Focusing on companies with transferable technologies the event looked at the business opportunities available to companies looking to delve into the ‘blue economy.’
‘Blue Growth’ in the Blue Economy is the long term strategy to support sustainable growth in the marine and maritime sectors. The sector supports roughly 5.4 million jobs generating a gross added value of almost €500bn a year, making it a highly lucrative industry.
Seas and oceans are drivers for the European economy and have great potential for innovation and growth. However, further growth is also possible in a number of other areas which are highlighted within the strategy.
Developing sectors such as aquaculture, costal tourism, marine biotechnology, ocean energy and seabed mining have a high potential for sustainable jobs and growth with the right investment.
Nick Lambert, former captain of HMS Newcastle and maritime domain expert at the government’s Satellite Applications Catapult, started off discussions.
Lambert highlighted the opportunities available to businesses, saying: “Most people see the sea as a boundary and not an opportunity. A lot of companies don’t know about the benefits of the blue economy.
“The north east is located on one of the busiest sea basins in the world, with vessels passing through the Dover straits every four minutes, making the Chanel busier than Heathrow.
“The ship yards were a huge part of this region also but life has changed since then and it’s not just about shipping and naval industries any more.
“There are a whole lot of business opportunities deriving from the blue economy but there is a much broader range of opportunities than initially meets the eye.
“Everything from aquaculture to fish farming all the way through to offshore renewable energy and oil and gas makes up the blue economy.”
Lambert went on to highlight just how diverse the opportunities are in the blue economy, with major opportunities also for businesses in the food and drink sector.
He added: “The global population is increasing dramatically and we are going to have to feed our future generations from the sea.
“Despite the need to source food from the oceans, our knowledge of the overall state of the seas is pretty poor.
“This is where satellite applications and some of the region’s most innovative technology companies can help solve the issue.
“A prime example is the amount of plastic and food packaging floating in the middle of nowhere and we must rise to the challenges to improve this.
“We are on the cusp of doing some very special things and I’ve seen a lot of UK SMEs and small companies leading the way.
“It’s just a question of if we’re willing to make that stake to get ahead of the game.”
David Townsley Director at the Centre of Excellence said “By recognising the opportunity to further develop our regional blue economy, we will open up a wealth of opportunity for the North East businesses. I see this as an incredibly exciting opportunity and through collaboration between businesses, universities, regional trade organisations and our LEPS we can really make a positive impact on our regional economy”