By global definition, the blue economy is the subject of call for proposals at European and international levels. Examples include ongoing proposals such as Investing in Blue Innovation run by the EU via the EMFF, MarTERA 2020 launched by ERA-Net and the UNDP’s Ocean Innovation Challenge.
The European Union’s first two reports on the blue economy (2018 and 2019) showed the strong potential for growth in innovative and emerging maritime sectors, in particular the bio-economy. However, another EU study highlighted the considerable gap between support provided in the “pilot” and “demonstration” phases and the last stage of growth in SMEs and start-ups involved in the blue economy, i.e. bringing the product or service to the market. As one of the five European structural investment funds for the period 2014-2020, the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) is involved in the sector.
Investing in Blue Innovation / Blue Economy Window
Last November, the EMFF renewed its “Blue Economy Window” call for proposals as part of its Blue Invest platform. The main objective is to help bring to the market new products, services and economic models in Blue Economy-related fields in order to contribute to sustainable and innovative blue growth in Europe. This call for proposals is aimed only at SMEs, working alone or in consortium.
Proposals must relate to the sustainable use of marine resources as part of innovative and/or circular activities, contribute to the health of the oceans and fit in with the European Green Deal. They must contribute to one or more European policy objectives including the reduction of GHG emissions, the implementation of a more circular economy, securing energy supplies , and adapting to climate change as well as the inclusion of coastal local authorities, improving coastal protection and creating high-level jobs in the sector. A total budget of €22.5M (€700,000 to €2.5M per project) has been allocated.
A particularly wide scope
The 2019 edition of the call for proposals Investing in Blue Innovation covers many fields: blue bio-economy (responsible use of aquatic resources), digital transformation of maritime and coastal activities, renewable marine energy (wind, sun, wave, swell, thermal gradient…), facilitating technologies (sensors, platforms, resilient materials…), products made from hitherto lost or wasted resources, maritime transport, pollution management, helping ports to change, low carbon and environmental footprint tourism. Projects involving exploration for, or extraction of, gas or oil from beneath the sea and coastal tourism projects that fail to include protection of the environment and biodiversity are excluded.
MarTERA for transnational research and innovation projects
MarTERA is the third joint call for proposals aiming to finance transnational research and innovation projects involving marine and maritime technologies launched by the ERA-NET Cofund consortium. For information, ERA-NET (European Research Area Network) aims to network national and regional R&D programmes to enable different research funding systems to collectively finance projects that they would have been unable to implement individually. This third edition has five priority fields: environmentally-friendly maritime technologies; innovative concepts for ships and offshore infrastructure; automation/sensor/monitoring/observation technologies; advanced manufacturing and production; security and safety. Since the different fields involved (transport, offshore activities, resources, safety, biotechnologies, desalination, fishing, aquaculture) can neither be dealt with at national level nor by a single industry, the MarTERA call for proposals is focused on technologies. It has been launched by ministries or organisations from 11 countries: the EU (Belgium, France, Germany, Malta, Poland, Romania, Spain) but also Belarus, Norway, South Africa and Turkey. In France, the correspondent for the project is the ANR (National Research Agency). This organisation will only finance projects from the third priority field, and in particular underwater intelligent predictive maintenance systems, sensors and technologies. The MarTERA call for proposals covers a total of €13M.
Ocean Innovation Challenge to accelerate restoration and protection
Over the last few years, a certain dynamic has developed in the support of protecting and regenerating the oceans with, for example, the development of project accelerators, incubators, etc. However, the targets fixed in SDO14* (over-fishing, pollution, habitat destruction, impacts of climate change, etc.) are far from being achieved although four of them were expected to be complete by 2020. In this context, the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) has launched a call for proposals devoted to the reproducibility of solutions aiming to combat marine pollution, particularly those linked to plastics and nutrients. The idea is to highlight innovative, entrepreneurial and creative approaches likely to accelerate the restoration and the protection of oceans and coasts. The call for proposals is open to technical, political and entrepreneurial solutions which should be implemented in developing countries. Any public or private body, research laboratory, local authority, company or association can take part.
*SDO14 “Life Below Water” is one of the 17 sustainable development objectives adopted by the UN in 2015. Its main objective is to “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”.
∙ https://www.martera.eu/start (Maritime & marine technologies for a new era)