Rethinking Innovation for a Sustainable Ocean Economy

By SalM on August 7, 2020 in Other News Articles

Introduction

Development of the ocean economy is facing an increasingly acute dilemma. On the one hand, marine resources are essential to help meet the planet’s growing needs in food, energy, jobs, medicines, transport and so on. On the other, increasing use of our seas and
ocean, the natural resources and the services they provide, adds to mounting pressures on marine ecosystems. The marine environment is already straining under the weight of pollution, rising water temperatures, loss of biodiversity, rising sea levels, growing acidification and other impacts associated with climate change, with the result that unsustainable growth in ocean-related economic activity risks yet further undermining the very foundations on which the ocean economy stands.

This need for new thinking and actions is occurring at a time when science, technology and innovation activities themselves are undergoing major changes. Galvanised by digitalisation, the transformation of scientific research and innovation processes is speeding up in almost all disciplines and sectors of the economy, while the adoption of disruptive technologies and new collaborative and open innovation mechanisms are gaining ground in many parts of the world. In this context, this follow-up report Rethinking Innovation for a Sustainable Ocean Economy explores the role played by science, technology and innovation (STI) to propel growth in the ocean economy, while contributing possible solutions to its long-term sustainability challenges.

What innovations are on the horizon that may benefit both economic growth and environmental sustainability?

Ocean innovations in the pipeline – especially those building on generic advances in science (e.g. biochemistry, physics) and technology (e.g. artificial intelligence, robotics, big data) – appear set to enhance knowledge and understanding of marine ecosystems and their functions and improve ocean industries’ performance markedly. Economic progress in ocean activities has to become environmentally sustainable, and so this report devotes special attention to recent and forthcoming advances in a number of maritime sectors, which have the potential to deliver win-win solutions, i.e. strengthening
economic development while at the same time supporting ecosystem preservation and restoration. Four in-depth case studies are provided. They feature cross-sector innovations, and were selected in view of their different degree of technical and business
maturities, and their possible impacts. They include:

  1. Progress in ballast water treatment in ships, to combat the spread of (alien) marine species;
  2. Floating offshore wind power and its capacity for generating renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gases;
  3. Innovations in the marine aquaculture sector which may contribute to making the industry economically and environmentally more sustainable;
  4. Conversion of decommissioned oil and gas rigs and energy renewables platforms into artificial reefs.

What innovations are on the horizon that may benefit both economic growth and environmental sustainability?

Ocean innovations in the pipeline – especially those building on generic advances in science (e.g. biochemistry, physics) and technology (e.g. artificial intelligence, robotics, big data) – appear set to enhance knowledge and understanding of marine ecosystems and their functions and improve ocean industries’ performance markedly. Economic progress in ocean activities has to become environmentally sustainable, and so this report devotes special attention to recent and forthcoming advances in a number of maritime sectors, which have the potential to deliver win-win solutions, i.e. strengthening economic development while at the same time supporting ecosystem preservation and restoration. Four in-depth case studies are provided. They feature cross-sector innovations, and were selected in view of their different degree of technical and business maturities, and their possible impacts. They include:

  1. Progress in ballast water treatment in ships, to combat the spread of (alien) marine species; Floating offshore wind power and its capacity for generating renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gases;
  2. Innovations in the marine aquaculture sector which may contribute to making the industry economically and environmentally more sustainable;
  3. Conversion of decommissioned oil and gas rigs and energy renewables platforms into artificial reefs.

The preliminary assessment suggests that the innovations presented in the case studies have the potential to foster sustainable ocean economic activity, with possible positive impacts beyond the marine environment, although some face more challenges than others.
In addition, while science has led to many of the actual developments under consideration, one important lesson from all case studies – taking into account many differences in their operational and business models – is that major knowledge gaps in marine ecosystems’ biophysical characteristics exist today, which constrain future developments and call for precautionary approaches. A continued effort is therefore required to deliver progress on both scientific and technological fronts, as to ensure winwin situations that benefit both economic growth and environmental sustainability. Ocean economy innovation networks: a new kind of organisational innovation among marine and maritime actors? As developments in many other sectors of the economy illustrate, successful innovation
in science and technology often requires fresh thinking in the organisation and structure of the research process itself. And so it is with ocean-related research, development and innovation. This report focuses on a particular type of collaboration among marine and
maritime actors: innovation networks in the ocean economy. Ocean economy innovation networks are initiatives that strive to bring together a diversity of players (e.g. public research institutes, large enterprises, small and medium sized enterprises, universities, other public agencies) into flexibly organised networks. They work on a range of scientific and technological innovations, in many different
sectors of the ocean economy (e.g. marine robotics and autonomous vehicles, aquaculture, marine renewable energy, biotechnologies, offshore oil and gas). Such networks are springing up in many parts of the world in response to changes in the
national and international ocean research environment, and leveraging their organisational and skill diversity to benefit their partners and research in the ocean economy more generally. The OECD has designed and administered a survey of ten selected networks with
publicly (at least partially) funded organisations at their core. Such organisations often play a crucial role in orchestrating activity on behalf of the rest of the network. Facilitating effective collaboration is a central feature of a network’s success, but multiple challenges are associated with doing this effectively. Three insights emerged from the survey in particular:

  1.  Where independent assessments of the impact of ocean economy innovation networks have been carried out, they have shown generally positive impacts within and beyond the ocean economy. However, more effort to assess the costeffectiveness of public expenditure on innovation network centres, in more locations, is required if their value to society is to be better understood.
  2. Benefits associated with the networks are generated in response to the challenges posed by increasingly multi-faceted research and development in the ocean economy. Examples of benefits produced include those accruing to network participants, such as improved cross-sector synergies; access to once inaccessible research facilities and specialised knowledge; and, dedicated support for
    maritime start-ups. Other associated broader benefits include the building of marine scientific capacity and knowledge, and contributions to sustainable regional and national economic activity in general.
  3.  Challenges faced by the innovation network centres include successfully building bridges between organisations with differences in purpose and objectives; balancing opportunities for fundamental research and commercial potential; and, maintaining a culture of innovation among all partners.

If you are interested to read more of this OECD Report please follow the link for the download.