Why do we need innovation in the blue economy?
The blue economy is already vast with over 5 million people employed in blue sectors such as coastal and maritime tourism, shipbuilding and fisheries, and it could grow further and employ 7 million by 2020. But as fresh water and land are running scarce in the face of a growing world population, we will have to turn more and more to our oceans for our food, medicine and energy needs. The blue economy has the potential of creating more jobs and further our economic growth. However, our activities have to be sustainable so that future generations can enjoy the same healthy and vibrant oceans that we enjoy in our lifetime.
Innovation across all sectors of the blue economy is therefore crucial to realise the growth and jobs potential and can also bring environmental benefits.
Why do we need this Communication?
The 2010 Innovation Union, the over-arching EU strategy on how innovation can contribute to create smart, sustainable and exclusive growth by 2020, already identified a number of weaknesses to tackle barriers to innovation: under-investment in knowledge, poor access to finance, the high cost of intellectual property rights, slow progress towards interoperable standards, ineffective use of public procurement and duplications in research. A number of these issues are already being tackled at the appropriate levels of administration, but some barriers are specific to the blue economy and will need further complementary action:
gaps in knowledge and data about the state of our oceans, seabed resources, marine life and risks to habitats and ecosystems;
diffuse research efforts in marine and maritime science that hinders inter-disciplinary learning and slows the progress of technological breakthroughs in key technologies and innovative business sectors;
lack of scientists, engineers and skilled workers able to apply new technologies in the marine environment.