Blue Research and Innovation Days

From 19-23 of April 2021 the Blue Research and Innovation Days took place for the first time with the NEANIAS H2020 project playing an important role in the whole organization of the whole event. The event host was the ATHENA RC, NEANIAS partner.

What is the blue economy?

According to the world bank, the blue economy “refers to the sustainable and integrated development of economic sectors in healthy oceans”. The World Bank’s active Blue Economy portfolio is around $5 billion with a further $1.65 billion in the pipeline. According to United Nations, every year the ocean economy has an estimated turnover of between US$3 and 6 trillion. It is also estimated that fisheries and aquaculture contribute $US100 billion per year and about 260 million jobs to the global economy. By 2025 it is estimated that 34% of crude oil production will come from offshore fields. While, aquaculture is the fastest growing food sector and provides about 50% of fish for human consumption.

Did you know?

If the Mediterranean Sea itself was an economy, it would be the 5th largest in the region (after France, Italy, Spain and Turkey).

How Europe acts regarding the blue economy?

“The EU Blue Economy Report 2020”, presents an overview of the performance of the EU economic sectors related to oceans and the coastal environment. According to data from 2018, the established sectors of the EU Blue Economy directly employed close to 5 million people and generated around €750 billion in turnover and €218 billion in gross value. Only the Copernicus Marine Service assets are identified and segmented into 10 Blue Markets.

The EU sectors are distinguished as:

Marine based activities include the activities undertaken in the ocean, sea and coastal areas

  • Marine living resources (capture fisheries and aquaculture), 
  • Marine minerals, 
  • Marine renewable energy, 
  • Desalination, 
  • Maritime transport and
  • Coastal tourism

Marine related activities which use products and/ or produce products and services from the ocean or marine based activities

  • Seafood processing, 
  • Biotechnology, 
  • Shipbuilding and repair, 
  • Port activities, 
  • Technology and equipment, 
  • Digital services

The EU has initiated many investments to support and grow the Blue Economy in Europe while respecting the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Where do ‘blue’ data fit in the blue economy?

The European Union implements initiatives under the European Green Deal in line with the new approach for a sustainable Blue Economy and that means the need for reliable, accurate and centralised data for its initiatives. The European Green Deal, aims at implementing the United Nations 2030 Agenda (UN Sustainable Development Goal 14) by putting “sustainability and the well-being of citizens at the centre of economic policy and the sustainable development at the heart of the EU’s policy making and action”.

In order for Europe to support the Blue Economy, along its sectors, it needs to collect, validate, clear, analyse data, and produce valuable outcomes (policies, prosperity, sustainability) for further development. Here is where high-quality research and innovation comes into play, as stated by the European Parliament back in 2015, to assist untapping its potential on blue economy. To name but few the European Parliament:  

  • “Urges the Commission to encourage the compilation of periodic, up-to-date scientific data on the state of marine populations both within and outside of EU waters in collaboration with other international organisations; reiterates the multi-disciplinary nature of marine and maritime research and stresses the importance of supporting a cross-cutting endeavour which affects the various sectors and disciplines of marine and maritime research”, 
  • “...believes that investing in data acquisition projects will also contribute to productivity and increased innovation”
  • “Calls for the findings of publicly funded research to be placed in the public domain for non-commercial uses (safeguarding data of strategic importance to Member States) and for that principle to be binding on partners in EU research programmes; calls for the provision of open access to the data supporting the results of said research; calls for an EU initiative to encourage private companies in the maritime sector to share economically insensitive data for research purposes and urges the Commission to set up the Horizon 2020 research information platform as quickly as possible” and 
  • “Advocates a coordinated and strong EU involvement in the International Seabed Authority to ensure an effective and precautionary environmental regulatory framework to prevent adverse impacts of deep-sea mining exploration and exploitation, including Areas of Particular Environmental Interest (APEIs), as well as societal impacts of deep-sea mining and bioprospecting on local communities, and to guarantee full data transparency

The road to the Blue Research & Innovation Days

Following the recommendations, suggestions and actions of the European Community, the main objective of Blue Research and Innovation Days was and will be to present ongoing cutting-edge projects that facilitate the research on blue economy sectors and bring together consortia, the scientific community and industry working at the core of the ‘blue economy’ by promoting synergies and shaping common future activities. 

During the event, various projects focusing on topics like cloud services, open and big data research and results on blue economy had the opportunity to exchange information, share experiences, lessons learnt, and inspire participants to join a 2-day hackathon on the four challenges:

  1. Vessel navigation pattern detection of sets of vessels that have similar characteristics in terms of location area and way of moving

Additionally, a set of sub tasks was presented to the teams consisting of the following:

    • Explore data that may be linked to mobility data
    • Explore candidate navigation patterns (e.g., origin, destination, trajectory shape, trip duration, change in speed)
    • Explore candidate clustering options (e.g., marine area, season)
    • Cluster mobility data
    • Report results
    • Repeat
  1. Vessel future location prediction involving the design and implementation of Machine Learning solutions

Predictive mobility data analytics is critical for a wide range of marine applications. Future Location Prediction (FLP) of vessels, i.e., the prediction of the anticipated location(s) of a vessel, taking into account the vessel's or the population’s motion history, is of great importance to sea area monitoring. This challenge involves the design and implementation of a solution to predict the future location of vessels. Machine Learning solutions are common and may be considered. Mobility data may also be combined with additional data. 

