November 18th, 2021, the Blue Growth Community organized its mid-term conference under the framework of the 4th edition of the Mediterranean Week of Economic Leaders (MedaWeek Barcelona). MedaWeek is one of the most iconic economic conferences for the Mediterranean business sector. On this occasion, the Blue Growth Community presented the main results from the MED Blue Growth projects to the private sector.
The Blue Growth Community mid-term conference, titled: “Med Blue Economy in Action: Blue Business Tools for SMEs” was the occasion for experts and companies, participating in the MED Blue Growth projects share their experiences on the Mediterranean Blue Economy. In fact, all the experiences presented by the private entities were concrete solutions and real opportunities for investments in the Blue Economy sector. Successfully, the conference has been the perfect scenario for entrepreneurs to participate in the MED Blue Growth Projects, to share with other entrepreneurs their experiences, lessons learned, and therefore, the positive results coming from these projects.
The event opened with a welcome address from the Consorzio Nazionale Interuniversitario per le Scienze del Mare - CoNISMa, the Lead Partner of the Blue Growth Community, on the importance of this second phase of implementation of the Blue Growth project, focused on putting in place activities for capitalizing the results of the MED Blue Growth projects. The Joint Secretariat of the INTERREG MED program then emphasized the need to secure and widespread these results. Thus, it followed the presentation of the “BLUEINVEST” EU initiative, an investment platform to boost innovation and investments into sustainable technologies for the Blue Economy. In addition, the BLUE DEAL’s representative presented the “Open innovation challenge.” It is about a strategy for the efficient matching of demand and supply of innovation, explaining the 12 challenges related to the Blue Energy sector and the possibilities offered to all those innovative companies, start-ups, or research centers that are willing to participate and propose solutions.
After these initial reflections, the different SMEs participating on behalf of the MED Blue Growth projects structured in two different sessions addressed to the Innovative Blue Funding and Blue Economy, presented their main results. During the first session, moderated by the School of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering of the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), the audience had the chance to hear the positive perception and experiences of several companies on three innovative funding solutions:
Mr. Emanuele Troli, Managing Director of Blu Marine Service Soc Coop (Italy), presented his experience as a beneficiary of the 4helix+ Voucher Scheme. The 4helix voucher scheme is a mechanism that proposed grants and knowledge/coaching services by “Knowledge Providers” to companies (in 8 pilot areas), to support the design and creation of new products, services, processes, or business models. In this case, the participating SME, Blu Marine Service Soc Coop experienced the 4helix voucher scheme as a knowledge provider by helping a company to implement an innovation process to apply biodegradable and compostable for seafood packaging. Positive features of the voucher scheme, such as the speed in the evaluation and funding process, zero cost of the consultancy, and little bureaucracy for presenting the project were the key evidence of the positive impact of this tool in supporting blue economy innovation.
Mr. Ioannis Ioannou presentation´s followed. He is the representative of SYNDESEAS SME in Cyprus, who has participated in the Crowdfunding Campaign training, enhanced by the Blue Crowdfunding project. The Blue Crowdfunding campaign uses crowdfunding and crowdsourcing to fund, test, and validate innovative blue economy products and services. According to his testimonial, learning how to develop a crowdfunding campaign is significant for SMEs and startups for many reasons: it raises their working capital, and allows testing a business idea, and it also creates the perfect occasion to increase product awareness. With this testimonial, the crowdfunding campaign has proven to be an innovative and significant tool, especially for start-ups, for financing blue innovative solutions.
Mr. Fabio Bignolini, Representative of Northern Light S.r.l. (Italy), SME participated in the Mistral Business Plan competition. The Business Plan competition, developed by the MISTRAL project was conceived and implemented as a competition between business ideas, start-ups, and academic spin-offs dedicated to blue economy innovation. The Northern Light S.r.l. from Italy commented positively on its participation in the competition. This experience allowed start-ups to improve competencies in business plan development, upgrade transversal skills, namely on project pitching and social media management. The competition was presented at the mid-term conference as a potential tool for catalyzing innovation in the Blue growth sector.
In their turn, during the second session moderated by IrRADIARE Science for Evolution, the participating SMEs also presented some positive elements for the different presented Blue Economy solutions:
The first experience of the second panel was from BLUEfasma Circularity Self-Assessment. This tool aims at measuring SMEs’ readiness and willingness to invest in circular economy in the fishing and aquaculture sector. Among serval territories, the tool was tested in Portugal by an innovative SME: SEAentia acting in the field of sustainable aquaculture. Mr. Joao Rito, SEAentia´s Founding partner, commented how easy to use is the “Circularity self-assessment tool” developed under BLUEfasma. Moreover, the results given by the self-assessment tool provided fruitful bits of advice and measures towards a higher level of circularity in SEAentia´s business. With these recommendations in its hands, SEAntia was grateful for this experience, as it is now empowered and committed to achieving the maximum level of circularity model.
Ms. Sabrina Palmieri, from Ecocean (FR), underlined the positive experience on the “Coaching program for SMEs” attended by her company in the context of the Psamides project. Ecocean is a french SME operating under ecological-coastal engineering for protecting and restoring marine ecosystems. Thanks to the participation on the Psamides project, Ecocean was able to scale up one of the ecological solutions in the Spanish port of Sant Feliu de Guixols, in the coast of Catalonia. Ms. Paliermi emphasized the success of the Psamides coaches programme, claiming: "we took part in Psamides intending to open up the Spanish market, and the gamble paid off with a transformation of quotes in just a few weeks."
In conclusion, the success of this mid-term conference has been provided by the operative and effective communication of those companies that actively participated, experienced, and supported the implementation of the MED Blue Growth projects. Thanks to their testimonials, the added value, the impact, and the transfering potential of these projects were available to everyone.
Intending to strengthen the transferring of the presented results to the Mediterranean private sector, to wrap up the conferences, ASCAME, on behalf of the Blue Growth Community, carried out an interactive exercise with the online attending companies. Thus, the audience was invited to reply to the MENTIMETER quiz, with an invitation to those interested companies to become "takers".
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