertise from outside of the seafood sector is encouraged, as there are solutions in other sectors (e.g. veterinary science and food production) that can be adapted to provide new solutions to benefit the seafood industry. Crucially, SIF-funded solutions must aim to be genuinely fit for purpose and commercially viable.

Previous SIF-funded projects have looked to revolutionise approaches to food safety and disease management, in particular investigating biological threats to shellfish. One such project aimed to harness the potential of nanopore sequencing for portable, in-the-field diagnosis of a range of pathogens to identify threats at source – seeking to address a major food safety problem faced by the shellfish industry.

Another project, also in the shellfish sector, focused on reducing the spread of shellfish disease by enabling timely and responsive management decisions based on rapid disease diagnosis. It is hoped that oyster farms and restoration sites will achieve a disease-free status, and that ultimately the projects will help reduce disease proliferation in the long term.

A project funded in the capture fisheries sector has seen an independent marine consultancy lead the way in cetacean interaction self- reporting using an electronic monitoring (EM) verification system. This project is trialling a small, cost-effective and portable EM system for inshore fishing vessels, to allow more accurate monitoring of bycatch for sensitive species.

Over the coming weeks, Fishing News will be featuring SIF-funded fisheries projects in detail, to showcase the range of innovative ideas already being introduced to support a sustainable future for the UK seafood sector. Spotlight projects will include those which explored innovative collaborations to develop value-added products using spider crab and megrim (an under-utilised UK species); new technologies to reliably age lobsters and improve resilience to harvesting; and sustainable fishing practices using electric-powered engines and eco- friendly gear.

If you are interested in learning more, please visit the SIF website here.

How to apply

The third UK Seafood Innovation Fund (SIF) call is open for feasibility studies (maximum five months, £50,000 funding). SIF is administered by the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) on behalf of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Organisations of any size or type can apply. Collaborative partnerships are encouraged, and project teams should include all relevant expertise to deliver a successful project outcome. Stakeholders set to benefit from the proposed solution should be included in the wider team, whether these are retailers, regulatory bodies, or those working directly in the seafood industries.

Feasibility studies with a successful outcome will have the opportunity to compete for an extended research and development phase to fully develop their idea.

So if you have an innovative idea that has the potential to deliver something that has never been done before and solve some of the biggest challenges to the sector, here’s how to apply:

  1. Read the FAQs here.
  2. Register at the DEFRA procurement portal here.
  3. Search for the opportunity page: CEFAS21-90 Seafood Innovation Fund
  4. Download and read the call documentation pack
  5. Complete your application form (and obtain the relevant supporting information)
  6. Submit your completed application before midday on 7 January, 2022.

Please note: the deadline for submission of an Expression of Interest to obtain feedback has now passed, but this does not affect your eligibility to apply.

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here.


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