Turning sargassum seaweed into bioplastic and fish offal into fuel are among four maritime industry startups to receive backing from the United Nations Development Programme, the UNDP has announced.
The ventures were unveiled at a UNDP blue economy accelerator lab’s Blue Tank session at UN House.
During the Blue Tank, eight innovators pitched their concepts to a panel of judges who provided them with feedback.
In the end, four of them were selected for “blue lab funding”.
The quartet of startups selected receive funding of up to $30,000 (US$15,000), were Bio Plastic Creation, focusing on making biodegradable products from sargassum seaweed and cassava starch; Bajan Digital Creations Inc. which focused on coral reef mapping using underwater drones; Ten Habitat, which focused on developing a traceable fisheries brand; and NRG, which will develop biogas and fuel from fish offal.
The blue lab is part of 60 UNDP global accelerator labs working to reimagine development in several areas for the 21st century, according to UNDP officials.
The lab for Barbados is focused on the blue economy and is aimed at supporting innovative solutions to some of the problems.
Magdy Martinez-Soliman, UNDP resident representative for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, gave the participants the assurance that they would receive the necessary backing throughout the life of their projects.
He said while there was a need for fresh ideas, he believed some old concepts could be dusted off and tweaked in order to solve some of the region’s problems.
Adding that Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean could come up with their own solutions by creating a “culture of innovation”, Martinez-Soliman said the blue economy was one area that could do with some innovative ideas.
Ahead of the presentations, he said: “I do think business-as-usual has a place in some sectors of the industry.
“I think that repeat of tested and travelled pathways have a place and can be presented as an economically viable alternative.
“So I don’t see it necessarily as something that is wrong.
“But I do value it as something that is wrong in the knowledge management sector.
“In the knowledge management sector, the new idea needs to supersede the old idea.
“The new ways of doing things need to somehow get rid of the old ways that are obsolete, and that is why our blue lab encourages innovation.”
Martinez-Soliman said the UNDP was keen on providing support for local, grassroots innovators because it believed that the power of local knowledge is important to developing solutions to “intractable problems”.
It was last year that the UNDP Blue Lab issued a call for solutions in November last year. After receiving 35 proposals, officials then narrowed down to eight.
During Monday’s session, all the groups were given five minutes to make their pitch, which was then followed by questions from the audience and the judges.
Nikola Simpson, head of Exploration for the Blue Lab UNDP Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, said she was pleased with the steps being taken by local authorities to develop and protect the blue and green economies.
She said the UNDP was also pleased about the new initiatives that were being developed by the young people in the Blue Tank
“We are really excited about the level of innovation that we are seeing from innovators within the region,” she said.
Pointing out that the region depended heavily on the blue economy for a lot of its revenue, she said all residents had a key role to play in protecting it.
Simpson also gave the assurance that all the project concepts would be monitored and evaluated carefully by both the innovators and the UNDP. [email protected]