Sunday, 21 February 2021

Only Six Percent of Croatian Adriatic Sea is Protected - Not Enough

February the 21st, 2021 - The Croatian Adriatic sea is the country's stunning natural wealth which attracts endless amounts of tourists from across the world each and ever year. Well, at least it did before the coronavirus pandemic struck. However, despite the fact that the Adriatic looks crystal clear and beautiful, only a mere six percent of it is actually protected. This is far from enough.

As Vecernji list/Jolanda Rak Sajn writes, the main goal of the InnovaMare project is to create a common maritime surveillance system which will work to further protect not only the Croatian Adriatic sea but that of the Italian side, too.

''Sustainability is a current topic at both European Union and national levels, as well as a topic for the future. A system change and cooperation from all stakeholders through environmental innovation will reduce pollution, while cooperation between the public and private sectors is key,'' said the Secretary General of the Union of Chambers of Commerce of the Veneto region Roberto Crosta at a round table of the Union (Unioncamere del Veneto), and the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) within the InnovaMare project.

The project is designed to develop and establish a model of innovation for the ecosystem in the field of underwater robotics and sensors for the control and monitoring of pollution in the Croatian Adriatic sea and the Italian Adriatic sea.

The vulnerability of marine habitats and the role of the blue economy is also recognised in numerous EU policies. Vedran Nikolic from the EC's Environment Directorate and Eleni Hatziyanni from the EC Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries warned that marine habitats are very complex and fragile ecosystems, vulnerable to pollution, overfishing and other human activities that hinder their sustainability. Nikolic explained that 81 percent of habitats and 63 percent of species in European habitats are no longer in good condition, and that situation is even worse in marine habitats, especially in the Mediterranean.

''This clearly shows that we're in a crisis of biodiversity, ie in a climate crisis that requires urgent action. This has been being and will continue to be addressed by the EU Biodiversity Strategy until 2030, which is one of the pillars of the European Green Deal. The main goals are the protection of 30 percent of the sea and the strict protection of at least a third of marine habitats. Currently, only 6 percent of the Adriatic sea, which fall primarily on the Croatian side, are protected, but this percentage now needs to grow by at least five times in order to achieve the set goals.

We aren't interested in the word protection, which is a dead letter on paper, but in actual practice, and for that we will need innovation and new technologies. We have ambitious plans for their realisation and we will need the cooperation of all parties involved,'' said Nikolic. Hatziyanni added that the development of new technologies could bring Croatia an increase in the share of the blue economy in the amount of 10 percent to 18 percent.

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Friday, 24 July 2020

InnovaMare: Croatia and Italy Team Up to Protect Adriatic from Pollution

The Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) is the holder of an EU project called InnovaMare, which creates an innovation ecosystem of SMEs, public and scientific sectors.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marta Duic writes on the 23rd of July, 2020, Mateo Ivanec, Head of the Innovation System Department in the Sector for Industrial Development and Innovation System of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce, talked to Poslovni dnevnik about the InnovaMare project, its goals and plans, and the partnership with Italy in the implementation of the project.

What prompted you in regard to the InnovaMare project? How long has it been planned?

The process of developing the project idea, preparing the tender documentation and the project application itself took a year. In the last four years, the Croatian Chamber of Commerce has invested in strengthening the capacity of a team of about 20 employees who have been educated and worked on projects in the areas of innovation systems, technology transfers, and research and development. One of the key activities is to improve cross-border cooperation between research institutions and the private sector and to enable the involvement of SMEs in international research networks as a way of adding value to SMEs in the field of internationalisation and technology transfer.

The InnovaMare project is based on a different approach, which is increasingly represented across the EU, and this approach refers to solving key societal challenges through different public policies. Namely, social challenges are increasingly becoming not only an issue of the protection of human health or the environment, but also an economic issue because they negatively affect various economic sectors. By solving social challenges by applying the most modern technologies and innovative solutions, we're strengthening SMEs that can offer solutions of such a kind, and we're also opening global markets with the same or similar social challenges. Considering this approach, we detected one of the extremely important social challenges, and that is the pollution of the Adriatic sea. If we don't approach this social challenge systematically, in an organised manner and at the cross-border level, we can expect extremely negative consequences in the near future.

What is the main goal of the InnovaMare project and how much of it is EU funded?

The main goal of the project is to develop and establish an innovation ecosystem for the development of innovative solutions in the field of robotics and sensors for the monitoring and prevention of pollution in the Adriatic sea through the cooperation of public and private sectors, as well as scientific research institutions. Encouraging the integration of scientific research and the private sector and providing access to networking tools, innovative processes and technologies, educational models and funding schemes will provide space to increase investment in research, development and innovation. The project is co-financed by the EU in as much as 85 percent, and the total value of the project is 5.6 million euros.

Who, of all of the partners, are involved in the project and whose role and task is the biggest?

The Croatian Chamber of Commerce is the project holder and bears all of the responsibility for the implementation of the InnovaMare project, as well as for achieving the defined results. There are a total of seven partners from the Republic of Croatia, in addition to the Croatian Chamber of Commerce. These are the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing, the Ruđer Bošković Institute, the University of Rijeka, the University of Dubrovnik, Geomar d.o.o. Split and Šibenik-Knin County. There are also seven partners from Italy, namely the MARE FVG cluster, the University of Trieste, the Chamber of Commerce of the Veneto region, the National Institute of Oceanography and Experimental Geophysics, the Regional Agency for Technology and Innovation, and the Institute of Marine Science, Commtec d.o.o.

Tell us more about the innovation ecosystem you plan to establish

The established innovation ecosystem aims to improve the framework conditions at the cross-border level by jointly building strategic and operational capacities by using public policy instruments to strengthen the cooperation of innovation system stakeholders. The key role of the InnovaMare innovation ecosystem is to be a platform and facilitator that defines challenges, sets priorities and brings together information, stakeholders and resources to create innovative solutions to the challenges that lie ahead of us. The innovation ecosystem strengthens the cooperation of innovation "players" and provides them with mechanisms and tools to encourage the development of new innovative solutions in the field of underwater robotics and sensors.

How many people are working on that development? What are all of the plans and in what time frame do you expect to be able to see visible results?

A total of 46 people were involved in the implementation of the project through thirteen partners. The total duration of the project is 30 months, ie, the deadline for the implementation of these activities is December the 31st, 2022. We believe that the first results, in terms of developing new projects and strengthening cooperation between stakeholders in this area, will be seen during 2021. The main elements of the project are the establishment of the Digital Innovation HUB (DIH), the strategy and action plan for the innovation ecosystem model, the prototyping of a robotic sensor solution for monitoring marine pollution and the development of a digital site for cooperation, financing, information gathering and web development, as well as interactive platforms.

What are the plans for the DIH (Digital Innovation Hub) that will be part of the InnovaMare project and one of the main visible results? Where will the Hub be located?

The Digital Innovation Hub is planned to be the central place of the innovation ecosystem and will be located in Šibenik with a branch office in Italy. The City of Šibenik was chosen for two reasons. One is its history, which marks many exceptional economic achievements as well as achievements in the field of innovation, and the other is its central position on the Adriatic, which enables extremely good connections.

The DIH will be based on four development pillars, namely; technology transfer, digital tools for networking and strengthening cooperation, innovative models for financing projects and technological solutions, and educating the business and scientific research sector on key areas for cooperation and business development, such as new business model, spin off companies, innovation management, etc.

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