Oceanthon 2021. Mediterranean Edition

Following the success of the first edition in autumn 2020, the Oceanthon was organised this year from 24-26 September by the Project Office of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC-UNESCO), the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe and the Euro-Mediterranean Centre on Climate Change (CMCC), with the support of Hack for Italy. The event was held on the occasion of the first year of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) and within the framework of the Pre-Conference of the Parties (COP) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Oceanthon 2021 calling for “We need ideas for the ocean we want” was entirely dedicated to innovation in the marine domain as the main theme of this second edition of the digital hackathon was “Ocean&Climate”. Participants competed to address the increasingly important challenge related to the climate crisis, with the aim of finding interdisciplinary solutions to tackle global change effects on society and the environment.

The future ahead is full of uncertainties and challenges. Scientists have acknowledged that a healthy ocean is a valuable asset in the battle against the global climate crisis. Protecting the quality of marine ecosystems and restoring the habitats which have been degraded are imperative. The ocean offers an unparalleled potential to address challenges such as climate change mitigation and adaptation.

It has been demonstrated by several innovative solutions and pilot projects that it is possible to restore marine biodiversity, preserve the ecological functions and features of the marine ecosystems and to implement ocean-based solutions for climate change adaptation and increasing resilience.

Oceanthon 2021 provided a platform for students and young people to collaborate with their peers, other experts and mentors in a virtual and engaging environment to develop new skills, with the ultimate goal of proposing avant-garde and unconventional solutions. Digital prototypes developed with the support of young developers, data managers, and innovation specialists were employed in the problem-solving process for tackling the climate crisis.

Calling on both individuals and trained teams from all Mediterranean coastal states, Oceanthon 2021 facilitated the collaboration between students, the scientific community, the world of developers, designers, artists, engineers, experts in communication, social sciences and businesses. This, to use their skills and entrepreneurial spirit for the development of ideas that can respond to present and future challenges while promoting a greater knowledge of the ocean, its protection and the sustainable use of marine resources.

151 Participants from 31 countries addressed the crucial issues associated with the climate crisis with the objective of developing interdisciplinary solutions to tackle impact of global climate change on society and the environment. The hackathon stimulated practical, engaging and innovative learning, enabling the participants to join a network that is expected to collaborate throughout the next 10 years of work.

The competition resulted in several diverse and innovative project ideas being presented. What won us over was the intuition of Margaux Antonia Huth and Jendrik Dedow with the "BlueSails" project, which tackles one of the most pressing issues when dealing with ocean health, the creation of new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The project aims at developing a boat tour in the Mediterranean to promote an inclusive stakeholder engagement and develop a bottom-up approach in MPAs development.

One of the goals of the United Nations, the Global Ocean Alliance and the European Commission is to protect 30% of the world’s ocean by 2030. The so-called target 30x30 scientists say is crucial to safeguard wildlife and to help mitigate the impacts of climate change. Reaching 30% ocean protection by 2030 will mean agreeing to create new MPAs inside countries’ ‘Exclusive Economic Zones,’ but also securing international marine sanctuaries. Countries will have to unite to support this common cause like never before. The prospect of life to continue on the planet is dependent on our ability to save the ocean.

“Revitalization Platform” by Laura Cannarozzi, Francesca Vittorini and Andrea Tabocchini received a special mention. The project combines science and architecture, offering a solution to marine and environmental degradation, and at the same time raising awareness in society of the importance of water quality. This multifunctional floating platform offers two solutions; on the one hand, its surface below the water supports a bioremediation system regenerating the water by using the natural proprieties of marine organism; on the other, its surface above the water provides a flexible space for any kind of event, promoting a hedonistic approach to sustainability.

Though, only one winning team was proclaimed at the competition, in the long term, the ocean as a whole is the real winner at this 2021 Oceanthon.