AspBAN: the first program that will connect 391 ports around the globe to innovate the sea economy
Led by the collaborative innovation consultancy Beta-i and co-lead by Forum Oceano, the entity responsible for the management of the Portuguese Sea Cluster, “Atlantic Smart Ports Blue Acceleration Network” (AspBAN) starts this month and lays the foundations for building a pioneering platform of acceleration services in the sector from Portugal. The project will enable the Atlantic ports to operate as Blue Economy innovation hubs and acceleration of startups, and thereby diversify their business models and sources of revenue. The consortium also has the participation of 11 European and North American partners, the support of more than a hundred strategic partners from around the world (private companies, investment funds, accelerators, business associations, and political entities), and, above all, the involvement of 391 ports from different regions of the Atlantic Ocean.
AspBAN arises to address the need for these port infrastructures to diversify the sources of revenue of their business model, going beyond the core areas of cargo and passenger handling to also explore opportunities in the emerging areas of sustainable offshore aquaculture, ocean renewable energy, and marine robotics, for example. The strategic objective is to make these ports a point of convergence of the ecosystem for the development of new businesses and a more sustainable blue economy.
With a duration of two years, the project will start in 2021 with the design and implementation of a program that aims to attract 450 startups from around the world, with innovative solutions in all Blue Economy sectors that use ports for the development of their business and operations. The application process for the selection, which will use the EU’s recent Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) taxonomy methodology, will begin in early 2022. The top 30 startups identified during the acceleration process will develop pilot projects in 30 Atlantic ports. One of the central goals is to achieve a reduction of at least 100,000 tons of CO2 in the operations of these ports.
In terms of mobilizing funding, AspBAN aims to attract at least six million euros ineffective private investment for the finalist startups, as well as mobilizing five billion euros of potential private investment, and has “Dubai Ports World” as a strategic partner – the largest investment fund for sustainable maritime-port infrastructure in the world.
According to Pedro Rocha Vieira, CEO and co-founder of Beta-i, “in line with our strategic mission in blue economy, we see AspBAN as a unique opportunity to build the first innovation ecosystem in the Atlantic that empowers ports as a central piece for the development of business opportunities in all sectors of blue economy. Through our collaborative methodology, we will put startups to collaborate with ports, private and public investors, companies, associations, and policymakers, to transform this network of Atlantic ports into more sustainable and efficient innovation hubs. We believe we are creating a pioneering platform that could be replicated in other geographies.”
According to Ruben Eiras, Coordinator for Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Investment and Financing of the Blue Economy, at Fórum Oceano, “AspBAN is a concrete transformative action, which integrates and mobilizes all the critical strategic actors for the creation of a networked blue “Silicon Valley” in the Atlantic: ports, mature companies, startups, universities, and finance. It is an initiative that will contribute to a new generation of blue entrepreneurs from Europe to the world, in which Portugal will be one of the main centers of gravity and leadership of the “ESG Blue Economy”, which has at the epicenter of its business model the achievement of profitability with high environmental and social performance. This is how to build an effective and structural victory in the fight against climate change in the ocean: creating the ESG blue business generation.”
Funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and approved within the scope of the competition “Cross-sectoral development of innovative port clusters in the Atlantic: Developing a blue accelerator scheme for Atlantic ports,” AspBAN counts with the high institutional support of the United Nations, through its Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for the Ocean, Ambassador Peter Thomson, and of the Portuguese Government, through the Portuguese Minister of State, Economy and Digital Transition, Pedro Siza Vieira.