Maritime Forum

Maritime Forum Themes


Investment in digital technologies for the blue economy

Event date:
20/10/2021 (All day)
Table of Contents
    summary of workshop on ocean protection and monitoring technologies and services 20 October 2021

    Regional or national authorities were invited to present relevant proposals of at least €20 million for public projects or €10 million private ones to the bank which would undertake due diligence to verify the stakeholder as a suitable counterpart, check its eligibility and help mobilise resources, including advisory services to prepare and appraise the project.

    Market development for EU space data. 1

    Services for emergency response. 1

    The Green Deal for a sustainable blue economy. 3

    Financing the blue digital transformation

    Agenda of workshop



    EU Agency for the Space Programme EUSPA

    Fiammetta Diani, Head of Market Development at EUSPA , the EU Agency for the Space Programme explained the agency’s role in ensuring that orbiting satellites for navigation, observation and communication reach their full potential to contribute to sustainable growth, security and safety of the EU. Their market report suggests that the market for global navigation satellite system will reach €160 billion by 2029 and that European manufacturers have an  above  average share in maritime drones and emergency services. A memorandum of understanding has been signed between EUSPA and the European Investment Bank to unlock investment for SMEs building applications for downstream services based on information from satellites.

    Providing real time ocean data for a safer decision-making

    The Copernicus Marine Service supports innovation by providing free and open access to ocean products based on satellite images, indicators of the state of the ocean and a 10-day ocean forecasting facility at a global and regional sea scale. Laurence Crosnier, Head of Markets and Services at Mercator Ocean International showed that between 2015 and 2020, the doubling of European subscribers was outstripped by growth in other markets – a factor of5 in America, 8 in Africa and 10 in Asia.  Examples of applications included support to oil spill tracking, search and rescue operations and ship routing.

    Opportunities for development of solutions to support safety at sea with space

    EU services based on orbiting satellites are supporting the blue economy with Galileo and EGNOS services for accurate navigation, Copernicus for observing changes in the ocean and Govsatcom for secure communication. Carmen Aguilera, Head of Section Transport and operational market development at EU Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA) described how they were supporting safer, more sustainable and more autonomous mobility through digitalisation of operations and more efficient search and rescue. The EU’s research programme, Horizon Europe, is providing a total of €68 million in 2021 and 2022 to take advantage of this technology to provide new services and products. Scientists and engineers are urged to use this opportunity to meet the challenges and opportunities of the digital age and the European Green Deal faced by the blue economy.


    IBISAR service: supporting operations and emergency response at sea

    Emergencies are always unexpected. Effective response means that countermeasures must be prepared beforehand. Emma Reyes, head of HF radar Facility at the Balearic Islands Coastal Ocean Observing and Forecasting System (SOCIB), described how recent maritime disasters have demonstrated that operational oceanography, reliable met-ocean observations and forecasting are fundamental for planning and mitigation strategies.  By using the IBISAR service, search and rescue operators and emergency responders are able to assess a wide range of ocean forecasts in real-time and identify the most reliable and accurate one in the area and period of interest. The factors of success are a regularly updated catalogue, easily interpretable metrics and a single access point, helping end users to minimize response time and to reduce the search area planning, thus supporting the effective resource allocation.



    Early Warning System for coastal regions and ports

    The Portruguese laboratório nacional de engenharia civil has developed a system for delivering early warnings of the coastal flooding events that are set to increase as the century progresses. Ana Catarina Zózimo and Liliana Pinheiro explained how 72 hour alerts allow local authorities to warn the population and implement measures that avoid major destruction and risk. The service also provides a database of wave conditions and events enabling the construction of risk maps that facilitate the design of appropriate coastal defences

    Rescue at Sea Services: EGNSS Services and successful case studies


    Galileo Search and Rescue is the EU contribution to the treaty-based, nonprofit, intergovernmental, humanitarian cooperative of 45 nations and agencies, Cospas-Sarsat which saves about. 2000 lives per year. Manuel Lopez, Senior Technology Officer for market development at the EU Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA) explained the two unique contributions of the EU’s Galileo system. (1) a Forward Link Service whereby Galileo satellites retransmit the distress signal coming from an emergency beacon to the ground segment which processes the alarm is processed and sends the confirmed location is sent to the rescue coordination centres. (2) a Return Link Service which sends via Galileo satellites an acknowledgement receipt to the active emergency beacon, informing the user that the alarm has been processed.

    Galileo Return Link Emergency Beacons


    SEAs OF SOLUTIONS is a new Dutch company established in 2021 through the purchase of the Oriola marine electronic safety brands established in 2021 with the purchase of the Orolia’s marine electronics safety brands, McMurdo, Kannad Marine & Netwave. Sean McCrystal showed how they were taking advantage of the Galileo return link service to improve the safety of users of their personal distress beacons. The return link Return Links reassurance signal (1) confirms that the beacon is working correctly, that help is on its way and reduce the chances of rash decisions taken by those who feel they have nothing to lose, such as leaving the life raft or attempting to swim to safety.

