Ten partners from eight Mediterranean countries came together to create the first “Blue Biotechnology Community”, a large blue biotechnology hub for the sustainable growth of the Mediterranean Sea. The European “B-Blue” project sees Italy in the front row: the initiative is coordinated by ENEA, the Italian Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development.
The project is funded with 1.5 million euros and aims to create a governance mechanism that allows to overcome the fragmentation of the sector of biotechnology applied to marine resources in the Mediterranean area and facilitate access to sustainable innovation. In addition to ENEA, the program includes CNR and the Puglia Region, Hamag-Bicro (Croatia), Hellenic Center for Marine Research (Greece), National Innovation Agency (Portugal), National Institute of Biology (Slovenia), Pole Mer Méditerranée (France), Science & Technology Park (Montenegro) and University of Murcia (Spain).
For 22 months, multi-stakeholder laboratories will be active in five coastal areas – the Gulf of Manfredonia in Italy, the Mar Menor in Murcia in Spain, the Toulon area in France, the Gulf of Thessaloniki in Greece and that of Portoroz in Slovenia – a platform digital to progressively involve over 300 organizations, including universities, research centers, national and local institutions and companies in the sector.
The pilot laboratories will deal with the development of innovative solutions to obtain useful or high added value substances from shredded sponges, algae and mollusc shells: it could increase the resistance of the eggs, and therefore also the productivity in the poultry industry, or use microalgae for the remediation of contaminated marine sites and to produce energy. In Manfredonia the shells of molluscs, sponges and macroalgae will be studied, in Spain the biotechnologies for decontamination, in Greece the aspects related to the protection of intellectual property in the blue bioeconomy sectors will be studied, in France the new approaches to aquaculture and in Slovenia the use of microalgae and marine microorganisms for the production of bioactive compounds.
The sustainable hub initiative in the Mediterranean, in addition to being a great challenge for the biotechnology field, is also a strong impetus for the economy. As explained by Cristian Chiavetta, Enea researcher at the Laboratory for the valorisation of resources in productive and territorial systems, “the European Commission estimates that the blue economy in Europe employs almost 4.5 million people, generating about 650 billion euros in turnover and 176 billion in gross added value “.
“In Italy with 530 thousand employees and over 23.7 billion in gross value added, the blue economy has contributed to 2.3% of jobs and 1.5% of the national gross value added. Hence the importance of define a governance in order to promote shared strategies and synergistic activities for the transition towards sustainable blue growth “concluded the researcher.