Life Sciences

Natural and Marine products 

The Highlands and Islands has a unique offering in marine and natural products, particulary in macro and micro algae. These natural assets, largely situated around our islands and the west coast, offer employment and diversification opportunities for rual businesses and the ideal foundations for a thriving marine biotechnology sector.

View our Marine Biotechnology in the Highlands and Islands brochure.

Read our report on wild seaweed harvesting as an opportunity for fishermen to diversify. The kelp atlas shows the locations and type of seaweed located around our coastline.

Our science and expertise

Connecting business and research

  • The European Marine Science Park in Oban, Argyll hosts research, education and business organisations with a focus on marine science and aquaculture. Regular networking events connect the commercial tenants at the incubator facilities, resident businesses and academics to stimulate collaboration. 

  • The Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC) works with industry and academia in the Highlands and Islands. Roger Kilburn, CEO of IBioIC, explains that "The Highlands and Islands are home to large quantities of natural feedstock with untapped potential such as wood and seaweed. Wood can be turned into fermentable sugar from which biochemical, biomaterials and biofuel can be produced, replacing oil-based products and a reliance on fossil fuels. Equally, marine biopolymers can be extracted from seaweed for multiple applications including the personal and healthcare markets.

  • The Scottish Seaweed Industry Association is a membership organisation that is the voice of the seaweed industry in Scotland. It hosts an annual conference in Oban in November.

Our businesses

The Highlands and Islands region has a thriving aquaculture industry and is already home to a cluster of marine biotech enterprises that provide refined extracts, active compounds and expertise in product development and analytical capabilityThe main markets for companies that utilise natural products are pharmaceuticals, nutriceuticals, cosmetics and renewable energy.

A range of companies are active in the Highlands and Islands - listed below is a small selection:

  • BASF Pharma (Callanish) Ltd has a base on the Isle of Lewis is the largest employer on the island, makes a significant contribution to the local economy. BASF Pharma is a global leader in manufacturing highly-concentrated omega-3 fatty acids, for pharmaceutical, clinical nutrition and general nutritional applications. 
  • Hebridean Seaweed, based on the Isle of Lewis, manufactures seaweed products for use in the animal feed supplement, soil enhancement, alginate and nutraceutical industries. The company has also successfully diversified into the high-end organic skincare market with the Ishga brand.
  • Xanthella Ltd manufactures a range of photobioreactors that combine advanced design with cost-effectiveness and leads on the ASLEE projectAlgal Solutions for a Local Energy Economy. The aim of this partnership project is to look at the technical and economic viability of using renewable electricity and grid balancing of biomanufacturing algae. ASLEE will create a facility to biomanufacture algae on a large scale and provide that as feedstock to the aquaculture industry. Read more about them here.
  • Acadian Seaplants of Novia Scotia, Canada, a global bio-tech company and manufacturer of marine plant products, acquired local Uist company Uist Asco in 2017. With its focus being the sustainable harvesting and processing of wild seaweed, Acadian Seaplants expanded its European presence beyond Ireland and has invested in the local seaweed processing facility.   
  • Lallemand Aquapharm focuses on the selection and screening of marine microorganisms from its base at Dunstaffinage near Oban.

Opportunities

Wild seaweed harvesting can potentially present a unique opportunity for fishermen to diversify. Read our report for full details of the opportunity along with a kelp atlas showing the locations and type of seaweed located around our coastline.

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