To people involved in the blue economy, BlueInvest Day doesn’t need much introduction. It’s that one big moment in the year where entrepreneurs, investors, incubators and accelerators meet to network and socialise, but above all, to do business. The third edition, on 4 February in Brussels, was another big success. It proved that the blue economy is vibrant, innovative and sexy. That investing in the ocean, is investing in a sustainable future. Or, in the Commissioner’s words, that “without blue, green is just yellow.”
I vividly remember our first discussions about BlueInvest, three years ago. We were entering uncharted territory. We knew we wanted to break out of the typical Commission event. No keynote speeches but snappy pitches on stage. No hours-long stakeholder workshops about the big-ticket issues, but 15-minute business-to-business meetings, over which we had absolutely no control. It was a big risk at that time. Would companies be interested to come? Would we be taken seriously by investors? Turns out we were spot on. A new concept was born.
Today, we don’t ask ourselves these questions any longer. BlueInvest has become a brand in itself. The third edition of the event, in the beautiful setting of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels, met the already high expectations with ease. Almost 500 people registered. More than 800 bilateral business meetings were scheduled in advance, and many more on the spot. About 70 investors have taken the time (= money) to join us at break of day for a breakfast meeting, most of them staying for the entire event, as they know that BlueInvest is where to get the best insights on the market. And again, we had a stage with top speakers and companies eager to pitch for the hand of the investors and the heart of the public.
So what’s new?
In the high-volume market of Brussels events, also BlueInvest needs to innovate to stay relevant. So what was new this year?
First of all, we had a major announcement. Together with the European Investment Fund, part of the European Investment Bank, the Commission has launched a €75 million fund to invest in the blue economy. People at BlueInvest got the scoop, and the details. You can find more about the BlueInvest fund in the press release.
— European Commission (@EU_Commission) February 4, 2020
The already now prestigious BlueInvest award – made from driftwood in Europe
Second, the BlueInvest awards. Dozens of companies applied to take part in the pitching competition to win this prestigious award. Twenty were finally selected. CEOs and executives more comfortable in board rooms than on stage, took special classes to increase their chances. Five sturdy pieces of driftwood (I am underselling it, these trophies really are handsome) are now standing on the mantles of the winning companies in each of the four categories, plus the people’s choice. The competition was tough, but the jury unanimous. These are the winners:
Category Clean Energy from the Ocean – CORPOWER OCEAN (Sweden)
Category Food & Feed from the Ocean – BIOFEYN (France)
Category Intelligent Ocean – SINAY (France)
Category Blue Bioeconomy & Green Solutions – MARINE PERFORMANCE SYSTEMS BV (The Netherlands)
People’s choice – ALGAENERGY SA (Spain)
What’s more, this year investors were pitching as well. Ten investors went on stage calling upon companies online and in the room to come over and talk business. Some had a very broad interest, others had a specific sector in mind. But all agreed on one thing: they would rather invest in an A-team with a B-idea than the other way around. We can testify that all companies allowed to pitch at the BlueInvest Awards are really A-teams. But why don’t you have a look at their pitch and let them convince you. Full pitches will be uploaded here soon, so check out this space!
And talking about an A-team… Since December 2019, we have a new Commissioner, Virginijus Sinkevičius from Lithuania. At the age of 28, he is the youngest Commissioner ever. But people who’ve seen him in action, know he has what it takes to shake up the world. He proved this also at BlueInvest. Instead of delivering a traditional keynote speech, Commissioner Sinkevičius opened the award competition by giving the right example. In five minutes, he pitched what is probably the most impactful Commission initiative of the past generation, the European Green Deal. And how that will benefit the blue economy. Commissioner Sinkevičius's pitch will soon be uploaded here.
Matches made in h(e)aven
On to the B2B meetings then. We don’t know what has been said, of course. Eavesdropping is unbecoming, and we reserve it for emergencies such as closed-door deliberations on staff promotion. But the tenure of the meetings was very clear: companies explaining in 15 minutes why their idea is worth investing in, and investors telling what exactly it is they are looking for.
Maybe you are wondering why the European Commission acts as a matchmaker between ideas and money. Isn’t that why we have markets, where supply meets demand?
Yes and no. Markets work if there is transparency, but far too often the small but innovative start-ups in the blue economy have a hard time to catch the attention of investors. Their ideas are great, but they just aren’t visible enough. That’s where BlueInvest Day comes in. We are the dog park where everyone can sniff each other and check one’s pedigree.
And the model works. Over the years, we have received many reactions, thanking us for the opportunity and the new business that has come out of it. One company pitching to the investors in 2018 was now cited by a major investor as one of their successful projects.
So much more…
But BlueInvest is so much more than a matchmaking event. It is an exclusive coaching programme for high potential start-ups and SMEs. It is an academy that offers capacity-building courses, training and other exclusive events to accelerate businesses. And it is a community of like-minded business people, who share the belief that investing in the blue economy is investing the future of our blue planet.
Thanks to all the companies that have joined us!
- Publication date
- 10 February 2020
- Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries