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Investment in Marine Sciences
The Scottish Further and Higher Education Funding Council (SFC) has yesterday announced a £17.4 million investment in a new marine science research pool that will bring together researchers from several universities and research institutes.
The Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland (MASTS) will receive the funding over seven years as part of a total investment of £74.7 million.
Ten partners, including eight Scottish universities - Aberdeen, Glasgow, St Andrews, Stirling, Strathclyde, Heriot-Watt, Edinburgh Napier, and UHI Millennium Institute through the Scottish Association of Marine Science - are to form the pool which will carry out world-class research, training and knowledge exchange.
Among its key areas of research, MASTS will pool existing strengths to look at areas including biodiversity, marine predators, sustainable mariculture, and fisheries.
MASTS also includes Marine Scotland (Science), the Scottish Government's own science research and advisory service, and the Universities Marine Biological Station at Millport, which is part of the University of London.
The formation of MASTS will create eight new professorships and 13 lectureships/readerships. A graduate academy will be at the core of MASTS offering advanced postgraduate training in marine sciences to attract and retain young scientists of true excellence, making marine science an attractive career option for talented people within and beyond Scotland and further increasing Scotland's competitive edge in the field.
Scotland has many advantages in the area of marine science on which MASTS can capitalize. Scotland's seas are the source of much of its wealth, with over 18,000 km of coastline and a sea area five times the size of the land and twice the size of the offshore responsibilities of the rest of the UK. Scotland's seas are among the most biologically productive in the world containing over 40,000 species. At the same time Scotland has 25 per cent of Europe's total tidal and offshore wind resource and 10 per cent of Europe's potential tidal power. SFC's investment continues its commitment to develop and support research pooling in Scotland and will build on Scotland's already strong marine science community.
Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Environment added:
"Our new Marine Bill provides the perfect platform to build on Scotland's already outstanding reputation for marine science. Scotland's prospects of becoming a global leader in future years will be greatly strengthened by the launch of MASTS, supported by over £17 million of new investment from the Scottish Funding Council.
"These are exciting times for marine policy in Scotland. Last week our Marine Bill passed its first major legislative hurdle. For the first time, we will soon have a new management framework in place to protect our seas, whilst at the same time ensuring economic growth doesn't come at a cost to our environment.
"As we move towards an era where renewable energy will be even more vital in our fight against climate change our seas will only become more important. It's clear that our leading research institutions have a vital role to play in placing Scotland at the forefront of international marine research."
Professor Ian Boyd, Director of the Scottish Oceans Institute and the Sea Mammal Research Unit at the University of St Andrews said:
"Scotland has some of the richest and most diverse seas in the world. The extent to which we are able to maximise the benefits from Scotland's seas, while ensuring that this is done sustainably, is going to rest on finding innovative solutions and these will come from basic research. The Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland has been designed to provide a strong foundation for this basic research. My colleagues and I are excited by this new opportunity and look forward to placing marine science in Scotland at the leading edge of the field."
Mark Batho, Chief Executive of the Scottish Funding Council, added:
"Scotland's coastline and seas are of immense importance to the country's wealth and culture. As a maritime nation, marine science has been a natural part of Scotland's contribution to modern science. The Council is pleased to support this science community to build on its success with a strong research pool."