SAIC-SAMS knowledge exchange day18th October 2016

SAIC-SAMS knowledge exchange day
SAMS MSc students busy with their innovation assignment

By Don Fowler, Aquaculture Innovation Manager at SAIC

Being an Aquaculture Innovation Manager at the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC) involves a diverse range of activities, including raising awareness of what SAIC does and why; the priority innovation actions set out by our industry-led Board; and the types of projects that SAIC can and cannot fund.

Recently, I was invited to give a presentation on exactly these kinds of topics to two separate audiences at the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) in Oban.

SAMS aquaculture group
The first presentation was to the SAMS aquaculture group; a mix of professors, principal investigators, post-docs, MSc students and undergraduates with an interest in the latest aquaculture activities and research. It resulted in a really stimulating roundtable discussion covering everything from industry priorities and the potential for expansion in both shellfish and finfish, to SAIC’s existing project portfolio and possible new collaborations.

In return, Professor Kenny Black, Principal Investigator in Marine Ecology, took to the floor to provide myself, my fellow Aquaculture Innovation Manager Robin Shields and the wider group with an overview of SAMS’ work in the areas of HABS, marine spatial planning and social interactions with aquaculture, along with sharing his experiences of working with SAIC on co-funded projects.

All in all, it made for a really useful two-way exchange, and also gave myself and Robin the opportunity to tour the SAIC-HATCH experimental set-up – one of the 13 projects that SAIC is co-funding.

MSc aquaculture students
The second presentation was to students on the SAMS Aquaculture MSc programme; a session that proved to be every bit as insightful.

Between them, the 20-strong group of 2016/17 MScs represent over 17 different countries, reflecting that aquaculture is a truly global industry with an appetite for learning from the specialist aquaculture knowledge that resides in Scotland.

Following a short presentation on the innovative work already underway in Scottish aquaculture, we divided the class into three groups and tasked them with the icebreaker of identifying the critical issues surrounding future innovation.

Each group was then given an example innovation scenario at a different stage – enquiry, expression of interest or full proposal – and asked whether they would have approved the project to the next stage, based on considerations such as industry and market needs, TRL, scientific merit, collaboration and level of funding support.

The outputs and insights from each group were as impressive as they were carefully considered, demonstrating that the students had not only understood the scenario in question but had begun viewing innovation as a creative and collaborative process as opposed to something that’s purely technological.

Equally positive, after the workshop several students enquired about industrial placements – enquiries that we hope to follow up with them over coming weeks.

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