Building The Future of Ocean Innovation

Building The Future of Ocean Innovation

The Next Wave of Innovation And The Groundbreaking Ocean Innovators Making It Happen

June 22, 2022

What's Next In Blue Innovation?

Ocean innovation is more important now than ever before. In the coming decades, the oceans will play a pivotal role in fostering not only planetary environmental health, but will be a pillar of a global, sustainable blue economy–one which proves that preservation and prosperity need not be mutually exclusive. As a key cornerstone of our mission, we work to empower global innovators developing solutions that can affect meaningful change at multiple points in the water cycle. The innovators we support view ocean health and world water access as interconnected challenges; the global flow of water, from melting lakes and glaciers to destabilized water tables, ocean acidification to microplastic accumulation, are all part of a deeply interconnected web of global water flows in which we all play a part. It is this multidisciplinary global approach which is the collective inspiration for our programming for the UN Ocean Conference this year. From our Masterclass, highlighting the ways in which fast fashion and textile industries can impact global ocean health, and TechConnect, providing diverse perspectives to ocean innovation, to our premier event, the Pitch Showcase for Innovative Water Solutions, we are building a multidisciplinary, intersectional approach to global water challenges. 

The innovators participating in the Pitch Showcase are reflective of emerging trends across industries, reflecting a wider scope of solutions that reflect a diverse array of challenges-  the intersections of science and technology with deep ocean understanding and a mission to develop a blue economy is underpinning the emerging future of water innovation. Founders, investors, and ecosystem builders all have a part to play in developing our shared blue future. 

Key to an entrepreneurial understanding of this new economic ecosystem is the understanding of “blue growth”. It is here where entrepreneurs have some of the greatest opportunities to make a difference. 
Typically, blue economies are categorized into two types: there are mature blue industries, such as maritime transport, shipbuilding, and port infrastructure, fishing, and offshore platforms for hydrocarbon extraction, and there are emerging blue industries. This distinction was posited by the latest European Blue Economy report, and it is where entrepreneurs in ocean innovation have the greatest part to play. Emerging blue industries include developing sectors such as renewable marine energy production (or “blue energy”), marine biotechnology (or “blue biotechnology”), subsea mapping and mining, and numerous forms of aquaculture. 

Countries around the world are starting to pour resources into bringing these technologies to life, and already there has been fantastic progress. These emerging trends are beginning to take shape across the globe- this interactive map is an incredible resource showing where our global blue future is beginning to take form and points to what the future might look like. We can take this prediction out even further- the EU has asked experts to coordinate their visions in a series of  timelines for blue innovation as part of the developing PERISCOPE project; We’re inspired by these predictions, and look forward to continuing to support entrepreneurs ready to meet these challenges head-on. 

The first wave of this innovation is already here. The innovators, founders, activists, and changemakers we have worked with are an inspiration for this wider scope of understanding–in them, we see the future of ocean innovation and global water solutions. They embody emerging frontiers in these developing sectors, whether it is data management solutions for aquaculture (Aquatika) or the circular economy and innovative materials science, like BioMec Prostethics and Zouri Shoes. 

They are part of the next wave of water innovation. This is the blue future, and they are working to build it.  Learn more about some of the extraordinary individuals sharing their vision with the world through GIST Oceans Series:

Meet the Innovators Bringing The Next Wave of Innovation to Life

Marta Uetela - BioMec Prosthetics

After witnessing her friend's challenges in acquiring a prosthesis for a leg amputation, Marta decided to put her talent, knowledge, and drive to the test, building a custom-made prosthetic and along the way serving as a blueprint for women entrepreneurs in Africa. Marta, a mechanical engineer, certified welder and entrepreneur, is an innovator with an eye for solving multiple challenges simultaneously. Her innovative prosthetics work to help the 90% of amputees in Mozambique who do not use a prosthesis due to difficulties in accessing them, and the other 10% who do have access but don’t feel very confident and safe due to the prosthesis design itself and inaccessible prices. BioMec builds prosthetics within 24 hours compared to the conventional process, which takes more than 1000 hours, and has the capacity to produce 20 prostheses per month. She’s not only solving the challenges of access and affordability-there’s more. Each one of her pieces uses the plastic residuals from 6 bottles or 250g of fish net discarded in the ocean. Not only is her work providing life-changing solutions for amputees throughout Mozambique, she’s on track within 3 years to reuse up to 20% of plastic residuals from Costa do Sol, one of the most polluted beaches in Mozambique. Marta is finding opportunities to create ocean impact, all while helping her community through science and engineering.

