Cefas HQ in Lowestoft (Credit: Cefas)
Cefas HQ in Lowestoft (Credit: Cefas)

Securing a sustainable blue future

26 April 2021

The UK’s Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) employs some 400 scientists at its headquarters in Lowestoft. Science Director David Carlin looks at how collaboration is vital to securing a sustainable blue future.

Our mission is to keep our seas, oceans and rivers healthy and productive and our seafood safe and sustainable. We do this by conducting world-leading research into the global problems of climate change, marine litter, over-fishing and pollution. We then provide this data and our expert advice to policy makers in the UK government and overseas partners who are working to secure a sustainable blue future for all.

We have been in Lowestoft since the Marine Biological Association set up a laboratory here in 1902 to support the local fishing industry. Since then we have become a top 5% global research facility (in terms of citations) and are now one of the largest marine science centres in the world. As well as our HQ in Lowestoft, we have laboratories in Weymouth, staff based in Kuwait and Oman, and we deliver programmes across the globe.

Although we work around the world, we are committed to the East of England and have just invested £16m in redeveloping our HQ as an advanced centre for applied marine science. This project, which received £1.4m from the New Anglia LEP’s Growth Deal, supports the region’s ambitions to be a centre for life and environmental sciences. It will also help make Lowestoft a marine science and offshore wind energy hub.

We work closely with local colleges and universities to support STEM students and now aim to offer around 12-15 apprenticeships each year. Our work with the University of East Anglia goes back 55 years and we recently established a Collaborative Centre for Sustainable Use of the Seas (CCSUS) on their campus. We are also developing research projects with University of Suffolk into eco-toxicology and other topics.

An eco-system tackling global challenges

The East of England is an excellent location because of its high concentration of biotech scientists. There are nationally important clusters not just here in Lowestoft but also on the Norwich Research Park, in our successful agri-food businesses and, of course, in Cambridge. Combine that with world leading data scientists and developers of cutting-edge digital technologies at Adastral Park, engineering at Hethel Innovation and you have an ecosystem capable of tackling global challenges, particularly the causes and effects of climate change.

This clustering is vital for innovation because it enables multi-disciplinary collaborations that can turn scientific research into beneficial outcomes. For instance, we have provided EDF Energy with fundamental research into the local marine habitat for over 10 years to help them develop their new nuclear programme at Sizewell in the most sustainable way possible. We have also worked with the offshore energy sector over the last 15 years, looking at issues such as the amount of scouring around installations

This work aligns with our role bringing together industry, academia and civil society to share innovative ideas for sustainable blue-green economic development. It’s vital we have coherent policies to protect our marine, freshwater and coastal environments. At the same time, we need to solve the challenge of creating a clean growth future for all.

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