The blue bioeconomy is based on the use of aquatic organisms to produce products, goods and services while blue biotechnology is the tool based on the application of science and technology to obtain them. On the other hand, blue biotechnology uses as raw materials algae, sponges, jellyfish, invertebrates, microorganisms, and other living beings that can be transformed or from which compounds can be extracted, to produce food, feed, nutraceuticals, pharmaceutical products, cosmetics, energy, packaging, clothing and much more.
The blue economy strategy plays a dual role in the European Green Deal: it is key in reducing pressure on the EU’s land resources and in the fight against climate change (Bioeconomy and blue biotechnology in the EU). Indeed, marine and aquatic research and innovation are essential to explore the best ways for the ocean to remain a healthy and productive life support system.
WITHOUT WATER THERE IS NO LIFE, WITHOUT BLUE THERE IS NO GREEN
~ Dr. Sylvia Earle
The potential of the Macaronesian archipielagos
Blue biotechnology holds immense untapped potential in a multitude of unique locations that offer a rich source of biomass and bioactive compounds. Among them, the outermost regions of the Macaronesian archipelagos stand out: Azores, Cape Verde, the Canary Islands and Madeira. These islands have very favorable conditions for the growth and production of compounds with high added value that could be used for biotechnological applications.
Within the vast expanse of blue biomass, algae stand out in terms of potential and innovation. Among them, macroalgae, microalgae and other organisms such as cyanobacteria are distinguished. All three groups are gaining widespread recognition in Europe as an important resource and raw material for a wide range of uses (EU Seaweed Initiative). However, economic activity on the islands does not correspond to the global expansion in their respective countries. Which is contradictory given the richness of biodiversity, the archipelagos’ tradition of exploiting marine resources and the existence of infrastructure in terms of technological centers, universities and renewable energy resources.
Challenges and opportunities
Macaronesia faces several obstacles, including remote location and regulatory difficulties. Addressing regulatory frameworks and obtaining the necessary permits is crucial for sustainable development in archipelagos. Collaboration and knowledge exchange is presented as an opportunity to overcome common obstacles. Projects with European funding such as the Network of Excellence in Blue Biotechnology (REBECA-CCT) allow the establishment of networks to promote the exchange of knowledge, experiences and promote blue biotechnology in the region.
On the other hand, investment in educational and technical training opportunities in blue biotechnology will contribute to the development of the skills necessary to maintain the activity and would favor the conversion of workers from other sectors. Among other opportunities, local, national and European financing mechanisms also stand out to move from research to the commercialization of products and services by companies and entrepreneurs. At the European level, Cluster 6: Food, bioeconomy, natural resources, agriculture and environment, Circular Bio-based Europe or the Oceans Mission are examples of programs within the framework of Horizon Europe funding opportunities.