Blue Platform workshop took place in Lübeck on 10-11.04.2019

The Blue Platform project organised a workshop during the Interreg Baltic Sea Region annual conference which took place on 9-10 April 2019 in Lübeck, Germany. More than 300 participants attended the conference to discuss about how we can make the Baltic Sea Region more innovative, better accessible and more sustainable.

The Blue Platform workshop focused on how to get regions the regions specifically, more involved in the Blue Economy, and included roundtables to allow for the 40 participants to engage in interactive discussions on mussels and algae; fish production; and biotechnology. Organised by SYKE, the Finnish Environment Institute - lead partner of Blue Platform together with the SUBMARINER Network for Blue Growth, the 1.5-hour workshop was titled ‘Driving the Baltic Blue Bioeconomy forward’ and was framed around the question how the Blue Bioeconomy can create benefits for municipalities and regions, and in which ways these can offer effective support. 

Representatives from key Baltic Blue Bioeconomy projects led the discussions and explained how some of the successful support tools develop within these projects have already been applied and how they can therefore also be applied by actors outside these immediate project partnerships. The discussions were framed around challenges, good examples and key actions – which were written on post-its on flipcharts. The ambition of the workshop was to extract the key actions that EUSBSR actors can take immediately in order to strengthen the position of companies in the Baltic Blue Bioeconomy and to increase jobs. A summary for each of the three roundtables is presented below, and more information about the conference can be found here: https://www.interreg-baltic.eu/news-detail/news/thank-you-for-sharing-exciting-interreg-experiences-with-us-the-programme-conference-is-over.html

Summary of roundtable ‘Fish production’ 

One of the roundtables discussed the topic ‘Fish production’ and the group consisted of many different influencers such as NGOs, regions, consultancies, universities and Interreg representatives. Many of the participants also represented concerned citizens and consumers of fish and fish-related products, which is a position most everyone could relate to. Participants were invited to give input regarding challenges; good examples and key action points. The consumers around the table were interested in fresh, healthy, sustainably and locally produced fish – at reasonable prices, available in the supermarket, and successfully prepared for a quick and relatively easy meal. These requirements mean that certain key actions need to be undertaken, as fish production in the Baltic Sea is currently facing challenges such as eutrophication, restricting legislation as well as a relatively poor reputation. The list of wishes inspired to key actions including: 

  • Alignment of maritime spatial planning (MSP) and environmental policy openings for compensation farming
  • More research on locally sourced healthy fish feed, encouraging local agriculture to become part of the value chain
  • More land-based fish farming
  • New robust species that also appeal to consumers
  • Good examples on a regional level to show the way
  • Certification of local Baltic Sea fish for promotion and awareness making/product information for easy purchasing decisions

The desire for more local fish probably expresses an implicit understanding of the state-of-the-art local fish production as already on the right track towards sustainability, compared to overseas import. If, however the demand for fish increases - as is being predicted from several sources - there is a need to work efficiently on dealing with this challenge in a sustainable way. The Blue Platform project was initiated to make sure that all relevant Baltic Sea aquaculture knowledge is made available to all relevant stakeholders in order to contribute specifically to solving this challenge in an optimum way.

Summary of roundtable ‘Mussels and algae’

Inconsistent legislation was mentioned as one of the challenges for the development of mussels and algae cultivation projects. The duration of licensing procedures may extend up to one year; there are missing definitions for e.g. beach-wreck (is it a resource or a waste product?); the necessity to visit numerous institutions for finding or implementing solutions; or even it being unclear which institution to address – all these factors stop or slow down project activities. Research on oceanographic variables and modelling is missing when predictions of areas with the highest beach-cast algae and seaweed concentrations are necessary. The brown alga Fucus vesiculosusis on the list of protected species in Germany and thus is not allowed to be used as a resource for economical purposes, while in neighbouring Denmark this prohibition doesn’t exist.

The identified key actions included: 

  • increase on focused communication between different levels of administrators/decision takers and respective stakeholders (researchers, NGOs, companies);
  • wide promotion of results of projects on mussel & algal cultivation – methods, approaches, potential use of harvest;
  • initiation of update of Red Lists where necessary;
  • studies of local oceanographic conditions and development of models.

A harvesting machine was invented at the University of Kiel which includes functions such as selective macroalgal harvest – this is a good practice worth mentioning.  Others include longer-term (30 yrs) sustainable harvest of red algae Furcellaria sp. by the Estonian company “Vormsi Agar”; the creation of active coal products from beach waste on the island of Rügen; or the start of the second mussel farm in the Latvian marine area following the example of the first experimental one.

Summary of roundtable ‘Blue biotechnology’ 

The Blue Biotechnology discussed about the challenges that researchers face when they are studying something that could be turned into business, e.g. new pharmaceuticals. First of all, research needed for biotechnology takes a lot of time and is a slow process. Often the project funding is limited to three years, that seldom is enough for the whole chain from basic research to products that reach the market. Also, some challenges to different skills needed in the chain were identified. When the results have been achieved, researchers may not be eager to continue the product development or to start the business, because development from research to application to business needs lots of different expertise. In many cases the result will be stored and forgotten. In the case of cooperation between researchers and companies, the legal and IPR issues can be challenging. Who owns the product or rights to it? Also, the incentives are very different for researchers and companies. Researchers need to publish their results as is required for advancing academic careers, but companies cannot let the results be published, because otherwise they are not able to patent their product. In some cases, the research results may be unpredictable, and the end-product may be something completely different that was expected. This may change the whole value chain, if this is planned in advance.

As a good practice, the table discussion led to a conclusion that first, the whole value chain of the product should be included in the research and development process to optimize all needed steps. We also think that biotechnology should be linked with the broader circular economy field and the product development should be done by thinking about the whole life cycle of the product and its side products. The key actions as discussed included business orientation training for researchers and mapping of actors and resources of the whole value chains. It was also suggested, that it could be a funding application and evaluation requirement, that the result of a research project is an actual product. There should be structures and services within research organizations to support progression from basic research towards real products without bottlenecks or choke points. It was also notified that researchers could patent their ideas and sell the patents to the business world. It was also stated that there are plenty possible partners in Russia, who should be taken into in these networks as well. 

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