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Transfer Story: Salerno Italy

Edited on

30 March 2021
Read time: 3 minutes

The Municipality took a strategic decision quite early on in the organisation of their activities to integrate a Blue Growth Entrepreneurship Award into an existing high-profile Business Plan Competition which is held annually in the city (the business plan competition, which is organised by the Industrial Union of Salerno, as part of the large annual festival of innovation and entrepreneurship is now in its 13th year).


December 2020


Original Ambition:

The city of Salerno joined the project in phase 2 of the BluAct Network, having had little or no experience of running a Blue Growth Competition before (although the city has a rich innovation eco-system with numerous players that are active in promoting innovation and entrepreneurship).

Salerno originally joined the network because they wanted to seat the Blue Growth sector as a strategic sector of importance in the city.

The original timetable planned for Salerno’s competition was as follows;

  • Competition Preparation: Dec 2018 – Sept 2019
  • Competition Launch: Sep 2019
  • Competition Close: Dec 2019
  • Competition Delivery: Aug 2019 – May 2020
  • Demo Day/Award Ceremony: Oct/Nov/Dec 2020
  • Incubation: March 2020 – Dec 2020

Salerno planned to publicise the competition at the open port days. The formal launch was planned for September, with a Website and App to launch the competition. 

Workshops were planned for September to November 2019 to publicise the competition. The Industrial Union organises an annual Start up Competition and Hackathon, which takes place over two days, and where the city wanted to be included as part of the overall competition, with a new section dedicated to the blue economy.

Salerno planned to use the Industrial Union’s Hackathon to generate new business ideas.  In January and February 2020, the city planned to organise its own Hackathon exclusively dedicated to BluAct and close the competition in February or March 2020, with Incubation running June to September 2020.

The original goals set out in the Transfer Plan were to:

  • establish a sustainable Blue Growth Competition in Salerno by September 2019;
  • recruit/reach 20 individuals for the hackathon-type event by February 2020
  • prepare 5 entrepreneurs/teams for Demo Day by June 2020;
  • involve actively 10 ULG members at each bi-monthly meeting by December 2020;
  • establish 1 start-up by end of 2020;
  • create 4 new jobs.


Transfer Journey Highlights

Key highlights on Salerno’s transfer journey included:

  • Establishment of inner project team (February and May 2019) of the Salerno Municipality and selection of external expertise
  • Adaptation of Transfer Plan (March 2019) to Salerno´s special situation of creating a synergy with an existing event and a new competition in combination with preparational workshops
  • Creation of ULG (February 2019) including 5 members
  • Extension of ULG (January 2020) by 5 selected 2nd level stakeholders
  • Participation in all BluAct TNM and some URBACT meetings
  • Permanent social media presence, project website, 2 press conferences, special in BGI Cluster newsletter
  • “Open Port” event (May 2019)
  • 5 workshops for proposal generation (October, November 2019)
  • “BlueEconomy Section” hosted by “Best Practice Award for Innovation” (December 2019)
  • “SviProCup 2020” virtual DemoDay (June 2020)
  • Incubation (autumn/winter 2020) delivered by local experts (coworking spaces, hubs…)
  • Ongoing celebration and promotion (winter 2020/21, spring 2021, after project end): Work in progress


Successes achieved by Salerno:

Having looked at their local strategic assets, the Municipality built a strong governance structure for overseeing the delivery of their competition. This governance structure included, among others, representatives from:

  • The Port Authority of Salerno - one of the most active in the Tyrrhenian Sea;
  • Industrial Union of Salerno – who organise an annual festival of entrepreneurship and innovation, which involved entrepreneurs pitching their business ideas to potential investors; 
  • The University of Salerno – with strong faculties of economics, engineering, computer science, science and medicine; and
  • Palazzo Innovazione – a privately run incubator, which had recently been inaugurated in the city.

The municipality set out to try and connect these different parts of the cities innovation and entrepreneurship eco-system together, to better align them all behind the organisation of a single, city-wide Blue Growth Entrepreneurship competition.

