The IDB of­fers fund­ing to busi­nesses us­ing cut­ting-edge tech­nol­ogy in ma­rine man­age­ment


In­no­va­tive en­trepreneurs with an in­ter­est in the ocean en­vi­ron­ment can grab up to US$2m in fund­ing, cour­tesy of a new ini­tia­tive launched by the the In­ter-Amer­i­can De­vel­op­ment Bank (IDB) in part­ner­ship with Com­pete Caribbean. The Blue Tech Chal­lenge in­vites firms that use cut­ting-edge tech­nol­ogy to con­trib­ute to the sus­tain­able man­age­ment of ma­rine re­sources to ac­cess loans and grants to de­velop their busi­ness model. “Oceans pro­vide food and a source of in­come to bil­lions of peo­ple. We are look­ing for in­no­va­tive tech­nolo­gies that con­trib­ute to en­hanc­ing the liveli­hoods, food se­cu­rity and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment of the Caribbean re­gion’s pop­u­la­tion,” says Com­pete Caribbean Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Dr Sylvia Dohn­ert.


The Caribbean’s crys­tal-clear wa­ters aren’t just a draw for tourists, they’re also an im­por­tant driver of eco­nomic growth, sup­port­ing and sus­tain­ing a va­ri­ety of in­dus­tries from div­ing to ship­ping. Caribbean wa­ters gen­er­ated US$407bn in 2012, ac­cord­ing to the World Bank which divides this to­tal be­tween liv­ing re­sources (conch, reef fish etc), non-liv­ing re­sources (oil and gas) and ecosys­tems (man­groves, co­ral reefs, deep ocean).

The blue econ­omy is con­cerned with manag­ing and mon­etis­ing the ma­rine and coastal en­vi­ron­ment. “The con­cept could be broadly de­fined as the range of eco­nomic sec­tors and re­lated poli­cies that to­gether de­ter­mine the use of oceanic re­sources,” says Dohn­ert. “The blue econ­omy has di­verse com­po­nents in­clud­ing es­tab­lished tra­di­tional ocean in­dus­tries such as fish­eries, tourism and mar­itime trans­port but also new and emerg­ing ac­tiv­i­ties such as off­shore re­new­able en­ergy, aqua­cul­ture, seabed ex­trac­tive ac­tiv­i­ties and ma­rine biotech­nol­ogy and bio­prospect­ing.”

Across the re­gion, is­lands de­pend on the ocean for their liveli­hoods yet these pre­cious re­sources are at risk from pol­lu­tion, over-ex­ploita­tion of re­sources, de­vel­op­ment and other threats. Pro­mot­ing con­ser­va­tion along­side com­merce re­quires a del­i­cate bal­anc­ing act, and tech­nol­ogy has a key role to play in de­vel­op­ing longterm so­lu­tions. Dohn­ert says: “Since ev­ery sec­tor of the blue econ­omy is af­fected by tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances it is es­sen­tial

to take ad­van­tage of this trend to pilot new ap­proaches, de­velop new ma­te­ri­als and im­ple­ment novel ap­proaches that de­liver prag­matic and tan­gi­ble so­lu­tions for busi­ness mod­els that, at the same time, fos­ter the longterm sus­tain­abil­ity of the ocean econ­omy.”

The Blue Tech Chal­lenge or­gan­is­ers hope to see all kinds of dis­rup­tive tech­nol­ogy come to light un­der the scheme, in­clud­ing ma­rine biotech­nol­ogy, re­new­able en­er­gies, ma­rine R&D, sub­sea en­gi­neer­ing, sen­sors and imag­ing, satel­lite tech­nol­ogy, big data, ro­bot­ics and nano-tech­nol­ogy.

As tech­nol­ogy evolves, and ma­chines be­come ever more so­phis­ti­cated, their po­ten­tial role in the blue econ­omy ex­pands. Com­mer­cial ship­ping is us­ing more au­to­mated pro­cesses as they har­ness the ef­fi­cien­cies of Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence, seabed min­ing com­pa­nies are em­ploy­ing ro­bot­ics to ex­plore the sea floor, ma­rine aqua­cul­ture is mak­ing more use of biotech­nol­ogy to in­crease yields. The field is full of creative thinkers and the IDB is look­ing to en­cour­age the Caribbean to fol­low suit.


