UHI centre unlocks the economic and environmental potential in algae

Economic Transformation in our Nation

Universities have a strong culture of delivery which aligns closely with the Scottish Government’s National Strategy for Economic Transformation. We’ve curated a set of 19 stories to show how universities support people, businesses, industries and Scotland’s regions towards economic transformation.

SAMS skills development and research supports fast-growing algal biotech industry

A new research and innovation centre based at the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS), a partner of the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI), is helping to build Scotland’s high-level skills base in algal biotechnology and unlock the huge potential of algae as a sustainable resource for the economy and environment.

SAMS hosts one of the oldest and most biodiverse collections of algae in the world at Dunstaffnage near Oban and focuses on algae production and analysis. The Culture Collection for Algae and Protozoa (CCAP) holds around 3,000 strains of microscopic organisms such as marine and freshwater algae, cyanobacteria and seaweeds. Algae are key to human life on earth, producing much of the oxygen that we breathe and their natural products have a huge range of current and potential applications for humans, from pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals to biofuels and fertilisers.


Known as CCAP-ARIES, recent investment in the state-of-the-art facility at SAMS will help scientists around the world to discover new products and medicines. One of the current strands of research at CCAP-ARIES is exploring whether a red seaweed called Asparagopsis, can be used as a feed additive to reduce the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane by cattle.

The facilities investment came from the Natural Environment Research Council at UKRI.

As algal biotechnology is a rapidly growing industry, UHI has launched a new master’s degree in algal biotechnology and bioeconomy based at SAMS, which looks to develop the skilled workforce needed to support it here in Scotland. The masters students can make full use of the algae culture collection.

Course leader Dr Matthew Davey said:

“It is an extremely exciting time to be involved in algal biotechnology. While there is huge scope for research and development, we must have creative, knowledgeable, skilled and motivated people who can take this forward. That is why we have created this masters programme.”

The full-time, one-year programme will be taught by algal experts from SAMS, the wider UHI network at UHI Inverness and other experts in the sector.

Reflecting on SAMS’ research more broadly, Head of CCAP Dr Michael Ross said:

“Scientists around the world are looking for products useful to pharmaceuticals, cosmetics or to the food and beverage industries, and algae are high on the agenda given their natural diversity and ability to grow in a sustainable way. Researchers are also investigating the use of algae as a fuel, in cleaning up environmental pollutants and even their ability to absorb carbon.”

Key Points:

National Strategy for Economic Transformation theme: New market opportunities and skilled workforce

Institution: University of the Highlands and Islands

Location: Oban

  • The Culture Collection holds around 3,000 strains of microscopic organisms.
  • Recent investment in the state-of-the-art facility at SAMS will help scientists around the world to discover new products and medicines.