The Blue Economy in the Highlands and Islands report was commissioned by HIE and carried out by ekosgen.
It explored the wide range of marine related industries and activities, from aquaculture to marine tourism, and points to the ‘natural advantages’ of the Highlands and Islands.
In listing which industries should be strategic priorities for the region, the report says marine environmental services are vital for monitoring and sustainably managing the marine environment at regional, national, and international levels.
With Scotland’s strong digital tech activity in innovation, research and development, this, it adds, means there is a ‘large, valuable, and developing market for technology, expertise, knowledge and systems.’
In marine renewables, the report points to the region’s existing competitive advantage in wind, wave and tidal energy, and highlights this as another potentially transformational opportunity.
To fully capitalise on these and several other opportunities, the study urges stronger collaboration between industries, the public sector, academia and communities.
It recommends HIE should take a strategic lead in both marine environmental services and marine renewable energy, as well as aquaculture, which it describes as another key sector with significant potential.
The report also proposes HIE should remain clearly sighted on emerging opportunities in marine biotechnology, in the decommissioning of renewable energy installations and in supporting a co-ordinated approach to investment in ports and harbours infrastructure.
Martin Johnson, HIE’s director of strategy and regional economy, said:
“The blue economy makes a substantial contribution to the prosperity of the Highlands and Islands and to Scotland. Our outstanding marine resource provides new commercial opportunities linked to net zero transition. As well as contributing to economic growth, these can help ensure the future resilience of rural communities.
“This report provides a thorough examination of the broad range of marine industries, where the Highlands and Islands region has particular advantages, and how to capitalise on these.
“It offers measured guidance on how best to prioritise industries strategically, in terms of investment and other forms of support interventions, in order to maximise sustainable economic and community benefits.
“We will be using this to steer our own operating plan and sharing it with stakeholders across the region and various sectors with a view to developing a regional-level delivery plan for the blue economy.”