A problem shared: Technology transfer and development in European integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA)

K. A. Alexander*, A. D. Hughes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Technology transfer and development is a key requirement for many research funders, yet there is a real paucity of scientifically documented evidence on how this transition is made and how it can be made more effective. The study described here details the experiences of an informal ‘community of practice’ working across research and commercialisation to set up and run a number of integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA) systems (innovative food systems addressing environmental impacts of traditional aquaculture) across Europe. Interviews were undertaken with seven European aquaculture companies across six countries (Cyprus, Ireland, Italy, Israel, Norway and Scotland), each of which were involved with the IDREEM project (www.idreem.eu) which paired aquaculture businesses and research institutions in strategic partnerships to promote rapid implementation of IMTA. This study revealed three main shared experiences: the lack of an existing process for licensing IMTA sites and the temporal hold this put on obtaining a license; issues due to environmental constraints, including storms; and problems of drying and storing for those working with algae. Furthermore, three key lessons were learnt by those involved: the importance of choosing extractive IMTA species based on what is endemic to the area; identifying the correct system configuration may take a lot of trial and error, but simplicity is crucial; a key process was ‘learning by doing’ and a range of skills are required. We conclude that the development of a formal ‘community of practice’, a knowledge-sharing platform where all those engaging in IMTA can work together, would enable further unique insight and innovation in the process. Statement of significance Communities of practice arise from collective learning by individuals or organisations in a shared domain. This paper describes the shared experiences and lessons learnt by one such community, composed of seven aquaculture SMEs implementing integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA) systems. In doing so, it provides guidance to those wishing to develop commercial scale IMTA in Europe.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-19
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2017


  • Community of practice
  • Integrated multi-trophic aquaculture
  • Research collaboration
  • Technology transfer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science


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