UNCW’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Launches the Alliance for the Blue Economy

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

The UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship today announced the launch of the Alliance for the Blue Economy, a multidisciplinary initiative to establish southeastern North Carolina as a national and global leader in the Blue Economy.

The World Bank describes the Blue Economy as “the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs, while preserving the health of the ocean ecosystem.” In the U.S., the Blue Economy delivered nearly $400 billion to the GDP in 2019, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The Alliance for the Blue Economy, also known as All Blue, will support Blue Economy entrepreneurs and innovators, promote the region as a Blue Economy innovation hub, assist in the creation of Blue Economy-ready infrastructure, and attract Blue Economy investment capital. To fulfill this vision, the Alliance will work to obtain federal, state and regional grants with government agencies, educational institutions, nonprofit organizations and private sector partners.

“The collaboration between All Blue and the CIE offers UNCW and the region a significant opportunity to leverage resources to attract, support and sustain Blue Economy businesses,” said Stuart Borrett, Associate Provost for Research and Innovation.

Southeastern North Carolina is ideally positioned to become a viable Blue Economy leader due to its extensive coastline and river estuary, its coastal access to open water (the second largest on the East Coast after Florida) and its growing reputation as a leader in technology-focused businesses that employ highly skilled workers.

In addition, the region is home to UNCW, Cape Fear Community College and the Port of Wilmington. UNCW alone has more than 100 faculty engaged in marine sciences and ocean/coastal preservation.

Led by an advisory board of science and business leaders from the region and UNCW, All Blue will focus on five strategic sectors: sustainable aquaculture and fisheries; marine biopharma; regenerative tourism; coastal resilience; and ocean engineering and marine robotics.

This launch is the culmination of 18 months of planning, research and strategy development with more than 180 local business, science and academic leaders involved as volunteers and consultants. All Blue was initiated by former CIE Director Diane Durance, who remains a consultant.

“The United Nations’ declaration of 2021-2030 as the Decade of the Ocean has put a global spotlight on the critical challenges facing marine and coastal environments,” said Durance. “Federal and state support for programs and infrastructure to promote innovation and new ventures in the Blue Economy has never been stronger. This is a pivotal moment – and one we want to capture for North Carolina.”

With the launch of the Alliance, southeastern North Carolina will join the ranks of a growing number of Blue Economy hubs in the U.S. and internationally, including Boston, San Diego, Seattle and Gulfport, Mississippi. In fact, the hub in North Carolina will be the only one on the East Coast between Boston and Florida.

The Alliance for the Blue Economy will make its local debut during “All Blue Week” Nov. 1-6. More than a dozen events are planned around Wilmington and on UNCW’s main campus and its Center for Marine Science and will include an opening keynote address by acclaimed futurist Deborah Westphal, author of the new book Convergence; a Blue Economy hackathon co-sponsored with Cape Fear Collective; and recreational opportunities such as boat tours from the Blockade Runner resort.

More information, including details on sector leadership and initiatives, can be found at All Blue’s website and Facebook page.

UNCW’s CIE works to identify and nurture high-growth, high-impact companies and to accelerate the entrepreneurial ecosystem in southeastern North Carolina. Its mission is to connect, leverage and ignite regional strengths and university expertise to create innovative and entrepreneurial solutions to global challenges in human health, education, coastal/marine environments and media production.