Blue growth - future perspectives for smart specialisation
On October 9, 2018, the Blue Growth: Future Perspectives for Smart Specialisation event brought together EU officials, industry stakeholders and regional organisation representatives to discuss the opportunities, strategies, strengths – as well as the territorial challenges – within the Blue Economy in regions neighboring Europe’s seas and waterways.
Particular focus was on future direction, based on insight developed in the Periscope project, and how regions can advance their smart specialisation strategies to support growth and territorial cohesion post-2020.
Here are the key issues raised and conclusions reached at the event:
Sustainability was a key theme and concern for the speakers, who highlighted this need in fields as diverse as policy making, business opportunities, the development of interoperable tools and technological solutions - and the greener footprint that is increasingly sought by oil and gas companies.
Employment was also an important topic. Participants raised the issue of attracting younger generations to the field - and the risk of losing industry professionals who, when laid off in the more fragile areas of the Blue Economy, are hired outside it, in construction or logistics. A possible solution could be to build stronger employment network support and disseminate knowledge on opportunities within the Blue Economy. Ports were cited as an important cross-sectoral connectors, in this regard.
On funding, speakers gently urged policymakers to: adopt clearer strategies across longer time frames; take on the role of “launching customer”, to support new innovations at the market entry and product development stages; and to provide fuller and more flexible funding to ensure that ideas and innovations get the necessary support to succeed.
Investment was a proposed solution, with the EU’s DG MARE preparing a platform that could link projects with private investors, to close the funding gap for innovative and sustainable business sectors in the Blue Economy. It has also developed 14 principles for sustainable investment in the Blue Economy, in consultation with international public and private organisations, seeking a more holistic approach.
Meanwhile, René Rohrbeck and Matthew Jon Spaniol, both from the University of Aarhus School for Business and Social Sciences and its International Strategic Foresight Network, conducted a smartphone-based digital poll, asking the audience to decide how they would invest €100 in Blue Growth. Floating vessel charging stations (31%) and 3D-printing for offshore repair and design (22%) were most attractive to participants, followed by drone and robotic maintenance of offshore installations (17%), autonomous drones for inspection of enclosed spaces (16%), and supply drones for offshore deliveries (14%). Participants were allowed to hedge their bets in €20 segments.
The event was hosted by the South Norway European Office within the framework of the regional partnership Advanced Regions for Blue Growth: Niedersachsen (DE), Esbjerg Kommune (DK), SNN Northern Netherlands Alliance (NL), Region Västra Götaland (SE).
Take away message
The future of Blue Growth is a path of great opportunities and multiple challenges. Succeeding will require strong support and funding for innovation; the nurture of a dynamic and plentiful job market; developing further cooperation and collaboration through wider and deeper networks of industry clusters and political and public organisations; securing the interoperability of tools and standards; and introducing stronger and more flexible funding mechanisms, with synergy between both public and private investment.
Johannes Kromann Bie, Project Director offshoreenergy.dk
“Often happens you find funding and create a project around it. With CRIF model, we take stakeholders’ input and identify necessary projects. We find a committed problem owner, scout competencies and teams, grasp the business plan – and only then do we find the funding.”.
Anne-Grete Ellingsen, CEO of GCE Node, a Norway-based cluster of companies that supply world-leading technology, products and services to the global energy and maritime industries: “Digitalisation is key to achieving both increased safety and sustainability. It will be a key enabling technology within Blue Growth.”
Christos Economou, Head of Unit, DG MARE
“We would like to do things in a sustainable way, even in these new sectors. We have to learn the lessons from the past and try to develop policies and business scenarios that ensure viability, and indeed give opportunities for a bright future.”
Arjen Uytendaal, Director Nederland Maritiem Land, President of the European Network of Maritime Clusters
“Clusters are good at organising the companies within. The challenge is to do it with regions. Because there are enormous opportunities on the North Sea – and enormous challenges with the energy transition on the North Sea.