New NFFO-Fathom Podcast Collaboration Explores New Funding for Industry-Science Partnerships

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The NFFO has partnered with the Fathom podcast to produce a series of informative and highly topical episodes, focusing on the challenges and opportunities facing UK fishermen in the post-Brexit landscape. In this first episode, NFFO CEO Barrie Deas and Cornish Fish Producers’ Organisation’s (CFPO) CEO Chris Ranford interview a Defra policy official about a big new funding opportunity for the industry.

On the table for discussion is the Fisheries Industry Science Partnership (FISP) scheme, which forms one arm of the three-stranded £100m UK Seafood Fund. The FISP scheme aims to improve and share knowledge of fisheries and aquaculture by funding data collection and research to support sustainable fisheries management. This will be done through collaboration between the fishing and seafood industry and research organisations.

Defra’s policy official described how the scheme has been set up to build a better understanding of stocks, with the intention of producing results that are valuable for the fishing industry. He explained projects will only be funded if they involve a partnership between industry and scientific representatives and that there are two branches to the scheme.  Part A provides funding for the development of research ideas, so fishermen don’t lose out on any expenses for travel to meetings etc., while the more substantial Part B provides funding for the research project itself.

“One of the key characteristics of FISP, is that in order for a project to be funded, it must have a partnership between a research organisation and a part of the industry. Therefore, it must have buy-in from the industry.” Defra Official

Barrie raised the main concern for many fishermen about the scheme – while established institutions and academics are well-versed in applying for funds, working fishermen typically have less time and resources to tackle the application process. This makes it challenging for the industry to fully engage, and even when included alongside scientific institutions, could just fulfil a ‘token’ function.

Defra addressed this concern, and highlighted the FISP Network, which comprises Fishing into the Future, the Fishing Animateurs, and the Fishmongers’ Company’s Charitable Trust. These three organisations aim to help fishermen overcome barriers to accessing the scheme, such as through connecting fishermen with ideas for research projects with relevant academics. The official recommended getting in touch with the Fishing Animateurs to receive guidance for going through this process.

“The Fishing Animateurs are a really good first port of call…I understand they have already put several potential applicants who are looking to apply for future rounds of FISP in touch with research organisations where those links didn’t exist before.” Defra Official

Defra also emphasised that the FISP scheme aimed to be receptive to feedback and could adapt as it progresses. Submissions for the first round are currently being assessed, and subsequent rounds will incorporate any lessons learnt, making sure that industry and science actors are working closely together and both fully included in making decisions.

“In all of these funding programmes the proof of the pudding is always in the eating. The key indicators that we’ll be looking at is whether the different parts of the industry welcome this as something that’s useful and relevant to their businesses, their fisheries, their lives, or whether it’s something that channels the funding in a different direction that doesn’t benefit the industry…for us that’s the key and that’s where the scrutiny must lie.” Barrie Deas

Barrie mentioned Fisheries Management Plans as a potential area for FISP to focus on, given that virtually all fishermen have a stake in plans relevant to their activities. Defra are receptive to this idea, and though the scheme is quite broad at present, it retains capacity to narrow its focus for future rounds.

With regards to when funding becomes available, it was noted that most of the funding will be paid in arrears – once the work has been completed. For Part B, this will be in quarterly installments to match milestones throughout the course of the project. Part A, however, does include the potential for a 25% upfront payment. This is in recognition of the fact that many industry representatives, especially small-scale fishermen, do not have the capital required to pay for project costs and recoup later.

 Listen now

The full Fathom episode can be accessed here, for a full exploration of the points covered above. There will be three more episodes in partnership with the NFFO, released in the New Year – stay tuned for updates. Follow Fathom on Twitter, add your mobile number on the CFPO’s website for free text alerts