Rethinking Innovation for a Sustainable Ocean Economy

The OECD report Rethinking Innovation for a Sustainable Ocean Economy emphasises the growing importance of science and technologies in improving the sustainable economic development of our seas and ocean. The report also highlights important measures that will foster sustainable growth in the ocean economy, including innovation networks.

The value added generated by ocean based industry globally could double in size by 2030. However, realising the full potential of the ocean economy will require responsible, sustainable approaches to its economic development. The report presents three priority areas for action:

  1. Encourage innovation approaches that produce win-win outcomes for ocean business and the ocean environment across a range of marine and maritime applications
  2. Foster the creation of ocean-economy innovation networks
     
  3. Support new initiatives to improve measurement of the ocean economy via satellite accounts

The study also includes three case studies that illustrates how some innovations in the ocean domain may potentially enable economic development and preservation. The case studies include floating offshore wind power, ballast water management, innovation in the marine aquaculture sector, and possible conversion of decommissioned oil and gas rigs and renewables into artificial reefs.

Offshore wind has a promising future, and OECD expects spill over benefits to flow to other maritime sectors such as ports, shipyards, shipping, and marine equipment. However, indirect and direct benefits to the marine environment through displacement of fossil fuels will take time to have any effect as floating wind is in its infancy. The well-established marine aquaculture sector on the other hand, is expected to contribute significantly to both economic and marine-ecosystem sustainability due to rapid scientific and technological innovations. According to the report, gross value added of the global marine aquaculture sector could grow at well over 5% per year, trebling the sector’s value between 2011 and 2030.

OECD also emphasizes the need to increase the link between digitalisation, interdisciplinary research and innovation.

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By Anna Lygre Solvang