    SARA: Surveillance, Monitoring, Search and Rescue Aid Using Drones


    The SARA Project Srl aims to provide turkey solutions for public and private operators in the environmental observation, video surveillance and search and rescue domain. Their envisaged products and services include an airborne drone, tethered to a ship that allows a ship to see over the horizon and an early warning system based on information from satellites and sensors on the ground and in the water. Marco Nisi, their project manager pleaded for investment to protect their intellectual property, scale-up worldwide, hire a product manager, enhance the software team, create a customer care office, upgrade their fleet of drones, and build up a network of sales representatives.

    Bringing new technology into flight operations


    Santiago Soley from Pildo Labs Barcelona and showed how precision navigation is allowing helicopters to fly under adverse weather conditions that would otherwise have been prohibitive and thus increasing the effectiveness of search and rescue operations. Babcock Spain have been granted a licence in Spain to fly out of sight. Jose Luis Saiz, Director Research and Development Director affirmed that this is because they could coordinate with other airspace users and guarantee the position integrity with EGNOS which allows containment of  the flights within an approved operational volumes,

    The Green Deal for a sustainable blue economy  

    The Green Deal and Ocean Observation


    The European Green Deal is the Commission’s answer to the existential threats of climate change and environmental degradation. The ocean is fundamental to this new strategy for sustainable growth which will transform the EU’s way of living and working. Better knowledge of what has happened, what is happening and what could happen to the ocean and the life it supports will enable it to fully play its part. Knowledge of the oceans is needed to mitigate climate change and decarbonise the EU. The Commission estimates that reaching the 2050 zero carbon goal will require a quarter of Europe’s electricity to be generated offshore. Knowledge of the ocean ensures efficient installation, reliable operations, compatibility with other activities and proper protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems. Knowledge for the new action plan for the Circular Economy, the Biodiversity Strategy, the Farm to Fork Strategy and the Zero Pollution Action Plan

    Knowledge is created through observation. Most of the spending within the EU is on the building and operation of ships but these can now be complemented and partly replaced by new autonomous platforms and sensors that can increase the quantity and reliability of data collected In an open consultation, stakeholders from public bodies and private industry agreed that EU action was appropriate. Options for moving forward are being analysed in an impact assessment

    WAVEPISTON: combining desalinisation and wave energy farms

    WavePiston, a Danish company develops, builds and deploys equipment for generating clean energy and freshwater from waves and seawater. Beginning in 2019 it will have deployed 200 kW capacity generating 547 MWh per year of energy for islands by 2023 financed by grants from the EU’s SME Instrument, and  and 150 kW capacity, 350 MWh energy and 28,000 m3 of fresh water through the EU’s Fast Track to Innovation programme. CEO Michael Hennikson explained how information services from the Copernicus Marine Service were crucial in identifying suitable sites.

    Plastic Fischer

    Plastic Fischer mission is to tackle the issue of plastic in the ocean by focusing on its source. They propose a unique low-tech and low-cost approach focused on local operators to clear rivers. Modular barriers equipped with galvanised mesh are placed in rivers to capture the plastic at the surface of the rivers. The modularity provides flexibility and easy maintenance. The plastic collected is then sorted and processed locally. The community approach ensures a low Carbone footprint and buy-in from local stakeholders. Plastic Fisher has already installed several system in South East Asia where plastic in rivers has been recognized as a significant issue. Drawing on these successful experiences, Plastic Fischer is now looking into adapting its technology and community approach to eastern Europe while continuing to expand its clean ocean vision, one river at a time.

    EU and Global Ocean Observing System in-situ monitoring infrastructure

    A long-term, reliable and sustainable in-situ monitoring infrastructure is required to ensure reliable weather forecast and warnings and monitor ocean health. It is also essential in providing a basis for climate modelling and help us understand, mitigate and adapt to climate change. The Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) relies on many elements such as floats, buoys, animal borne sensors, fixed observation platforms and ship-based measurements to provide critical data. It also acts as a forum to expand international cooperation. Unfortunately, its funding is often linked to research and lacks long-term sustainability. The EU partners operate currently only 19% of the system with a significant focus on the (North) Atlantic while the United States operates over 50% of the system with a more global vision. This leads to an imbalance in terms of market and leadership. A stronger and sustained EU contribution would not only help stimulate innovation and investment in the marine sector, but also raise industrial capability and improve services. It would also benefit European society at large through better weather forecast and climate modelling.



    XOCEAN is set to revolutionize the marine survey sector not only by using uncrewed surface vessels but also through a unique low cost, fixed price service offer. XOCEAN’s expertise is already recognized over the world and various companies and institutes have already taken advantage of the unique approach to survey proposed by XOCEAN. The surface vessels at the base of XOCEAN ‘s success can operate continuously up to 22 days with full “over the horizon” real-time monitoring and control. The vehicles are routinely used to inspect assets (windfarms, cable, pipeline), map the seabed or perform fishery surveys. The platform has a low profile and doesn’t interfere with marine life. It offers a remarkably low CO2 footprint (2 gallons diesel/day). With a payload capacity of 500 kg and  6.4 CkW of power, the vehicle can be equipped with a suite of sensors and instruments and can be tailored to any survey need.  Additionally, the platform can be used as standalone or within a constellation allowing for remarkable operational flexibility.



