IDB LAUNCHES BLUE TECH CHALLENGE
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.
TAPPING INTO THE BLUE ECONOMY
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.
TARGETING SAINT LUCIA
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.”
HOW TO APPLY
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://convocatorias.iadb.org/ 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.