13.12.2018 - UNESCO Venice Office

Innovation and ports in the context of Blue Economy: Future perspectives and possible scenarios

On 10 December 2018, in the context of the celebrations for the centenary of Porto Marghera, UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe held at Palazzo Zorzi, its premises in Venice, a workshop on the subject of innovation and ports in the context of Blue Economy: future perspectives and possible scenarios. The potential role of the port within the blue economy was explored through presentations of representatives of the Venice administration, the technical committee of the centenary of Porto Marghera, innovative start-ups, researchers and experts from the EU maritime and policy sectors.

Coastal areas and the interaction with the ocean have been essential in the development of human civilization, as they represent a fundamental engine for economic development. In the European Union, over 5.4 million people work each year in in the so-called “Blue Economy”, industries depending on the sea for their livelihood, producing a gross added value of almost 500 billion euro.

37% of trade within the European Union and 75% of Europe's foreign trade is run by the sea. How do we tap into the unused potential of the ocean, sea and coasts in terms of growth and employment? An adequate level of investment and research is needed today. In 2012, the European Commission initiated a process of support to the Blue Economy, indicating member states, businesses/industries and civil society specific areas where actions aimed at analysing and developing the potential for growth can be achieved.

The sectors that contribute to "blue growth" are numerous and, often interdependent, as they are based on common competences and shared infrastructures, such as ports and electricity distribution networks. They also rely on the sustainable use of the sea from other sectors.

The Blue Economy can be a source of opportunities for young people (the so-called Blue Careers). With the aid of representatives of innovative start-ups, researchers and experts from the EU maritime and policy sectors, the event tackled the potential role of Porto Marghera within the Blue Economy, glancing at its history but also at its possible future.

In her welcoming remarks, Ana Luiza Massot Thompson-Flores, Director of the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe, highlighted the different fields of activity of the office: science and culture, underlining the great opportunity of recently including Education for Sustainable Development and Ocean Literacy, the latter having been key to the organisation of this event. "Such varied mandate supports the importance of combining innovation with the protection of the environment and the sea. This approach is an opportunity for our generation, and above all for future generations, to build a sustainable and prosperous future", she said

The city of Venice, which is always, let me say, an emblematic place from  which to start important messages, can become not only the city known by everyone for its cultural and landscape heritage but also an example of how to promote new professions and new economic activities“, Ana Luiza Massot Thompson-Flores added. “Where universities, small and large companies, public administration and citizens can work together to think about new scenarios that are framed within the framework of the UN proposals with the 2030 Agenda and the objectives of sustainable development.”

The morning session was organised to set the scene and present blue economy best practices at international, national and local levels. The speakers were: Massimiliano De Martin, Municipality of Venice (Centenary of Porto Marghera); Roberto Poli, University of Trento (Future scenarios and foreseeing systems); Stefano Bonaldo, Head of Office - Chairman and Secretary General Staff, North Adriatic Sea Port Authority; Andrea Barbanti, ISMAR-CNR (The Blue Med Programme); Stefano Spennati, ConfCommercio Trasporti (The professions of the sea); Pierpaolo Campostrini, CORILA (The lagoon system); Vienna Eleuteri Eulabor Institute (The approach of WateRevolution); and, Enrico Benco, GC4C (Sustainability in the nautical industry).

Presentations focused on the development of employment and growth and on the interactions between economy and science and also advanced technologies to a responsible approach to work and employment. The increased knowledge about the sea and its systems, efficient exchange of data and information and the design of innovative solutions for sustainable development may lead to a synergic improvement in occupation, enhancing the state of the environment and of the society as a whole.

In the afternoon, under the guidance of Rocco Scolozzi, participants actively engaged in an "exercise on the future", to foresee possible future scenarios for Porto Marghera, as well as a general possible future for the blue economy. The exercise consisted of "strategic conversations" between groups of participants and presentations of the achieved results/conclusions. This approach was inspired by the "Three Horizons" model developed by the International Futures Forum of Edinburgh, recently adapted into a European project on the communication and anticipation of flood risks (www.lifefranca.eu) and applied to different strategic areas.

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