In 2014, the city of Piraeus (EL) put in place BlueGrowth, a first-established at EU level innovation competition for maritime economy (Blue Economy), with the objective to strengthen traditional economic activities related to the maritime economy with innovative business ideas. Through a call for proposals, BlueGrowth initiative aims to inspire and help young entrepreneurs realise innovative concepts and develop jobs and services related to marine and freshwater resources. BlueGrowth includes 4 stages, from proposals submission and evaluation to award ceremony and an incubation programme for six months. In the incubation stage, mentors from the whole Marinescape provide advise and courses to all trainees on scientific knowledge, market needs and business opportunities. Community networking events take place constantly, aiming at the identification of business ideas, the promotion of BlueGrowth, the attraction of sponsors and other stakeholders. The BlueGrowth initiative has established the Marinescape, a human ecosystem (partners, sponsors, advisors, academia) around Blue Economy. The successful cooperation among Marinescape stakeholders is a key asset of BlueGrowth that provides the opportunity to create an accelerator and job creator in the city.
BG promotes socially and economically the city and helps to encourage entrepreneurship, offering:
• Innovation and business strategies applied regarding Blue Economy.
• Facilitation and acceleration of knowledge transfer to companies and shapes that will participate turning them into healthy companies with positive economic impact.
• Experimentation and access to new production and technological processes and practices.
• A continuous innovation mechanism in blue and green economy.
• Strengthening of cooperation in the fields of research, education and practice.
• Creating channels for exchanging knowledge and creating synergies in common fields.
• Improvement of skills and knowledge especially of young people in Blue Economy.
• Integration of Triple Bottom Line as a basis for a continuous social dialogue regarding the sustainable economic activity.
• Increase in jobs created by the first two cycles of BG and continuous development of BG’s Marinescape with the most possible active members.
It is a core approach of the Europe 2020 strategy that European cities should act as the motors for regional growth, innovation and employment creation.
Economic development can only be sustainable when it is accompanied by measures designed to reduce poverty, social exclusion and environmental problems. The new economy needs to be more circular, inclusive and just. Moreover it is crucial for cities to improve the quality of citizens’ life and to reduce their environmental footprint.
Providing that and taking into consideration the 12 priority themes of the Urban Agenda for the EU, BG is by definition an integrated approach good practice, due to the fact that BG blends in practice two influential frameworks: the “Quadruple helix” (4H: government, academia, industry and citizens collaborate together to drive structural changes) and the Triple Bottom Line (TBL). The 4H helps to establish a dynamic learning network towards innovation as an interaction between several stakeholders and TBL helps the network to achieve positive impacts and ROIs in all three bottom lines (business, people, and the planet).
BG realises that intermediation and facilitation towards new economic models is significant, by forms of risk taking and market correction, to allow opportunities to reach and be sensed by wider audiences.
BG is a good practice of regional development by fostering an entrepreneurial mentality, connecting industries, universities and startups and providing crucial support for young entrepreneurs in the early stages.
A great number of stakeholders participate in all stages of BG planning and implementation. The partnership of public (Municipality of Piraeus) and private sector (Aephoria.net) is the foremost proof of different stakeholders’ participation in the planning of the initiative as well as in their commitment to support its implementation. It should be noted that BG is implemented under the auspices of the Ministry of Marine and Aegean. The established Marinescape which is one of the greatest assets of BG consists of an extensive network of stakeholders (businesses, universities, chambers, etc) that affect and are being affected by BG, promoting a constant dialogue regarding Blue Economy issues, while aiming at the expansion of the network with stakeholders that can contribute to BG objectives.
In the BG’s advisory board participate members from industry, academia and governance achieving in that way the establishment of communication channels among them, the promotion of constant stakeholder dialogue and their involvement in the development of BG. In the incubation stage of BG, there is input of mentors from the whole Marinescape providing thus to all trainees an integrated mentoring based on scientific knowledge, market needs and business opportunities. Community networking events are constantly undertaken, aiming at the identification of business ideas, the promotion of BG, the attraction of sponsors and other stakeholders for their participation in BG.
The impact of BG is identified in the economic and social aspects of Piraeus city since it promotes urban sustainable development and reinforcement of social inclusion. BG has contributed in the creation of new jobs and businesses, dealing in that way with the problem of unemployment which is a common challenge faced by all cities, especially in Greece that has been in a constant economic crisis during the last years. BG has encouraged the entrepreneurship and promoted innovative business concepts related to the maritime economy and the values of sustainable entrepreneurship contributing thus to the improvement of entrepreneurial mentality with socio-economic benefits and the enhancement of business activity. Also, BG has established and leads the Marinescape, a human ecosystem (partners, sponsors, advisors, academia) around Blue Economy, which constitutes a vital organisation working effectively towards the achievement of BG’s goals. The successful cooperation among the ecosystem’s bodies is a key asset of BG that provides the opportunity to create an accelerator and job creator in the city. Results achieved until now:
• Establishment of 10 startups,
• Creation of 55 jobs,
• Implementation of 25 community networking events,
• 1 of BG' s awarded startups has been funded by HORIZON 2020,
• 2 successful start-ups incubated by BG went to PortXL (a mentorship-driven open innovation program on port-related industries (startups, spinouts, SMEs, multinationals) for acceleration process.
BG’s greatest asset is its established human ecosystem (Marinescape). There is great potential for Piraeus’ community and future port cities to gain remarkable profit. This potential has been recognised not only by the City of Piraeus but the European Commission also. For example, the city of Piraeus hosted the European Maritime Day in 2015. EMD has celebrated annually across Europe in May to raise the visibility of maritime sectors and support an integrated approach to maritime affairs.
The EMD 2015 conference attracted a record number of participants from the European maritime community and brought together over 1 300 participants to discuss the potential of the blue economy. At this conference, BG was awarded in the field of innovative entrepreneurship. In addition, this year BG’s team is selected to organise a thematic workshop on the theme of Innovation and Growth during EMD 2017 in Poole, UK. Creative disruption in the maritime sector can introduce promising business opportunities, create new jobs, and transform traditional processes into more productive and sustainable activities. The workshop will allow exchanges with innovative local initiatives providing support to maritime start-ups in the Ports of Piraeus (BG) and Rotterdam (PORTXL). The workshop will also be the occasion to launch a call for cooperation to organisations interested in this topic in European coastal and island regions.