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Promoting a Sustainable
Blue Economy

Greg Murphy,
Executive Director,
The Maritime Alliance

The blue economy is gaining global attention as more people from academia, industry and government (the “Triple Helix”) recognize that we have the responsibility and the opportunity to optimize conservation and economic development of ocean resources. Increasingly, we are looking at the “Quadruple Helix,” which includes civil society; specifically, how blue economic activity impacts the public at large through the lens of the natural environment, jobs and quality of life.

We believe the best way to achieve sustainable usage of the ocean, which is the premise of UN Sustainable Development Goal 14, is through regional organized clusters with dedicated management. In January 2017, The Maritime Alliance helped launch the BlueTech Cluster Alliance (BTCA) with nine leading clusters from seven countries (Canada, France, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, U.K. and U.S.) that act independently but collaborate internationally to promote sustainable, science-based ocean and water industries.

The ninth annual BlueTech Week in San Diego November 2017 was our biggest yet, with seven events over five days and more than 450 attendees, including 18 clusters or clusters-in-formation from 11 countries and eight U.S. states. We held the third annual BlueTech Cluster Convening during #BlueTechWeek at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, moderated by Craig McLean, assistant administrator for Oceanic and Atmospheric Research and acting chief scientist of NOAA, to discuss how clusters collaborate, promote each other’s members, share information and resources across regions and link regional centers of innovation and incubators to accelerate technology.

The role of clusters was the theme of our side event at the UN Ocean Conference June 2017 in New York, co-hosted by The Maritime Alliance and the Maritime Cluster of West Sweden, which explored how developed clusters promote sustainability and help developing clusters in other regions. BTCA is committed to helping develop and promote a network of organized, collaborative clusters around the world that have a demonstrated commitment of working on joint projects and attending large international conferences. TMA helped promote this theme at the Our Ocean conference in Malta October 2017 and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Ocean Economy Week November 2017 in Paris.

The year ahead will be equally important. The Maritime Alliance is supporting the World Ocean Summit, hosted by The Economist March 2018 in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, where, for the first time, Blue Economy Clusters will be a theme at this international event. The week after, TMA will host a U.S. BlueTech Pavilion at Oceanology International in London with up to 16 small- to medium-size U.S. BlueTech companies, with a follow-on trade mission March 19 to 23 for B2B matchmaking in France, Italy, Portugal and Spain, where TMA has partnerships with regional clusters. This work is supported with funding from the International Trade Administration and on-the-ground efforts by U.S. Commercial Service officers worldwide.

It is exciting to help accelerate the growth of BlueTech clusters internationally. However, there is a paucity of information on the blue economy and the fast-growing BlueTech sector. We are, therefore, encouraged by a satellite account project organized by NOAA to track economic data from BlueTech companies to help economists better understand and communicate the total value of the blue economy. The Maritime Alliance is pleased to be a subcontractor on this important work in the U.S., which parallels similar efforts in other leading BlueTech countries and at the OECD. It is critical to communicate the value of the ocean to the global economy and society at large.

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