Contributing to sustainable seafood growth by focusing on innovation has long been a goal for NCE Seafood Innovation – always on the industry’s and members’ terms and according to their needs.

This article was first published in our Annual Report 2020.

One of the most important tasks of the cluster is to contribute to increasing the innovation activities within the industry. We therefore contribute to developing sustainable innovation projects that ease interaction across the industry. The idea is that the members should benefit from a broad spectre of services and activities connected to various innovation activities.

– Fish health and welfare and carbon footprint reduction create great challenges concerning the future of the seafood industry, and by focusing on innovation we can find new solutions for many of these problems. Our members belong to leading companies with a common wish for developing the seafood industry further in a way that prepares for sustainable growth, explains Björgólfur Hávarðsson, Innovation Manager at NCE Seafood Innovation.

Among other things, the cluster organizes workshops for interaction across the industry, where they focus on subjects like digital transformation, carbon footprint reduction and fish health and welfare.

These workshops are aimed at shedding light on challenges and needs within the industry and uncovering opportunities for new projects and collaborations that can lead to increased innovation.

– An innovation process can start in several ways, but a typical process opens with a workshop where problem areas are discussed and individual elements identified, says Hávarðsson.

– These workshops usually concentrate on a specific area or problem at hand. We pick them based on what’s defined as the cluster’s priority area in the cluster’s strategy and annual plans. The purpose is to uncover where the shoe pinches and there’s a need for us to develop a project or invite others to collaborate on such development, he explains.

Long experience
The adapted proposal is then evaluated by a group of experienced people from the industry, resources from the entrepreneur segment and R&D institutions with long experience with project administration and implementation.

– When we have been through these sorting mechanisms, we assess the maturity of the project idea and which support mechanisms are best suited to develop it.

The cluster has both regional and national support mechanisms available, at RFF (Regional Research Fund), Innovation Norway, The Research Council of Norway and the Nordic Council of Ministers, among others. In addition, there are EU programmes like Farm to Fork, Horizon 2020 and the Green Platform.

– This type of activity, where we work with projects or collaborate with partners, may result in us being invited to large projects with great utility value without us having to initiate them. This is an evaluation we do case by case and matches with the expected value and in accordance with the cluster’s present strategy.

Project based innovation
The other way the cluster is contributing to innovation, is participating in projects where one enters into known problems and focuses deeply on building knowledge concerning these and finding solutions.

– A project like this arises from an expressed need in the industry and always involves a relatively large consortium of academic institutions, R&D institutions and industry actors – equipment suppliers as well as aquaculture companies, explains Hávarðsson.

A specific initiative the cluster has contributed heavily to, is the project Capacity-lift for Sustainable and Innovative Aquaculture Production (KABIS). The project has been an important arena that, among other things, has enabled extensive collaboration between industry and R&D.

– Here we have established a user forum where the fish farming companies provide a list of challenges within the field. This list is examined by the academic parties who invest huge research and development efforts on these problems. The solutions are then presented to the users, equipment suppliers and aquaculture companies as they are available.

In many cases, the findings are utilized directly to improve equipment, routines or methods. The most important factor in this instance is that two sides work closely together, learn each other’s language and build capacity and knowledge concerning areas where both the lack of knowledge and the potential are considerable.

– The common denominator is that we usually address the problems that affect the entire industry and where the solutions benefit the entire industry and require collaboration from many different parties. The goal is to always pave the way for sustainable growth within the industry, he concludes.

Selected innovation activities in the cluster

Capacity-lift for Sustainable and Innovative Aquaculture Production (KABIS)
Increased research and education within new and sustainable aquaculture systems
KABIS’ goal is to contribute to new education programmes, new knowledge and more innovation within closed containment production technology for aqua- culture (RAS and C-CCS). The goal is to achieve further sustainability and cost effective production of salmon.

Intelligent Fish feeding through Integration of Enabling technologies and Circular principles.

The overall goal of the iFishIENCi project is to provide new intelligent feeding technologies to support ambitious, but sustainable growth for the European aquaculture industry.

The main goal of the NewTechAqua project is to expand and diversify European aquaculture production of finfish, molluscs and microalgae by developing and validating technological solutions.

Mind The Gap – cutting-edge science and industrial utilization
A collaboration project between NCE Seafood Innovation and Mohn Centre for Innovation and Regional Development. The collaboration aims to understand the present unavoidable gap between cutting-edge science and industrial utilization of it.

The project looks into the possibility for finding methods that will reduce this gap and shorten the time between publication and application. A specific idea is for the researcher to write a page with a short discussion of the findings, the significance they may have for the industry and where or how the industry can utilize the results.

This comes in addition to traditional publishing and reports that are mandatory and a natural part of the researchers’ dissemination. These reports or articles are however often not read, or the findings are not utilized because of the form in which they are presented.