1st Mission Arena: A Step Towards a Sustainable Blue Economy

In November 2023, the city of Gothenburg, Sweden, became the focal point for pioneering environmental action with the hosting of the 1st Mission Arena at the Lindholmen Conference Centre. BlueRev proudly participated in this event, that aligned the EU Mission Ocean’s objectives and marked a significant stride in the pursuit of sustainable blue economy solutions, particularly in the Western Baltic region.

Uniting for a Sustainable Future

Spanning three days, from 14th to 16th November, the 1st Mission Arena turned into a vibrant hub for environmental enthusiasts, experts, and policymakers. The primary goal was to pave the way for innovative approaches in the blue economy – an economic sector based on the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystems.

 

A Laboratory of Ideas and Innovations

The event was not just a conference; it was a laboratory of ideas where interactive sessions, workshops, pitching events, and demonstrations took centre stage. These activities were meticulously designed to showcase a range of local, regional, and national approaches aiming to foster a circular, carbon-neutral blue economy.

The focus was on innovative solutions from the blue economy sector. Topics like blue food, bioresources, biotechnology, low-trophic aquaculture, and products were highlighted. These represent cutting-edge ways to address some of the world’s most pressing challenges, such as climate change, marine biodiversity loss, and sustainable use of marine resources.

 

Exploring Technical Solutions and Innovation Gaps

A significant part of the 1st Mission Arena was dedicated to exploring existing technical solutions in the blue economy. It also critically examined innovation gaps, funding and business models, as well as regulation and decision-making processes. This comprehensive approach provided attendees with a wealth of new knowledge, actionable paths, and innovative ideas.

 

BlueRev Participation

BlueRev took part in this event by presenting a workshop focused on inclusive solutions for the complex challenges of the fishing and seafood processing industry in Greenland and Denmark.

This joint session by EU-funded initiatives BlueBioClusters and BlueRev, introduced pivotal themes crucial for the advancement of coastal regions, notably social innovation and ecosystem services. A key focus was on the concept of valorization – a strategy aimed at enhancing the value of marine and aquatic bioresources, including by-products and side streams, to minimise their environmental impact. For example, reusing fish skin and heads for high-value products rather than discarding them into the sea. This approach laid the foundational context for the workshop’s following activities.

The workshop’s second phase involved a hands-on exercise using the Value Chain Facilitation tool, created by BlueBioClusters. This tool was instrumental in assisting stakeholders in identifying and valorizing value chains, encompassing ecosystem services. Participants were divided into groups, each concentrating on a specific type of biomass – Fish, Macroalgae, Bivalves, or Microalgae. The objective was to pinpoint value chains, assign economic, social, and environmental values to their selected chains, and examine potential opportunities and challenges.

The diverse mix of stakeholders spurred animated discussions and yielded essential insights. The process illuminated the creation of value through these value chains, underscoring the interconnected nature of various entities within the blue bioeconomy. The workshop highlighted research in the circular economy as a vital route, stressing the integration of blue initiatives within broader sustainability frameworks such as the Green Deal and Mission Ocean. The development of skills was identified as a key area, with a focus on fostering collaborative models between fishermen and making the sector more appealing to younger generations.

The workshop also brought to light various challenges, such as mainstream market interests and the difficulty in recognizing the value of side streams. Discussions on the costs of social innovation revealed the potential of new value chains in generating opportunities for communities. A novel concept emerged, advocating for ‘another type of profit’ and suggesting that relentless growth isn’t the sole model for the future. Stakeholders proposed diversifying income sources and extending production seasons by processing side streams, thereby adding value to waste products.

Specific challenges, such as inadequate legislation for algae in certain areas, low Technology Readiness Levels (TRL), and prolonged licence acquisition periods, were acknowledged. Suggestions included developing anti eutrophication and bioremediation systems, especially for kelp. The importance of fostering biodiversity awareness among local communities, involving citizens in mussel cultivation, and pioneering waste management methods in restaurants also enriched the dialogue.

 

The BlueRev Nordic case study: Estonia, Denmark and Greenland

The event also served as the stage for BlueRev to present the case study that was done in the pilot regions of Estonia, Denmark and Greenland, highlighting the challenges and solutions in these blue bio-based economies. 

The key challenges that were presented included a lack of skilled personnel, logistical issues, high labour costs, and an ageing workforce. As an answer to these problems, BlueRev proposed solutions such as exploring local employment, innovating in waste management, and enhancing communication skills. 

Companies were also advised on focusing on local biomass usage, wastewater purification, alternative labour models, and community collaboration, particularly to address housing shortages.

Engaging young talent through modern technology and promoting community involvement through outreach programs were also suggested and emphasised, as well as other policy suggestions like streamlining permitting processes and enhancing inter-ministerial coordination, and building capacity through industry-academia partnerships and expanding research facilities, especially for red algae. 

Future growth strategies focused on addressing labour and skills shortages, logistical challenges, and leveraging technology for processing efficiency. Policy advocacy for supportive regulations and collaboration with government bodies is crucial. Estonia was particularly advised to develop strategic export market initiatives, leveraging its unique position in the blue bioeconomy sector. 

 

Concrete Pathways for the EU’s Mission Ocean

The 1st Mission Arena concluded with a strong emphasis on providing concrete pathways to achieve the ambitious goals of the EU’s Mission Ocean. The event not only showcased the potential of the blue economy but also laid down the groundwork for future initiatives and collaborations.

By joining forces with 12 organisations from 10 European countries they offer blue bioeconomy players innovative business development tools and methods, and aim for creating a long-lasting impact by engaging directly with hundreds of regional actors to stimulate collaboration and positive change.

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Authors:
Joana Oliveira
LOBA
Mariana Carneiro
LOBA
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