Harper Macleod: Harnessing our marine potential
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Chris Kerr is a Partner at Harper Macleod who heads up the firm's Marine Economy group, as well as leading our team in the Highlands, Islands and Moray. Here, he shares some insights from the recent Marine Economy Week hosted by the firm.
Scotland's Natural Capital, our natural assets and the services and value that come from them, is central to a lot of the work we carry out at Harper Macleod. How the businesses and organisations we work with protect, manage and make use of our natural ecosystem is fundamental to a sustainable economy.
A huge part of that Natural Capital lies within the Marine Economy, and that's one of the reasons why last month we hosted the inaugural Marine Economy Week (MEW). We know the scale of the opportunities and challenges that the Highlands and Islands face as we strive to become a marine powerhouse.
As a sector the Marine Economy, or Blue Economy as it is sometimes known, is wide but broadly speaking it covers the areas of aquaculture, fisheries and processing, coastal tourism, oil and gas, marine renewables, ports and harbours, shipbuilding and repair, and transport.
The aim of MEW 2021 was to bring the sector together, learn more about it and focus on how we maximise its potential. The event was held virtually, and the sessions from all five days are available on Harper Macleod website to watch on demand.
Maximising marine potential
As an insight to what went on, I launched the event alongside Morven Cameron, who led HIE's involvement in the influential MAXiMAR study which highlighted the economic potential of the marine economy for the region.
Thanks to Morven's input, I believe you will struggle to find a more concise, comprehensive view of what is at stake. At a fundamental level, the sea is going to be essential to sustainably feed the world's growing population over the coming decades. From the economic importance on a national scale to marine's importance for the modern rural economies of our coastal communities, we introduced some of the themes which would run throughout the week – collaboration, innovation, sustainability and investment.
Morven's initial involvement in the marine economy was a project for the UK government looking at areas of innovation where there were already clusters of academia, business and opportunity. For Scotland, marine is one such area.
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the session was the comparison with other nations and regions of the world who are making enviable advances in the Marine Economy. Things are moving fast and nations no larger than Scotland are making huge strides. Iceland, for example, has embraced the idea of an ocean cluster and brought together connected enterprises and the knowledge sector across the marine industries. In less than a decade they now have more than 70 companies coming together to look at the whole ocean value chain, from fisheries to seafood biotech.
Norway, from where we would hear later in the week, has models which are particularly relevant for Scotland. They have no fewer than 173,000 jobs in the marine economy and are diversifying expertise from oil and gas, supporting emerging areas of blue economy. The city of Tromso in the north, for example, has become a centre for cold biotech which has brought both enterprise and employment opportunities to a more remote part of the country – which is something I know from my own experience is a huge challenge.
While the opportunities are biggest is areas such as aquaculture and marine renewables, it is important that the areas that have traditionally underpinned the economy are not forgotten.
We'll continue to focus on marine in the months and years ahead, but for now I'd recommend anyone with an interest in finding out more about the sector to watch the session in full.