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Blue economy – The ocean… land of innovation

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BNP Paribas Asset Management
 

The blue economy encompasses a vast field of technologies that can help develop the world’s immense maritime resources in a sustainable way while respecting the natural balance.

The seas and oceans are fertile ground for innovation and experimentation, with new technologies including:

  • Maritime operations at ever-greater depths
  • Robotics
  • Video surveillance
  • Submersible technologies.

Technological progress has been spectacular. In general, the open location of ports and coastal communities is conducive to the emergence of new ideas. Achieving environmental goals is a constant source of innovation.

Biotechnologies

The oceans are a goldmine for biotechnologies. Maritime resources can be used

  • In cosmetics (creams, seawater therapy, etc.)
  • For the agri-foods industry (food supplements, fertilisers, etc.)
  • In the energy sector (notably biofuels)
  • In pharmacology.

It is possible to create substances derived from algae for food and cosmetics uses. In addition, scientists have discovered that ingredients from oysters can slow skin ageing. The production of biofuels from the triglycerides contained in algae is another potential area of interest.

Lithium

Seawater is a virtually unlimited source of lithium, with the seas and oceans containing some 230 billion tonnes of it.[1] However, lithium is highly diluted in seawater.

Researchers have been working for years to extract it using evaporation or filtering membranes. They have already managed to do so in small quantities. Lithium is used in the glass and ceramics industries, to produce lubricant greases and in aluminium production. It is also essential in making electric batteries.

Energy

The enormous energy in tides, swells and waves is already being tapped. However, this is just the beginning. Innovative technologies will complement the systems already developed.

The most favourable coasts are those between the latitudes of 30° and 60°

  • In the southern hemisphere due to the wave heights
  • In the northern hemisphere due to the length of the coasts in question.

The Bay of Fundy’s tidal power station between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in Canada and the one in the bay of Mont Saint-Michel in France were pioneers in the field. In addition to tidal power stations, systems using energy from waves and tidal currents (underwater turbines and wave power systems) are also being developed.

The European Union, already quite advanced in the field of ocean power technology, should be producing 35% of its electricity from ocean sources by 2050.[2] Reducing the cost of technologies generating wind power is one of the main projects on which the most innovative blue economy players are working.

Pharmaceuticals

The ability of marine organisms other than fish and shellfish to contribute to the blue economy is beginning to be acknowledged thanks to the new gene sequencing technologies for living organisms. Tests of antiviral medicines obtained from nucleotides isolated from Caribbean sponges are already under way. That’s how high the stakes are!

The oceans are a gigantic pharmacy. Marine species are providing the pharmaceutical industry with a wide range of new compounds that have already led to major applications in the antiviral field, but also in cancer and pain treatment medicines.

The animal, plant and bacterial species living in the oceans contain impressive numbers of compounds with unexpected properties that are of interest from a medical standpoint. Some are already known such as those from ‘cone snails’ – gastropod molluscs.

These cousins of land snails secrete neurotoxins. Researchers have been working with them since the 1960s. Cone snails have enabled the development of a compound used in a powerful pain medicine that is stronger than morphine. Researchers are currently working on developing new medicines from cone snail compounds.

Anti-cancer agents are being produced from marine organisms. An anti-tumour medicine has been developed from small marine invertebrates. The most promising medicines already come from the oceans. They have been on pharmacy shelves and have been improving our health for several years now. The research on marine organisms being conducted around the world should continue to unveil new therapeutic properties.

A flourishing sustainable blue economy

Innovation is an essential factor in ensuring that a sustainable blue economy can flourish. Blue technologies hold great promise for established and start-up companies researching and developing solutions that have a positive impact on the oceans.

As a global sustainability theme, investing in the blue economy is fully aligned with BNP Paribas Asset Management’s sustainable investment priorities. These are focused on the energy transition, environmental protection and equality & inclusive growth.

We believe investing in the blue economy will help advance the fight against climate change and ensure that the oceans can continue to function as a sink for carbon emissions from human activity. Such investments are suited for investors with a long-term perspective, an interest in contributing to a greener future and making a positive impact.

In our view, finance can play a major role in pushing companies linked to the blue economy to improve their practices. Those investors who consider the preservation of marine resources as an absolute priority are set to see investment opportunities in companies that develop marine and ocean projects opening up as awareness of the blue economy’s appeal grows.


[1] According to Agence internationale de l’Énergie in futura-sciences.com 21/07/2020

[2] See energiesdelamer.eu 12/06/2020


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Any views expressed here are those of the author as of the date of publication, are based on available information, and are subject to change without notice. Individual portfolio management teams may hold different views and may take different investment decisions for different clients. This document does not constitute investment advice.

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