    WSENSE is a deep tech company with a line of products designed to enable the internet of underwater things with countless of applications in underwater monitoring. The technologies we normally rely on to control and communicate with robots and sensors are ineffective underwater. Thus, many operators rely on underwater tethered vehicles and robots. WSENSE acoustic-based technology is able to create a wireless mesh network where various equipment can connect and talk to each as well as with the outside world. The low-power technology ensures long lasting service, high performance and full interoperability with no measurable impact on marine life. Applications are plentiful. Sensor networks can be created to monitor sensitive areas such as large infrastructure, marine protected areas, cultural heritage sites. Additionally, WSENSE has designed a unique fish-wearable sensor to monitor health and activity of the fish which is ready to be deployed in fish farms. Furthermore, the technology can be used to increase efficiency and safety of underwater work with divers and robots. In other words, WSENSE disruptive underwater of internet things is enabling us to observe, monitor and operate underwater as freely as we would above ground.

    Financing the blue digital transformation  

    The EIB blue digital agenda


    Digital systems embodying artificial Intelligence (AI), cloud computing, the Internet of Things (IoT), process automation, robotics, high-performance sensors solutions are emerging from laboratories. Some examples aimed at the blue economy are highlighted in this workshop. But Harald Gruber, Head of Division of the Digital Infrastructure Division or the Projects Directorate of the European Investment Bank reported that market uptake  has been slow. More stakeholder engagement, inter-institutional collaboration and investment is needed. In particular the local and regional authorities, telecommunications companies, the fisheries sector tourism and leisure industries that can benefit from these new services need to join forces  to accelerate deployment. Finance is available. Over a quarter of the EU’s recovery and resilience funds has bene reserved for digital solutions. The European Investment Bank is looking at the whole value chain. We need to work together.

    EIB funding of Integrated Systems for disaster management


    Climate change is increasing the intensity and frequency of natural disasters. Average annual losses owing to this and to increased economic activity have risen from around €6.6 billion in 1980-1999 to €12 billion in 2010-2019.. Enhancing society’s resilience to climate change through a focus on prevention, preparedness, response and recovery is key to the EU’s revised adaptation strategy. Tiago Lopes, a senior expert in the Air, Maritime and Innovative Transport Division of the European Investment Bank’s Projects Directorate showed how their loan of €800 million contributed to a €600 million project to improve civil protection in Greece by merging separate operational centres and resources under a National Coordination Centre for Operations and Crisis Management. The Bank is ready to repeat this elsewhere. It needs a  strategy plan, a concept of operations, a project scope  for infrastructure, assets and systems, an implementation plan and project costs. With this it is able to lend up to 75% of development costs, Infrastructure, equipment, systems and software.

    EIB Blue Economy support


    The European Investment Bank has supported the growth of the sustainable blue economy growth over multiple sectors including support to the development of 12 GW of offshore wind capacity. Its Clean Ocean Initiative is supporting projects contributing to a reduction of plastic in the ocean and its Blue Sustainable Ocean Strategy is doing the same for coastal protection, green shipping and sustainable seafood. Franck Jésus, climate advisor and blue economy coordinator at EIB explained that each of the two initiatives is committed to lending €2 to €2.5 billion to sustainable ocean projects by 2023. Moreover the EIB signed a memorandum of understanding with the Asian Development Bank. Its sister body, the European Investment Fund has provided €75 million of equity to venture capital funds specialising in the blue economy and is part of a €50 million equity partnership  with the Banco Português de Fomento (BPF) to support Portuguese start-ups, SMEs, and midcaps in the area of blue economy. This scale of lending will continue through a joint effort with the EUs InvestEU guarantee facility and equity investment from the European Maritime Aquaculture and Fisheries Fund.

    Stakeholders’ engagement on the blue digital agenda


    Antonella Calvia Goetz, Lead Advisor on Digital Strategies in the Projects Directorate of the European Investment Bank, set out a roadmap to address market failures and fragmentation by encouraging  regional, national and research stakeholders to enhance co-ordination and step up funding. Blue Digital Labs could be funded via framework loans or direct loans to improve the collection and processing of essential ocean variables, develop services based on the Copernicus Marine Service, better monitor ecosystems and fisheries resources and tackle the fragmentation of ocean observation infrastructure. The Blue Digital Lab could stimulate local testing of available technologies and enable their commercialisation at wider scale, thereby facilitating growth of new blue companies. These advanced blue technologies and services could include development of new automated sensors and autonomous platforms, application of big data and artificial intelligence technologies, underwater IoT, blue research and education infrastructures, digital systems to improve search and rescue at sea and ocean observation infrastructure. Regional or national authorities were invited to present relevant proposals of at least €20 million for public projects or €10 million private ones to the Bank which would undertake due diligence to verify the stakeholder as a suitable counterpart, check its eligibility and help mobilise resources, including advisory services to prepare and appraise the project.



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