The strategic aim of AQUAEXCEL3.0 is to boost EU aquaculture research on essential topics for the EU industry by making available the top European aquaculture research infrastructures to the best research teams across and beyond Europe, and select and promote, with the industry, the research results with the highest innovation potential.
By integrating 40 top class European aquaculture research facilities, AQUAEXCEL3.0 (Grant agreement ID: 871108) provides a world-class platform for aquaculture research, from biology to technology, in all types of rearing systems, covering all major EU farmed species as well as the most promising new species.
AQUAEXCEL3.0 builds upon the success of the previous integrating activity projects AQUAEXCEL and AQUAEXCEL2020, with the ambition to further boost the European Aquaculture sector. This project will continue to have fish as its main target but will widen its scope by including shellfish and macroalgae research facilities to push towards lower trophic level aquaculture. It will also include more integrated and circular systems which enable organic matter recycling and alternative feed production through insects or marine worms.
Aquaculture now provides over half of seafood for human consumption worldwide. To meet the increasing demand for seafood globally, aquaculture is growing annually and has been the fastest growing animal production sector in the world for decades now. However, within the EU aquaculture production has been lagging behind and there remains a high dependency on imported fish for consumption. The aquaculture industry landscape is also changing, with new consumer preferences, growing concern for environment and animal welfare issues, new standards and effects of global climate change.
Sustainable growth of the sector can only be achieved through efficient production of high value fish products in an environmentally and ethically responsible way, supported by high-level research and innovation. In order for the EU aquaculture sector to maintain its global leadership in aquaculture research and support the sustainable development of the sector, an open and inclusive dialogue between industry, science and policy, as well as between experts across different disciplines is required.
As a whole, AQUAEXCEL3.0 strategy is to focus its activities on the user needs and thereby to deliver the maximum impact. AQUAEXCEL3.0 builds on the achievements of the previous AQUAEXCEL (FP7) and AQUAEXCEL2020 (H2020) projects. Each of these projects have contributed to integrate a large group of top class European aquaculture research facilities through the implementation of a one-stop/easy access to a full range of facilities and services based on the aquaculture community’s needs. AQUAEXCEL3.0 has the ambition to boost this effort in a user-centric approach.
Amongst others, AQUAEXCEL3.0 will focus on expanding the Transnational Access programme to support even more external research teams collaborating with its high-quality facilities, providing free training courses on the latest topics and engaging closely with industry to ensure research is aligned with industry needs.
The project will expand access to high-quality services and resources, covering all scientific fields relevant to research and innovation in aquaculture. Through a strong partnership, the project will boost excellent research and sustainable innovation for both public and private sectors working in aquaculture.
At the support (transnational access) level, the scope of services provided will be enlarged by the inclusion of new Transnational Access (TNA) tools arising from the AQUAEXCEL and AQUAEXCEL2020 Joint Research Activities (JRAs): well characterized fish lines, including isogenic lines, implanted biosensor FishBIT, simulation with Virtual Labs, remote access to selected facilities (WU, SINTEF, NOFIMA).
At the coordination level, industry will increase its involvement compared to previous AQUAEXCEL projects by mobilizing the EATiP network of national Mirror Platforms, promoting both industry access to TNA and dissemination of project results to end-users. Sharing of best practices will be further encouraged by a novel bottom-up approach of short mobility grants for technical staff within the consortium, and by advanced online courses available to industry, aquaculture students and researchers.
At the joint research level, AQUAEXCEL3.0 will give special attention to ethical issues and further development of improved experimental procedures and services implementing the 3Rs (Reduce, Refine, Replace) at a large scale, such as implementation of technological tools (Virtual Laboratories enabling virtual access to TNA facilities), development of new biological models and operational methods to monitor and improve the welfare of experimental fish.
Overall, AQUAEXCEL3.0 will provide the Aquaculture Research community and Industry with new services focused on the user needs, to promote both excellent science and innovation.