The Municipality took a strategic decision quite early on in the organisation of their activities to integrate a Blue Growth Entrepreneurship Award into an existing high-profile Business Plan Competition which is held annually in the city (the business plan competition, which is organised by the Industrial Union of Salerno, as part of the large annual festival of innovation and entrepreneurship is now in its 13th year).

Having agreed this approach, the Municipality organised several successful workshops and 1:1 meeting’s to generate excitement and interest in the Blue Growth Entrepreneurship Award.  This included;

  • The Economic Policies of the Sea – 7th October 2019
  • The Sea as a Resource - 22nd October 2019
  • When the Port merges with the city - 7th November 2019 Workshop
  • From the idea to the company- 13th November 2019 Workshop
  • Discontinuity, innovation and entrepreneurial mindset - 22nd November 2019 workshop

The Municipality also developed a competition website (, which was produced by a University Student.

All this activity fed a high-profile Innovation Best Practices Award Ceremony – held at the impressive Maritime Station in Salerno on 5th and 6th December 2019 - which generated applications from nine aspiring blue growth entrepreneurs.

In addition to this, the University of Salerno launched a new competition in 2020, inspired by the BGI, dedicated to the Blue Economy and culminating in the organisation of a Demo Day in June 2020, “SviProCup 2020”, for all applicants.


Challenges Salerno experienced:

Whilst Salerno has been successful in generating a good number of business ideas for their competition, they envisage it will be a challenge to transfer these into good quality businesses. The reasons for this are complex but include the nature of the ideas (i.e. early stage research) but also because of the lack of a free, integrated incubation offer in the city (there are incubators, but not necessarily targeted at ‘early stage’ businesses). 

Results Achieved by Salerno

At the time of writing, Salerno has achieved the following goals;

  • 1 Transfer Plan Produced
  • 1 ‘core’ Urbact Local Group established extended by 2nd level stakeholders
  • 30 Business proposals/ideas generated
  • 2 award ceremonies and 1 demo day organised
  • 9 events organised (2 competitions, 5 workshops, 2 press conferences) with over 450 people in attendance

The city also retains the goal of trying to incubate 4 competition winners – a goal it look like it will achieve as the programme evolves further.

Before the Demo Day SviPro Cup 2020, the University and the Nautic Institute supported the teams, helping them to formulate their business idea. More exactly, the professors involved in BluAct dedicated their whole course to help students to develop the ideas. In the same way, the Secondary school students, dedicated entire months of their last year to prepare their demo day presentation.

Then, after the “SviPro Cup 2020”, the BluAct partners (ManagerItalia, SellaLab, Palazzo Innovazione and The Green Hub), are supporting the team they selected during the Demo Day. One of these teams already won an economic prize of 500,00 Euro participating with the idea generated during BluAct project to other local competitions (Il Capitale Naturale), thanks to the University.

In the end, is noteworthy that thanks to BluAct some Nautic institute students decided to follow studying and attend University, because they discovered to love entrepreneurial aspects of working in the blue sector.


Next Steps

Now together with the other ULG members, the Municipality of Salerno will start a “communication period” in which Bluact Salerno and its results will be presented to the whole city community. This communication period has also the aim of establishing a permanent laboratory about the local blue economy as a structured venue of BluAct ULG and the whole blue local ecosystem. In this way, the Municipality aims to: increment the BluAct ecosystem, give the possibility to the Nautic institute students to know about daily problems in the blue economy sector, encourage people in dedicating their affairs to the local blue economy and promote the desire to work in the blue economy sector between young people.  

Having seeded the idea of running a Blue Growth competition in the city, the Municipality hopes that other partners will now take forward a regular competition in the future. The city will be happy to continue to offer their support for such an activity, but feels others are better placed to lead the initiative.


Nine Blue Growth entrepreneurs pitched their business ideas to an audience of investors