Rituparna Das - Hydrotec Solutions

Rituparna is the founder of Hydrotec Solutions, a venture which has created the Arosia system for water kiosks, which use renewable energy and Internet-of-Things connection to bring clean, easily accessible water to communities throughout India. After becoming sick as a child from drinking poor quality water, she realized how pressing and urgent this need was not only for her and her family, but for communities everywhere. Bootstrapping a startup isn’t easy, but they have had enormous success- Currently present in three states of India, over 250 units of the cloud-based pay per use machine have been installed, which purify half a million liters of water daily.  Building from their initial pilot project, they have taken on other opportunities, like at the smart city project in Agartala, where her team installed a total of 10 water ATMs in the city at hospitals, bus stands, and various marketplaces and shopping malls. In addition to providing safe, reliable drinking water to numerous communities, the technology is also helping to reduce single-use plastic waste across India, having a notable impact in fragile ecosystems like at Digha Beach in Kolkata, where it has reduced the plastic waste that threatens the region's aquatic life. GIST has been proud to support Hydrotec Solutions throughout its venture journey; learn more about Rituparna in our exclusive interview with her. 

Rafeah Mustafa Kamal and Rahinah Ibrahim - Oceanori 

This mother-daughter duo are an extraordinary combination of research excellence, innovative engineering, social impact, and a ground-breaking vision for the future of ocean-based communities. Oceanori has created an independent sewage treatment plant (also known as iSTP) for rural communities that do not have centralized sewage collection and treatment. The treatment plant is one of the smallest on the market, easily transportable by boat, can fit underneath the toilets of rural water-based communities and treats sewage to meet the specs of Malaysia’s National Water Services Commission. It allows communities to have a reliable waste management infrastructure that not only provides for dignity and human safety, but also provides point-source pollution mitigation. This pollution solution is so vital for the fragile marine ecosystems of the ocean villages these communities call home, and provides a model for sustainable ocean development globally. We’ve been inspired by these incredible women at every step of this journey, and have had the opportunity to learn more about their work over a series of conversations. Dive into our two interviews here and here, and get inspired to change the world.

Selen Senal- Algbio 

Selen was the winner of GIST Catalyst, a pitch competition highlighting science and technology innovation from around the world. We are proud to support her as she continues her innovation journey, bringing her vision for sustainable fuel to Lisbon. Selen, a founder based in Turkey, has had a venture journey not unlike many others in science and technology- navigating the transition from working in the research lab to commercialization. She has worked towards this while also breaking boundaries as a woman innovator, not only serving as a role model for women entrepreneurs in Turkey and around the world, but also building extraordinary solutions which have the potential to change how we power our planet forever. The technology she has worked to develop with her venture AlgBio uses algae to treat wastewater, in the process creating a biodiesel which has the potential to be a meaningful source of sustainable energy, all while working to solve compounding challenges of waste management.  

Ibrahim Mohamed- Aquatika 

Ibrahim is the founder of Aquatika, a venture based in Egypt, which is a platform seeking to revolutionize the fishing industry- it allows previously distant stakeholders to be able to communicate with one another, allowing for more streamlined, resilient, and sustainable supply-chain flows. Waste from fish processing has been turned into feed, lowering prices for aquaculture and facilitating deeper connection between customers and suppliers, building a more equitable and deeply connected fishing industry all while curtailing waste. Ibrahim has experienced early initial success, from winning grants and prizes to showcasing at events like CES. Aquatika is poised to revolutionize the fishing industry of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and work to build a more equitable and sustainable aquaculture for the years to come. 

Adriana Mano- Zouri Shoes 

Adriana is the founder of Zouri Shoes, which has developed and launched “the most ecological sneakers ever made”. Based in Portugal, Zouri Shoes has developed multiple innovative technologies to bring this goal to life, from using recycled plastic and rubber from ocean waste to using an innovative sustainable fabric made from processed pineapple leaves. Working with a network of NGOs, Zouri has helped facilitate the removal of over 1 ton of plastic from Portuguese beaches. In addition, they are created by hand by a team of Portuguese artisans, working to keep localized regional manufacturing and craft alive. Adriana is breaking new ground, showing that style and sustainability can live hand-in-hand, while also showcasing and building a model of sustainable product development that can help foster a more sustainable blue future. 

Andrea Paz-Lacavex - SPORA 

Andrea is the principal researcher and founder behind SPORA, or “Sociology, Planning, and Optimal Restoration of Alga”- a Mexico-based initiative and venture to foster the development and implementation of the novel technology of “green gravel”, designed to help foster regrowth of kelp forests, an essential part of global ocean pastures, an invaluable source of carbon sequestration, and a key pillar of sustaining ocean life. The “green gravel” is made by setting microscopic kelp spores onto small rocks or gravel to get juvenile kelp plants growing in the lab, attached securely to the rocks, which can then be scattered from a boat over a rocky reef, where the juvenile kelp plants can eventually grow. It provides an inexpensive and scalable way to restore vital ocean ecologies, not only supporting ocean life, but the fishing communities which depend on it. Andrea has had a meteoric start to this journey, capturing key support and grants from multiple organizations and competitions, and GIST is proud to support her and her venture as they have the opportunity to share their innovation in Lisbon. 


Each of these extraordinary innovators and founders will have the opportunity to share their vision on the world stage at the Pitch Showcase for Innovative Water Solutions, the premier GIST Ocean Series event at the UN Oceans Conference in Lisbon. Learn more about this exciting event and register now! 

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