The Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) has reported that applications were being sought for the fourth BIM Aquatech Innovation Studio program – due to take place part-time in Kerry and Dublin, with a site visit to Bergen in Norway – later this year. The Innovation Studio, delivered by aquaculture accelerator Hatch, and supported by the European Maritime Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund, is an equity-free program to develop commercial scalability, technological readiness and an industry fit for projects that aim to increase the sustainability of aquaculture – whether in Ireland or further afield.

The 37 start-ups that have been through the programs in the last four years now employ over 160 0people and have raised over EUR 13 million to date. Participants have gone on to fund businesses in seaweed, genetics and specialist technology for meat and seafood processors.

Successful applicants this year will have the opportunity to connect with a global network of aquaculture industry experts to validate their ideas, understand key market insights, learn to pitch for investment and effectively interact with customers.

Aquatech can involve everything from AI sensors and satellites to aquaculture systems for species, but it also has ability to revolutionize small-scale production and safeguard food security.

The company behind the world’s first aquaculture accelerator program

Since the launch of the initiative, BIM, Ireland’s Seafood Development Agency, and Hatch, the company behind the world’s first aquaculture accelerator program, have together helped to foster a notable rise in the number and revenues of the country’s aquaculture entrepreneurs.

This year’s in-person program has a brand-new format, with participants spending two to three days a week over the course of July in Kerry and Dublin, and the program also include a site visit to Bergen later in the year.

Richard Donnelly, BIM’s Innovation and Development Manager, said that Ireland is one of the global leaders in the aquatech development sector:

Contingents from other countries have made site trips here to see the work and innovation that is going on. But more importantly, Ireland is also exporting this expertise and knowledge, with several spin-out companies and outposts in other parts of the world. This program, which we run with Hatch, is a fantastic way for someone with an interest in the area – or an idea they want to test – to come onboard and learn a huge amount.

Opportunity to experience life in one of largest aquaculture ecosystems in the world

Wayne Murphy, co-founder and managing partner at Hatch, said that participation in the 2022 Innovation Studio is a fantastic way to trial an aquatech business idea or see if it can be brough to fruition:

“As well as a chance to meet and learn from aquaculture industry experts, potential investors and business development gurus, participants will have the opportunity to travel to Bergen to visit other initiatives, expand their international networks and experience life in one of largest aquaculture ecosystems in the world,” he said.

Keen to commercialize their research

In this occasion, there are up to 10 places available for the studio and applications are sought from start-ups, tech innovators and academics who are keen to commercialize their research. Applicants must be focused on developing their business in Ireland or targeting the Irish aquaculture market but do not need to be based in Ireland.

The Irish Aquatech Innovation Studio program

Restructure, reconfigure, retrain, and diversify

Some days after, the BIM has announced the Brexit Blue Economy Enterprise Development Scheme is officially open for applications for grant funding to enable coastal communities to restructure, reconfigure, retrain, and diversify post-Brexit. The Scheme, the largest of its kind ever, will have a EUR25 million budget available for the years 2022 and 2023, funded under the European Union Brexit Adjustment Reserve.

An initiative of the Government of Ireland, and administered by BIM, the Brexit Blue Economy Enterprise Development Scheme aims to counter the adverse economic and social consequences of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union on businesses operating in the blue economy and located in communities within 10km of the coastline.

The Scheme will be delivered through the existing Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGs). The Fisheries Local Action Groups uniquely focus local development funding specifically for areas within 10kms of the sea around the entire coast, precisely the communities that are most impacted by Brexit.

The Scheme is one of the recommendations of the Seafood Sector Taskforce, established by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D. in March 2021 to mitigate against the impacts of Brexit on the wider Irish seafood industry and coastal communities.

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