Advancing S &T Innovation and Collaboration to accelerate Blue Economy in India

- by TERI & NMF & FICCI & KAS India

The Diginar VI- Staying Ahead of the Curve: Advancing S &T Innovation and Collaboration to accelerate Blue Economy in India was the final diginar in the workshop series jointly organized by KAS India, TERI, FICCI and NMF. The diginar focused on science and technology innovation in the blue economy sector critical to develop and enhance sustainability in traditional and emerging sectors. Traditional sectors such as Fishing, Shipping and Tourism need to transform their current pathways to a more sustainable form of business while emerging sectors such as deep sea mining and blue biotechnology are centered on S&T innovations and developments that could change ocean economy.

Key Takeaways:

The speakers highlighted various challenges and opportunities that are emerging in the S & T area of blue economy. Fishing, Tourism and Shipping require significant technological prowess to turn the current crisis and concerns surrounding the sectors into opportunities. Low level of fresh catch, increasing pollution in coastal and marine areas and degrading marine environment are adding to the woes of the sectors.

Additionally, the increasing impacts of climate change are destroying ocean rapidly, requiring significant changes to reduce GHG emissions. Science and technology is very important for economic opportunities arising from oceans and coastal zones and data is important because multiple stakeholders are gathering it and utilizing it. Data not just from Oceans but also from sectors that impact oceans is critical for a deeper understanding of the oceans and its health. A large data collective could be essential to bring coherence to the information that impacts oceans. New approaches to ocean sciences is required with the use and application of artificial intelligence and machine learning that would provide new insights into the field of marine scientific research.

There is growing trend in digitalization of the maritime domain, from AIS systems to the utilization of Marine Spatial Planning tools, digital transformation is necessary to monitor and preserve the vast oceans. Industry 4.0 technologies are being put to use for scientific management of the ocean and generate actionable information for real time ocean governance. This will help us improving efficiency and add value to the blue economy.

There is a need for enhanced financial investment in S & T area to collate structured and unstructured data for coherence of information. There is a need to leverage bilateral and multilateral relations in our ocean Sciences, the area of investment, knowledge exchange and capacity building. Skill development is essential for the envisaged blue economy framework of India. A robust and skilled human resource can contribute rapidly increase the progess in ocean related sectors. Increased awareness generation on the potential opportunities for employment needs to be a priority to generate interest in potential human resource capital. India is moving towards scientifically oriented innovation and implementation pathway. From programmes on Low Temperature Thermal Desalination plants in Lakshadweep Islands, establishing Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion plant in Lakshadweep as a demonstration and working on exploitation of gas hybrids, India is taking small steps towards interesting phase in ocean based S &T solutions. Significant work has already been conducted on manned and unmanned vehicles for deep sea missions.

Key opportunity lies in the negotiation of the BBNJ agreement and also the development of the mining code for deep seabed mining. ISA is currently developing this mining code and one of the instruments for example is to organize the spatial dimension of mining around regional environmental management plans for deep seabed mining. This provides an avenue in the regulatory framework to combine both spatial requirements of deep seabed mining with the spatial requirements of conservation to conduct it in a sustainable manner. Blue biotechnology is a major area with a wide scope of S & T innovation.

With medical and pharmaceutical industries interested in R & D in deep oceans due to their potential for medicines. There is significant scope for Government departments such as Department of Biotechnology to invest in this field. Renewable energy from oceans and ocean as a focal point for implementing renewables will be significant gamechanger in the coming years. From Tidal, wave, thermal energy and offshore wind and solar parks, the role of oceans will be even more prominent in the energy sector. S & T is also required for enhancing Nature Based solutions in the oceans like mangroves and to understand how to leverage blue carbon to address emissions.

Blue economy and Oceans requires few key drivers of innovation focused on balanced innovation system performing across all dimensions and which is multidisciplinary. There is a need for appropriate level of public and private investment in education research and skill development. Secondly, innovation partnerships between companies and academia is very important and third, innovation friendly business environment including strong digital infrastructure is essential for successful innovation. These three aspects will work effectively with strong policies, identifying appropriate public and private stakeholders, developing alliances between multidisciplinary actors – biologists, deep sea miners, oceanographers, ICT professionals, social scientists etc. Countries like India need to develop a capacity to stimulate innovation and there's clear advantage in supporting international cooperation.


Peter Rimmele

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