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contribution to achieving the goals of the

Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable

and inclusive growth) as well as the many other

marine and coastal policies and roadmaps both

at EU and member state level – there is a sense

that, traditionally, much of this has tended to

focus in on the larger and more visible elements

– tourism, shipping, fishing and cruises. Of

course, that the EU’s maritime economy

represents a gross value added of over €500bn

annually and that it already provides between

3.5 and almost five million jobs and is growing

dynamically – both of which were points raised

by the commissioner in his aforementioned

speech – mean that it is of course necessary

to highlight those areas which have

underpinned blue growth thus far.

Yet, the winds of change are blowing, and while

areas such as fishing and tourism are (and will

continue to be) fundamental to the blue

economy, it is elements such as blue

biotechnology which perhaps are now coming

to be recognised as serious and growing

components of the sector.

Blue biotech

According to the Commission, in this area

research priorities are strongly driven by marine

and maritime policies on economic and

environmental sustainability. The seas and

oceans, with their largely unexplored

biodiversity, provide a high potential for

innovation on two different fronts: the better

understanding of marine and maritime

resources and their biodiversity, and the more

efficient exploitation of their economic and

scientific potential. Marine biotechnology is the

enabling tool that will allow the translation of

this potential into real products and knowledge,

the Commission argues.

The Action Plan for the EU Integrated

Maritime Policy and the related Green Paper

on Maritime Policy specifically call for a

strong science-based maritime policy and

identify blue biotechnology as one of the Key

T

he exploitation of marine and aquatic organisms for

biotechnology applications – so-called ‘blue biotechnology’ – has

risen to the forefront of the global research agenda over the past

decade. The European Commission has stated that the research priority

in this area is the screening of aquatic biodiversity for new organisms

and new biochemical pathways to enhance the current knowledge base

and to contribute to the development of novel processes and products

for industrial applications.

This, then, fits nicely with many of the priorities set out by the

Commission under Horizon 2020 with regard to societal challenges and

industrial leadership capacity, serving to highlight the vast potential that

blue biotechnology – and, moreover, the blue economy more generally

– has to offer Europe’s future sustainability and success.

As the European Commissioner responsible for Maritime Affairs and

Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, highlighted in his keynote speech on European

Maritime Day in Athens in May 2015: “Our seas and coasts hold the

key to our future”. However, as the commissioner also noted, the

“oceans are coming under increased pressure from population growth,

global competition for raw materials, food demand, water scarcity,

maritime security threats, climate change and marine pollution. Many

international institutions, rules and processes are in place to address

these pressures. Still, only a few people would say that they have been

effective in ensuring that oceans and their resources are used

sustainably.” As such, without action there is the very real possibility

that this key resource will become lost.

Growth

While the importance of the blue economy has long been underlined –

perhaps most recently through the Blue Growth strategy (the maritime

I S S U E S E V E N

H O R I Z O N 2 0 2 0 P R O J E C T S : P O R TA L

www.horizon2020projects.com

118

B I O T E C H N O L O G Y F O R H E A L T H

Into the blue

Blue biotechnology – from microalgae and cyanobacteria to jellyfish-inspired

collagen – has dramatic potential to boost blue growth, as

Portal

discovers

In his keynote speech

on European Maritime

Day in Athens in May

2015, the European

Commissioner

responsible for

Maritime Affairs and

Fisheries, Karmenu

Vella, argued: “Our

seas and coasts hold

the key to our future.”