The importance of the blue economy in Europe had for years been overlooked. This however changed some three years ago when during the economic crisis, the EU commission and the five states with an Atlantic coastline joined efforts and committed to strengthening the blue economy while also maintaining marine environment health.
These efforts gave birth to Blue Growth, a long term strategy for sustainable growth both in the marine and maritime sectors. Oceans and seas are drivers of the European economy and therefore through innovation in the sector, they have even greater potential for tremendous growth. The term Blue Innovation was coined to refer to innovation in this sector. Blue Innovation is therefore the way to go to achieve the goals of the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.
The Way Forward as of 2013
As of today, the Blue Economy produces an estimate of about 5.4 million jobs annually and generates about 500 billion euros in return. Even further growth can be expected from improving a number of key areas. Some of these strategies include:
- Developing sectors with a great potential for sustainable jobs and growth like seabed mining, ocean energy, marine biotechnology, coastal tourism and aquaculture.
- Sea basin strategies to ensure specific measures are taken and in turn foster cooperation between different nations.
- Essential components to provide legal certainty, knowledge and security for the blue economy. This can be made possible by:
- Using marine knowledge to better the access of sea-related information.
- Use of integrated maritime surveillance to help authorities better understand what is happening at sea.
- Use of maritime spatial planning for efficient and sustainable management of at sea activities.
The 5 European nations involved have been working together to better address the issues facing the Atlantic. By learning from each other experiences and complementing each other’s actions, they have worked jointly to ensure all the various EU policies and funding agencies work in unison for a better impact on the Atlantic.
The Progress to Date
Taking a look at the progress to date, all the efforts since 2013 have been boring amazing fruits. Today, the Atlantic is the world’s innovation center when it comes to clean energy from the seas. Some of the success stories are:
- Portugal’s Wind Float. This was the world’s first pre-commercial floating wind turbine.
- Turbines by MeyGen Limited. This company plans to deploy about 398 megawatts of tidal stream turbines at the North Coast of Scotland.
- France on the other hand intends to deploy several tidal projects in the coming years.
When it comes to the economic growth, employment as a result of offshore wind energy is growing at about 30% annually. Moreover, the clean electricity generated is helping to reduce the EU’s need for fossil fuels.
There is also the revolutionary field of deep-sea mining which is yet to be explored worldwide. The EU is however well on the way to making ground breaking discoveries in the field. Scientists are currently in the process of drafting a mining code which will pave the way for mining in international waters.
Under environmental and ecological studies, through the support of the EU, some international scientists are working to define areas of environmental interest in the Atlantic to aid the International Seabed Authority in minimizing ecological disturbance while issuing licenses. Another great milestone for the ecosystem is the EU Marine Spatial Planning Directive of 2014 which requires all authorities to take into consideration all human activities as they allocate space in their own waters.
All this success can be attributed to the EU’s commitment to the cause. Between 2014 and 2015, the EU’s research program allocated €120 million specifically to be used in projects regarding the Atlantic. Also the managing authorities in in the regional and national spaces have helped in mobilizing funds to invest in job-creating opportunities, all which work to improve accessibility and connectivity. Some great examples are:
- The Dublin project that seeks to increase the port’s capacity so that it can accommodate even larger ships.
- Spain’s project to improve land connectivity in key ports which is jointly funded by the EU regional funds and the new European Fund for Strategic Investments.
- The beautiful Arcachon area in France that is open to cyclists making it easier for them to visit oyster producers in their farms or local fishermen on their boats and sample their products.
The Atlantic Project Awards
Over the years, the importance of supporting technology-based startups in this sector has become very evident as seen above. This has led the EU to host the first ever Atlantic Projects Awards. This award seeks to acknowledge the best projects under the Atlantic Strategy. In the recent event, several projects got the nod namely:
- Under theinternational cooperation category, a special award went to the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance – Coordination and Support Action (AORA-CSA)
- Foraccessibility and connectivity, the winner was BATTERIE which refers to Better Accessible Transport to Encourage Robust Intermodal Enterprise by Action Renewables
- Underentrepreneurship and innovation, the award was clinched by Atlantic Blue Tech. this team works to enhance the Blue Bio resources Niche of Excellence by Technopôle Brest-Iroise
- Forsustainability, the award went to Atlantic Power Cluster by SODERCAN Regional Development Agency of Cantabria
- And finally, for theAtlantic marine and coastal environment docket, the award went to the Platform for improving maritime coastal pollution preparedness and response in Atlantic regions by Centro Tecnológico del Mar – Fundación CETMAR.
By 2020, Blue growth is expected to be great! Employment under the blue economy is expected to grow by 1.6 million additional jobs which will mean an increased turnover of € 600 billion for the industry. All this can however only be achieved if Europe continues to work together through better research, more blue innovations and employing economically and environmentally sustainable strategies.
Last but not least, the Blue Economy can only be sustainable when we also succeed in creating an EU maritime entrepreneurship ecosystem focusing on the disruptive technologies oriented towards the maritime activities
That way future generations can look forward to a brighter blue future!