The Blue Tech Chal­lenge tar­gets 14 Caribbean coun­tries, one of which is Saint Lu­cia. “One char­ac­ter­is­tic of this group of coun­tries is that close to 100 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion de­pend on the oceans for their ba­sic liveli­hood, food se­cu­rity and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. Saint Lu­cia fits this pro­file with its 158km of coast­line in the Caribbean Sea,” says Dohn­ert. ‘We be­lieve that the pri­vate sec­tor [in Saint Lu­cia] will have a lot of in­no­va­tive ideas and so­lu­tions to con­trib­ute to this chal­lenge.”

All com­pa­nies in Saint Lu­cia who are us­ing dis­rup­tive tech­nol­ogy in the ar­eas of en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion, solid waste man­age­ment, im­proved mon­i­tor­ing of ocean ecosys­tems, man­age­ment of sar­gas­sum and ac­cess to fi­nance for ma­rine en­ter­prises should ap­ply, ac­cord­ing to Dohn­ert who says ap­pli­cants will be able to max­imise their eco­nomic, so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact through the ini­ta­tive. Not only that, but they will be play­ing their part in se­cur­ing nat­u­ral re­sources for the next gen­er­a­tion of Saint Lu­cians.

Dohn­ert says: “By pre­serv­ing our oceans and re­duc­ing the dam­age to ma­rine ecosys­tems, coastal com­mu­ni­ties can thrive and fu­ture gen­er­a­tions can en­joy a sta­ble and pro­duc­tive blue econ­omy. The Euro­pean Union es­ti­mates that the global blue econ­omy is set to grow faster than the gen­eral econ­omy, pos­si­bly dou­bling in size by 2030. How­ever, the true po­ten­tial of the blue econ­omy can only be re­alised if our ocean’s sus­tain­abil­ity is se­cured.”


The IDB is cur­rently ac­cept­ing pro­pos­als for the chal­lenge, and the clos­ing date for sub­mis­sions is Novem­ber 30. En­trants can ap­ply for ei­ther tech­ni­cal grants or loans. Re­quests for grants should be within US$150,000 to US$500,000, while loans range from US$500,000 to US$2m. Those that qual­ify will also be­come part of the

IDB Group’s net­work of in­no­va­tors, giv­ing them the op­por­tu­nity to con­nect with other busi­nesses, lead­ers and in­no­va­tors in the Caribbean at net­work­ing events.

Ap­pli­cants must demon­strate the eco­nomic vi­a­bil­ity of their project and show that they can con­trib­ute at least 50 per cent of the project bud­get. They will be eval­u­ated on the de­gree of in­no­va­tion in­volved, the so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact, scal­a­bil­ity, fi­nan­cial sta­bil­ity, ca­pac­ity and risk. Pro­pos­als can be sub­mit­ted on­line: http://con­vo­ca­to­ bluetechchal­lenge/home

Those who make the short­list will be no­ti­fied in De­cem­ber and the win­ning pro­pos­als will be an­nounced in Feb­ru­ary 2019 fol­low­ing close re­view from a judg­ing panel com­prised of in­ter­na­tional ex­perts in ocean econ­omy.

The In­ter-Amer­i­can De­vel­op­ment Bank (IADB or IDB) is an in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tion es­tab­lished in 1959 to sup­port Latin Amer­i­can and Caribbean eco­nomic and so­cial de­vel­op­ment and re­gional in­te­gra­tion by lend­ing mainly to gov­ern­ments and gov­ern­ment agen­cies, in­clud­ing State cor­po­ra­tions.

Dr. Sylvia Dohn­ert joined the Com­pete Caribbean team as Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor in Novem­ber 2012. She spe­cial­izes in con­cep­tu­al­iz­ing and de­sign­ing gov­ern­ment pol­icy and/or projects that will sup­port pri­vate sec­tor de­vel­op­ment

2016 World Bank re­port “To­ward a Blue Econ­omy: A Prom­ise for Sus­tain­able Growth in the Caribbean” es­ti­mates that Caribbean wa­ters gen­er­ated US$407 bil­lion in 2012, which rep­re­sents more than 17 per­cent of Caribbean GDP, in­clud­ing main­land coun­tries.

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