In October 2022, 26 BlueBio funded projects met to discuss opportunities for commercialisation support, as the first cohort of projects are entering their final year. This event was the fourth thematic “e-coffee” meeting organised by the BlueBio ERA-Net.
How to support ERA-Net projects?
The ERA-Net Cofund Blue Bioeconomy (BlueBio) supports the blue bioeconomy in Europe and develops a wider community within the sector. In addition to funding research and innovation projects, BlueBio is working on identifying synergies between its projects, supporting them in their journey towards commercialisation, and finding the best ways to ensure Human Capacity Building in the blue bioeconomy.
As the 19 projects from the first BlueBio call are maturing in Technology Readiness Level (TRL) and developing more concrete results, they are also considering what the next steps are after their funding ends. All BlueBio projects have mandatory industry involvement and as such are engaging in applied and innovative research. In order to further develop the sector, more of the research-generated innovation needs to reach the market. But how can project consortia overcome the valley of death, and move from applied research to market launch?
Following the mid-term evaluation and presentation of the 19 cofunded projects in March 2022, a process was initiated to explore how the ERA-Net could support the projects in their commercialisation journey. After several very interesting, and informative meetings with central investment and innovation actors in the European aquatic and biobased space, a TRL mapping was done of the BlueBio projects through a survey circulated to all 36 funded projects concerning commercialisation efforts and interest.
A peer-to-peer event and targeted support
The e-coffee meeting on commercialisation support was organised both to inform all BlueBio projects of a number of opportunities for additional funding and support and to learn more from the projects regarding what support they need. Value Chain Supervisor Maarten Uyttebroek presented the results of the survey and opportunities and initiatives including EIT Food, Bioeconomy Ventures, and BlueInvest. Five projects (TraceMyFish, PROFIUS, RASbiome, InEVal and MedSpon) gave pitch presentations with a focus on “What is needed to bring my project to the next level?” To better understand the barriers to commercialisation for the BlueBio projects, the 38 participants were divided into groups to discuss their next steps, how BlueBio could support them and how they plan to increase impact and market readiness. During the discussions, barriers were identified and discussed with generous contributions from BlueBio Advisory Board member Helena Vieira. For example, market analysis requires collaboration with an industrial partner, but it is often difficult to engage industry in early stages. It was also noted that taking a product or solution closer to the
market is not only an issue of competence (scientific, technical etc), but of the availability and interest of the individual researchers in a project. If researchers are not driven to commercialise their work, how is the product brought further? Finally , regulatory constraints surrounding novel ingredients increase risk and uncertainty, and impact development and innovation.
The event was organised by the Value Chain Supervisor for market Maarten Uyttebroek (Flanders’FOOD), Work Package leader for additional calls and innovative funding methods (WP6) Majbritt Bolton-Warberg (Marine institute) and Co-Coordinator of BlueBio (WP1) Ingeborg Korme (the Research Council of Norway).
Further initiatives to increase impact
To further support the participants in BlueBio projects, BlueBio is organising an advanced training course on “Blue Bio-refinery technologies: from research to the industry with applications on products and biomaterial from algal biomass and sidestreams of fisheries and aquaculture” in Italy on 16-18th January 2023.
The 3rd Additional Call is on “Amplifying project reach and knowledge impact” and will be an internal call, to support dissemination efforts, Human Capacity Building, commercialisation preparation, mapping of relevant policy landscape, and barriers to commercialisation. This call will open in late 2022 with a deadline for proposal submission in mid-February 2023.