7th March 2022

Plans to maximise the huge potential of North Ayrshire’s ‘Blue Economy’ are gathering pace.

North Ayrshire Council has joined forces with the University of Stirling – world renowned for their work in this sector – to harness the opportunities our marine and coastal assets provide.

The assets, infrastructure and strategic investment plans related to the Ayrshire Growth Deal will help North Ayrshire capitalise on a clear gap and position the region as a key player in the national Blue Economy.

As well as delivering jobs and skills development opportunities that will benefit businesses and communities, it is also crucial to harness our marine and coast assets to support net zero transition aspirations.

Central to the proposals is Hunterston – with its cluster of marine and infrastructure assets that are unique in Scotland and recognised as a national scale development site in the draft national planning framework – which can be a catalyst for a local, national and international boom in the sector.

As well as the long-term plans for Hunterston, a £10.5 million marine science centre is also earmarked for Ardrossan. The new International Marine Science and Environmental Centre (IMSE) will be based at Ardrossan and will ensure that the Firth of Clyde is recognised a leading player in the Blue Economy and marine sustainability.

Key to achieving success will be working with partners and a close association with the University of Stirling will provide a formal basis for collaborating with academic expertise to guide and shape this process to build on informal partnership working to date

Last week, the partners signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) – a formal legal agreement – and will allow both to explore  opportunities for North Ayrshire’s marine assets. One idea is to use Smart technology to monitor the environment and climate change in the marine environment, which will provide a wide range of benefits across the blue economy sector.

Last year, an MOU was signed between the Council, Peel Ports and Scottish Enterprise and they hope to extend this partnership to include Crown Estate to provide additional capacity to unlock the potential of the port including working towards identifying property and commercial space.

The Blue Economy proposals also consider the links to the Hunterston B nuclear station and how the Ayrshire Growth Deal and marine opportunities can create opportunities.

Councillor Joe Cullinane, Leader of North Ayrshire Council, said: “We are at fairly early stages of our vision for the Blue Economy but what is clear already is that there is real untapped potential here in North Ayrshire.

“With the decommissioning of Hunterston B nuclear power station underway it is vital that we see this as an opportunity to build something new, lasting and exciting for North Ayrshire.

“There is a wide range of blue economy activities that can be supported at Hunterston recognising the range of infrastructure assets present and, therefore, the versatility of Hunterston to be able to support a wide range of high-value activities. It will complement our Ayrshire Growth Deal- funded International Marine Science and Environment Centre and other regional assets.

“The University of Stirling is a fantastic partner to have on board – they are a leading international centre for environmental sciences and aquaculture research, working with industry, regulators and policymakers to make a meaningful difference to business and communities. It is exciting to see the Ayrshire Growth Deal starting to have a real impact by increasing university activity and presence here in North Ayrshire. This will be a major asset in developing a broad range of new skills and employment opportunities.

“Crown Estate Scotland will help us explore land opportunities to take advantage of what we have available on our doorstep.”

Principal and Vice Chancellor at the University of Stirling, Professor Sir Gerry McCormac, said: “Our goal at the University of Stirling is to produce research that makes a difference, not just to the development of knowledge, but to people, businesses and communities.

“Working in partnership with North Ayrshire Council through the Ayrshire Growth Deal, we will use our world-leading expertise in aquaculture and environmental science to help grow the ‘blue economy’ of the Ayrshire region, Scotland, and beyond.

“Together, we will create a ‘living laboratory’ that will transform ideas into jobs, skills and opportunities, and support a thriving, sustainable regional economy.”