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Galway’s blue economy

Wednesday, 14th June, 2017 1:00am

Marine innovation leaders will discuss the blue economy at this year’s Our Ocean Wealth Summit, taking place in Galway at the end of the month.

Now in its fourth year, the annual summit offers a “unique platform” for global and national leaders from across the marine industry and related sectors to convene and collaborate on innovating for our marine future, says Marine Institute CEO Dr Peter Heffernan.

“The Summit presents a valuable opportunity for those attending to hear the thoughts of international experts on the challenges facing marine industries and to explore new solutions to meet these challenges,” he explains.

Last year’s event in Galway attracted hundreds of delegates from Ireland, Europe and the US. Among the international experts attending the event at NUI Galway this year is keynote speaker Tom Kelley of award-winning global design and development firm IDEO. He will be joined by a host of other national and international thought leaders including Dan O’Brien, Chief Economist of the Institute of International and European Affairs; Miguel Marques, Partner, PwC Portugal and Economist of the Sea; Terry Garcia, former VP National Geographic and CEO, Exploration Ventures; Andrew McDowell, VP, European Investment Bank; and Wendy-Watson Wright, CEO, Ocean Frontier Institute Canada.

Dr Heffernan says it is “hugely beneficial” to attract such high-profile experts to the Summit.

“The thought leaders and experts taking part in the Summit bring their own wealth of experience and insight, and this collectively creates a highly innovative and collaborative environment at the event. At this year’s Summit, delegates will be inspired by those leading the way in driving innovation to continue developing a sustainable marine economy for Ireland.”

‘Rethinking Boundaries and Innovation for a Sustainable Marine Economy’ is the theme of this year’s Summit and it will examine a sustainable marine economy for Ireland against a landscape of global turbulence and social and political change.

According to Dr Heffernan, political instability - including Britain’s decision to leave the EU and the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States - have made achieving a sustainable marine economy more difficult.

“The UK’s decision to leave the EU and the USA’s new Presidency provides unforeseen challenges and opportunities for the marine economy both at a research and industry level in Ireland,” he comments.

Marine industry opportunities

Describing our ocean as a “national asset”, Dr Heffernan says building on its strengths is key to Galway and the West of Ireland developing sustainable economic growth of the marine and maritime sectors in Ireland.

He believes it is vital Galway and the West seek “new approaches and ways of thinking” to harness the opportunities that exist in our marine industry.

“Recognising the importance the Atlantic Ocean has on our livelihood, human health, as well as how the ocean influences our environment and climate, places the West of Ireland in a prime position to contribute in building a thriving maritime economy in Ireland. Examples of this range from the significant impact the Wild Atlantic Way has had on the sustainable and rural economic development along the West coast of Ireland to funding of specialist marine equipment and small infrastructure to help the performance of the marine research and innovation community across all areas.”

He adds that businesses in the West have already responded to the drive for developing a blue economy.

“There are many success stories in the West where people’s experiences, expertise and drive to think beyond the norm have enabled a number of businesses to develop in a range of sectors from marine tourism, the seafood industry to ITC and marine technology. This has included industries and researchers working together to develop better information to help provide the science and technology to inform robust governance, policy and planning decisions affecting our Ocean.”

Seafest 2017

The Our Ocean Wealth Summit, which takes place in NUI Galway on Friday 30 June, is an integral part of SeaFest, Ireland’s national maritime festival.

2017 sees Seafest expand to three days, running from 30 June to 2 July. Dr Heffernan says preparations are well underway for the public event.

“Galway Harbour will be transformed into an open sea world with thrilling performances from the world-famous PowerFly flyboarders, visitors will also enjoy free boat trips, be able to try sailing and kayaking, and enjoy tours of the naval ship, our marine research vessel and the famous tall ship The Phoenix.

“Our new sea science gallery at Galway City Museum, the first of its kind in the country, will also be open to the public, as well as a unique exhibition on polar explorer Roald Amundsen at NUI Galway. A seafood showcase and cookery demonstrations, as well as a variety of free and fun educational activities for kids are also part of the festival line-up.”

Last year SeaFest attracted 60,000 people to Galway City, and this year Dr Heffernan says they are “hoping for up to 100,000 visitors”.

He believes SeaFest will offer a “huge economic benefit” to the city in the future.

“The benefits will also extend to our tourism industry, and I’m sure our city’s vibrant hospitality sector will also benefit greatly from the influx of people to Galway Harbour. The festivities also add to Galway’s international reputation as the ‘festival capital of Ireland’.”

With the aim of SeaFest to showcase the value of Ireland’s marine resource through a fun, family festival, Dr Heffernan is hopeful the maritime event will inspire people.

“All activities and attractions at SeaFest have a strong connection with the sea – whether it’s the ships that transport us, the creatures that live beneath, delicious seafood, or sharing the magic and science of the ocean.

“We also hope these activities inspire young curious minds, as they are the next generation of marine explorers, scientists and innovators, which will need to preserve and promote our valuable marine resource. SeaFest is also a great reminder of how important the sea is to the history and culture of Galway, and to our island nation.”

For more details on the Our Ocean Wealth Summit marine conference, see www.ouroceanwealth.ie. For details on SeaFest, see www.seafest.ie

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