BLUEAIR: The final event of the project marks a milestone for the future of Blue Growth in the Adriatic-Ionian region

The BLUEAIR project concluded the 11th of July by introducing its Innovation Community. The final event of the BLUEAIR project, funded by the Interreg Adrion Program, took place in Trieste. The project involved 11 partners and 20 associates from across the Adriatic-Ionian region with the aim of promoting national and transnational networking activities among the representatives of the quadruple helix within the Blue Growth sector.

The conference, titled "Shaping together the sustainable Blue Economy on the Adriatic-Ionian macro-region", was held in a hybrid format and saw the participation of representatives from all involved countries, including Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Montenegro, and Greece.

The two discussion sessions, introduced respectively by Salvatore La Rosa, Director of the Research and Innovation Department of Area Science Park, the lead partner of the project, and Alessia Rosolen, Councillor for Labor, Training, Education, Research, Universities, and Family of the Autonomous Region of Friuli Venezia Giulia, were structured into four thematic panels. These panels provided valuable insights into the current state of the Sustainable Blue Economy in the Adriatic-Ionian region, both for EU and IPA countries. Moreover, they highlighted the role that BLUEAIR has played in this context. Over 20 representatives from the quadruple helix (EU and national/regional institutions, universities and research organizations, and companies) provided important insights into the state of EU and national community policies and projects, as well as topics related to the development of Smart Specialization Strategies (S3) and the Blue Economy. Specific discussions covered areas such as blue skills and innovation strategies, with a focus on alternative fuels, robotics, aquaculture, and transportation.

Given the importance of improving blue skills in the workplace, one of the event's key panels focused on how to boost the next generation of blue careers through advanced digital, green and soft skills. Moderated by Dr. Mounir Ghribi, National Institute of Oceanography and Applied Geophysics - OGS, the panel discussion has seen the participation of Ketty Segatti from the Friuli Venezia Giulia Autonomous Region, Giuseppe Caprino from the Cluster Tecnologico Nazionale Blue Italian Growth and Leonardo Manzari from the WestMED Assistance Mechanism.

The panel discussed current efforts to overcome the mismatch between skills and jobs, considering the current challenges of the green and digital transition. It is fundamental to tackle the issue of unemployment of young graduates and to create strong career pathways in the blue economy sectors through specific advanced training courses, such as the Advanced Master in Sustainable Blue Economy co-organized by the University of Trieste and the OGS. It is fundamental to continue working together with all stakeholders, promoting multidisciplinary training programs, without forgetting soft skills, that can make a difference for all operators working in the blue economy sectors.

The event also served as an opportunity for stakeholders to share two of the main outcomes of the BLUEAIR project.

First and foremost, the creation of an Innovation Community, an operational platform open to all public and private players, aimed at enhancing and simplifying collaboration for innovation. Its goal is to promote a sustainable blue economy in the Adriatic-Ionian region by operating at micro, meso, and macro levels, fostering collective innovation actions to address and increase the visibility of Blue Growth, and building strong partnerships between sectors and disciplines. The Innovation Community also supports the development of a macro-regional innovation system by promoting supportive policies and practices, strengthening and supporting the new generation's awareness of sustainability and development issues, and engaging in cooperation with innovation ecosystems in other maritime basins.

The importance of BLUEAIR's Innovation Community, in terms of the variety of experiences and sensitivities among its members and its capacity for future networking, was repeatedly emphasized by the experts present, who expressed the hope for its continuation and expansion in forms to be defined in the near future.

The second main output of the BLUEAIR project is the Technology Foresight, which has generated a wealth of results and insights on technologies and products aiming for the sustainability and decarbonization of the Blue Economy in the Adriatic-Ionian region.

The research, highly appreciated by experts for its scientific accuracy and practical approach, focused on established areas such as transport and aquaculture, as well as innovative "clean technologies" represented by the development of alternative fuels and research in robotics.

As with the Innovation Community, the results of the BLUEAIR project's Technology Foresight represent a valuable asset to be maintained and expanded in the perspective of developing the Blue Economy in the Adriatic-Ionian region.