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The first cohort of graduates from the Blue Growth Leaders Academy in Klaipėda
01-07-2021

Klaipėda made another significant step toward a breakthrough in the blue economy when the first cohort graduated from the Blue Growth Leaders Academy at the end of June. Representatives of 37 business, municipal, and public organisations, soon to hold graduation certificates in their hands after nine  months of distance learning, are looking forward to putting the acquired knowledge and contacts into practice.

However, before the celebration, one more important and exciting work awaits the participants: the presentation of the final team projects. Although the projects, according to their advisor Vaidotas Levickis, are innovative and future-oriented, only one of them shall be acknowledged as the best. The projects will be evaluated not in the usual way, i.e. by a panel of academics and practitioners, but by colleagues, other participants of the course. The project receiving the greatest support from the participants-investors will become the winner.

From the beginning of October 2020 to the end of June 2021, the participants of the Academy attended the lectures of internationally acclaimed scientists and practitioners on shipping, ports, biotechnology, aquaculture, and other promising fields at Klaipėda University (KU). The programme is expected to accelerate the growth of the blue economy.

The Klaipėda 2030 Strategy identifies the goal of sustainable use of marine resources and the growth of the blue economy. The Blue Growth Leaders Academy project initiated by KU, Klaipėda Science and Technology Park, Maritime Cluster, and Klaipėda Economic Development Agency Klaipėda ID is an important tool for achieving the goals set in the strategy.

The final projects will be presented and the certificates of graduation will be awarded to 37 representatives of companies in the maritime and energy sectors, of enterprises dealing with digitisation and other technological solutions, and public sector officials.

The participants of the Academy have no doubt that they will use the acquired knowledge and professional contacts in their daily work. This should be a significant boost not only for them, but also for Klaipėda, which is striving to become a world-class city of blue economy and fast solutions.

Interesting lectures and useful professional contacts

Tatjana Paulauskienė, KU researcher and founder of the KU spin-off company Inobiostar, also studied the subtleties of the blue sector during all these 9 months. She is happy both with the acquired interesting, up-to-date information provided by professional lecturers and with the useful contacts she established with local colleagues.

“This year, during the external evaluation of Klaipėda University, the head of the international expert group prof. dr. Jethro Newton said: “The Blue Growth Leaders Academy is an example of excellence of Klaipėda University”. I believe this is a significant evaluation and recognition of the programme. Personally, I agree with that  high evaluation. I already knew some of the lecturers, and therefore I had no doubt  about getting the latest information. I also expected valuable discussions and meetings with interesting people. My expectations have been fully met,” said Tatjana Paulauskienė.

During the lectures, international experts-practitioners presented an overview of the blue growth sectors, trends, and innovations. The programme participants shared their knowledge and experience, which contributed to a better understanding of the subtleties of blue growth.

“The development of the network of professional contacts is no less important. I am happy to have had the opportunity to participate in this unique programme and to meet interesting people, experts in their respective fields. I am sure that we will have joint projects and initiatives in the future,” said Tatjana Paulauskienė.

She explained that blue growth meant sustainable use of marine resources for faster economic growth and prosperity. The blue economy covers five areas: maritime, coastal and cruise tourism, blue energy, marine mineral resources, aquaculture, and blue biotechnology.

“Blue growth has great potential for sustainable business and innovation and can help Klaipėda become a world-class city of blue economy and fast solutions, as envisaged in Klaipėda’s economic breakthrough strategy.”

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Tatjana Paulauskienė recommends anyone with the ambition and desire to contribute to blue growth in the Baltic Sea region to join the programme in the autumn.

She plans to apply the knowledge acquired during the programme in  teaching as well as creating innovations in the field of blue growth.

“Right now, for example, Klaipėda University collaborates with its spin-off company Inobiostar, headed by me, in the development of two innovative products  (InnoAerogel, waste paper-based oil sorbent, and biological oil pollution treatment technology), which are classified as blue biotechnologies, when aquatic organisms are used to remove oil pollutants at sea and in the port water area,” said Tatjana Paulaskienė.

Projects that create the future

Final papers and projects advisor Vaidotas Levickis maintains that the lecturers and guests of the programme sought to offer its participants a lot of untapped opportunities. The goal of the project is to find one golden idea in that abundance and to test it with professionals.

“The experience is really enriching,” he said. First of all, the participants of the programme have to compile a book of ideas, in other words, to remember all the most interesting thoughts heard during the lectures and to name what trends they can identify.

“The next step is to try to formulate at least one problem in the trend through answering the question of who cares about it and whether it is possible to count such people or such  groups,” he continued.

Promising ideas alone, he argued, is not enough. It is always necessary to define very precisely who benefits from the idea and who is interested in it: “The next step is to try to introduce the idea as visually as possible, through a business model, and to present it.”

Out of six final projects, one winner will be selected. It is interesting that the projects will be evaluated not by lecturers, but by other participants of the programme: as investors, they will be able to give their votes and imaginary money to the authors of the best liked idea. Nobody will be able to vote for themselves.

According to Levickis, the chosen evaluation methodology best reflects the market situation – the resources are limited, and the winner is not the most eloquent person or the author of the most beautiful presentation: the winner will be the one who offers the most useful and relevant idea. Moreover, the final projects can really be implemented in the future, if only their authors have the courage.

“When I look at the best projects, their beginnings, I believe I see ideas that create the future and prosperity not only for that small group, but also for larger groups of people, and that is very gratifying. If the authors have sufficient courage, they can produce very good things,” concluded Levickis.

We have numerous opportunities 

One of the strategic directions of Klaipėda is blue economy, emphasised Ričardas Zulcas, participant of the programme, Deputy Director of Klaipėda City Municipality Administration

He was pleased that the programme was also attended by CEOs from various companies who thus had the opportunity to learn more about the individual sections of the blue economy.

“Different topics were discussed: innovations in the blue economy, container port management, ecological and biochemical topics, cyber security, blockchain, etc.” He believed all the lectures were relevant and useful.

The blue economy is indeed a very broad and promising area. It includes ports, shipping, inshore fishing and aquaculture development, algae farming and use for fishing and biofuel purposes, and a number of other interesting aspects.

“70% of the world is made up of seas and oceans. The question is how to exploit marine resources without upsetting the balance of the ecosystem,” noted Zulcas.

Marine energy, contemporary shipping, unmanned surface vehicles (or drone ships), plant cultivation at sea to address global food shortages, and the use of marine resources for health are some directions of the blue economy that may be of interest to business, municipal, or public organizations.

“There are a lot of opportunities,” Zulcas summed up..