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Aquaculture Supply Chain Cluster Scotland - Quercus Group

Aquaculture Supply Chain Cluster Scotland

Challenges of the Scottish Aquaculture Supply Chain

The aquaculture sector is an important provider of rural employment in Scotland. It represents the UK’s largest food export by value supporting 12,000 jobs and it generates close to £1bn Gross Value Added on a turnover of £1.5bn.

The Scottish salmon farming community alone employs 2,500 people directly and thousands more in the supply chain spending some £750m on goods and services each year.

Case details

Client name:
Highlands and Islands Enterprise
May 2020
May 2022

The sector’s role in the regional economy and its global market position is at risk. Today, supply chain businesses face multiple constraints.

  • The competition from countries such as Norway and Chile is strong.
  • The supply of skilled workforce is decreasing.
  • Frictions in the knowledge transfer between academia and practice hamper clear routes to commercialize innovations and new technologies.
  • The public perception of the sector’s environmental impact and its ability to respond to climate emergency challenges is tilted towards the negative.

Actors in the Scottish Aquaculture ecosystem voiced the need for more open and transparent communication, for efforts to create a more conducive regulatory context, or for more shared infrastructure and assets (training facilities, knowledge, and data, buildings, equipment, technical capabilities, branding, etc. )

Building an industry-led cluster organization.

Quercus Group supports the creation of a cluster organization for the Scottish Aquaculture Supply Chain from the initial analyses to operation.

Clusters drive productivity, innovation, and competitiveness. The success mechanism of cluster initiatives is a collaboration between private, public, and academic partners. Issues surrounding the cluster can often be more effectively solved by collaborating. This way the community’s success results in the success of the individual firms and organizations.

Our role in this effort was to

  • share our experience in building cluster initiatives,
  • guide through our 8-step process of cluster development as a framework, and
  • support the involved parties setting up the Scottish Aquaculture Supply Chain Cluster.

How to build a cluster in eight steps?

When building a cluster organization, we let ourselves be guided by eight steps. In practice, the process of working with this framework is more iterative than linear.

  1. Understand the cluster. Cluster analysis helps to shed light on cluster features, dynamics and development, and surfaces strongholds as well as issues. It is an essential step to the decision of building a cluster initiative.
  2. Get to know and engage with the cluster actors. Stakeholder engagement and mobilization are relational tasks. It is about making connections and understanding the cluster members’ motivation, needs and perspectives.
  3. Define what you want to achieve. The first step towards a cluster strategy is about identifying together(!) what the biggest issues are that can be more effectively solved in collaboration, and developing a shared(!) vision of how to address them.
  4. Make a plan for how to get there. Develop a portfolio of varied activities aiming to address the biggest issues, and define the overall design principles and policies for these activities.
  5. Create a governance and organizational model. Cluster management is coordinating a multi-stakeholder partnership. Decide who can make proposals and shape the direction of the cluster initiative and how. Decide how the cluster initiative makes decisions.
  6. Finance the cluster organization. Most cluster initiatives start with public grant financing. Over time, the cluster initiative can establish multiple revenue streams to sustain its activities. Look into the services and activities of the cluster organization and the value they create (and for who) as a starting point.
  7. Communicate the cluster organization’s value-add and activities. Build traction and build a growing cluster community by generously sharing knowledge and experience. Develop an idea and a plan for how you communicate. This is about community-building and marketing at the same time.
  8. Measure and learn. Develop a strategy on what and how you will measure and how you will report it. Use measuring as a platform for learning and create opportunities for the members to learn from each other.

Read more about the eight steps of cluster development on our blog.

The Scottish Aquaculture Supply Chain is in the making.

We worked together with a range of Scottish public, private and academic organizations on the fundamentals of the evolving cluster organization. Industry-led focus groups were held to facilitate discussions, establish networks and identify the core industry representatives and advisory groups.

The process is still ongoing and we are currently focusing on elaborating and scoping the initial portfolio of activities and began dialogues on governance and organizational models.

The project idea stems from the aquaculture supply chain summit held in Edinburgh in 2019, which was organized by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) in partnership with Scottish Government, Marine Scotland and the Sustainable Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC).

Its goal is to support and strengthen the culture of competitive collaboration, which helps companies to market and launch nature positive innovations, grow and win new business by working more cohesively across the supply chain.

Quercus Group is part of this initiative in partnership with Risk & Policy Analysts Ltd..