One of the largest aquaculture research facilities in Europe is undertaking an expansion which will reinforce the reputation of Scotland as a world leader in marine science.
The Marine Environmental Research Laboratory (MERL), part of the University of Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture, is based at Machrihanish in Argyll. It provides contract research services and facilities to industry and academics working within the aquaculture sector, including a number of multinational corporations.
The Laboratory’s main focus is around new product development in veterinary medicine, vaccines and functional feeds for the salmon farming industry. MERL has long term service agreements with a number of multinational animal health organisations to develop a range of safe and environmentally acceptable products for sea lice control, including those derived from natural products. Sea lice are a major threat to the industry, with losses estimated in the region of £33m in Scotland and £305m worldwide.
MERL is looking to upgrade and enhance its research facilities, confirming its enviable reputation in the marine science community.
Supported by £90,192 from economic development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), the £322,819 expansion project will increase the number of research tanks at the facility. This will deliver an increase in research capacity, increasing employment and growing turnover.
Dr Bill Roy from MERL, commented: “This new development is a welcome addition to the University of Stirling’s research facilities at Machrihanish. We work closely with the aquaculture industry to tackle some of the important issues which affect its productivity and public reputation. The industry plays a major role in the economy of the Highlands and Islands and investment in research infrastructure is vital to maintain and develop this sector for the wider public benefit.“
Morag Goodfellow of HIE, commented: “MERL has an impressive client list including feed companies and multinational fish farming organisations. The research undertaken at the centre is important in safeguarding the longevity of the aquaculture industry - which is also a significant employer across the Highlands and Islands. This project is a key element in increasing the capacity of the centre and building on what is already considered a high quality research and development institution.”
Argyll is already home to a significant and innovative marine sciences cluster. The Scottish Marine Institute at Dunstaffnage, near Oban, is home to the European Centre for Marine Biotechnology and the Scottish Association of Marine Science (SAMS) - an academic partner of the University of the Highlands and Islands. HIE has also developed the multi-million pound European Marine Science Park next to SAMS which provides space for the growth of existing and new businesses which wish to tap into the region’s world leading reputation in marine science research and development.