  1. On-line Image Annotation Tool for Underwater Images

Build an online image annotation tool that allows end-users to provide point, polyline, and polygon annotations. The tool must be implemented for on-line usage (e.g. as a micro-service). Assessment of the developed tool's quality will be on the basis of the range of functionalities implemented, ease-of-use, practicality and efficiency.

  1. Submarine cable route design and path planning

Design the optimum route for a submarine cable considering all the obstacles (morphology, ancient and modern shipwrecks and other artefacts, marine natural and cultural protected areas, vessel activity) that may hinder the cable laying.

The datasets available to participants are from Copernicus, EMODnet, NEANIAS, i4sea, INFORE, FAO, Eurostat, Natura2000, AIS data from Marine Traffic, covering a broad range of data.

The Blue Economy projects

The EU funded projects that participated into the event, are multi discipline and very interested to promote and upscale the use of research findings, research data and technologies, into the blue economy. These projects are: 

  • EuroSea - Improving and integrating the European Ocean Observing and Forecasting System 
  • Blue-Cloud - Piloting innovative services for Marine Research & the Blue Economy
  • NEANIAS - Novel EOSC services for Emerging Atmosphere, Underwater and Space Challenges
  • i4sea - Big Data in Monitoring and Analyzing Sea Area Traffic: innovative ICT and Analysis Models
  • Cos4Cloud - Co-designed Citizen Observatories Services for the EOS-Cloud
  • Virtual Diver - An innovative platform for virtual underwater experiences targeting the cultural and tourism industries
  • INFORE- Interactive Extreme-Scale Analytics and Forecasting 
  • RAMONES - Radioactivity monitoring in ocean ecosystems
  • VESSEL AI - Data analytics and visualisations to build digital twins and maritime applications
  • MASTER - Multiple ASpect TrajEctoRy management and analysis

The Blue Research and Innovation Days Hackathon Programme committee was formed by: 

  • Eleni Petra (NEANIAS)
  • Harry Nakos (I4Sea)
  • Antonis Deligiannakis (INFORE)

Followed by the Blue Research and Innovation Days Hackathon Scientific Committee: 

  • E. Nomikou, WP2 Leader, Kalliopi Baika, Danai Lampridou, Valsamis -Makis Ntouskos (NEANIAS)
  • Theodore Dalamagas, Aggelos Pikrakis (i4SEA)
  • Antonis Deligiannakis, Κοnstantina Bereta (INFORE)

The Hackathon - winners!

The event organizers invited openly interested young applicants, researchers, citizens, and SMEs, to form teams and participate in a 2 day - hackathon. 7 Teams and 30 participants took part in the Hackathon where 5 teams finally presented their work -  Blue Team, GTeam, SΤeam, Marine Analyst, Team #7.

The Evaluation Committee of the hackathon was composed by: 

  • Dr. Georgia Koutrika (Athena RC) 
  • Dr. Grigorios Tsagatakis (ICS-FORTH)
  • Dr. Vasilis Tzouvaras (NTUA - ECE)
  • Dr. Manolis Koutlis (TALENT S.A.)
  • Dr. Theodoros Dalamagas (IMIS - Athena RC)
  • Stergios Kokorotsikos (EUNICE)

The winners and the awards are presented below: 

1st WINNER - Team 7 (George Theofilopoulos, Vasileios Theodoros Markos)- Challenge 4

Prize: 3 day trip to Aegina for the whole winning team
  • Presented the shortest path from Spetses island to the port of Piraeus applying A star allowing two kinds of nodes
  • Managed to avoid the archeological site of Aegina island which acted as an obstacle




2nd  WINNER - Marine Analyst (Pascal Derycke) - Challenge 1

Prize: 1 laptop
  • Presentation of various maps portraying fishing activities, sailing, dredging and various other activities in the given area
  • Presentation of statistics of each of these activities along with percentage distribution
  • Used data mining to perform a clustering process




3rd WINNER - STeam (Judith Gatt, Mauro Frontini Miguel, Dimitra Voutyrea, Etienne Courne, George Sklavounos)- Challenge 4B.

Prize: 1 tablet
  • Used the given data and presented a manually placed cable route from Akra Palaiopirgos (Aegina island) landing to (Agkistri island) 
  • Took note of military zones , ferry lines and many other constraints and avoided them



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