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Education
Sep 2, 2020

All Hands On Deck For The Blue Economy

Sponsored Content provided by Heather McWhorter - Interim Director, UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

The Cape Fear Region is positioned to grow a world-class Blue Economy and add innovative bluetech ventures. UNCW CIE is collaborating with individuals, and public and private organizations, to make sure that happens. We have a strong crew focused on this challenge and encourage others to jump on board.

Marine robotics, marine biotechnology, and other ocean tech sectors are predicted to be among the top 12 fields that will attract venture capital in the next five years. The global bluetech robotics market alone is anticipated to triple to $50 billion by 2030, with a 12% compound annual growth rate.
 
Today, one in six jobs in our region are in the Blue Economy, which encompasses all the businesses, technologies, and activities contributing to sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth and improved livelihoods and jobs.

We’re spurring growth and discovering new directions for Marine Engineering and IT: Robotics and Advanced Data Analytics;  Marine Biology: Marine Ecosystems, Sustainable Seafood, and Aquaculture; Marine Biotechnology: Pharmacology, Natural Products, Water and Waste Systems, and Coastal Resilience: Hospitality, Recreation, Infrastructure, and Disaster Recovery.

It’s hard to overestimate the impact of the Blue Economy. Tourism and recreation support businesses from restaurants, hotels, aquariums, and marinas to boat manufacturers and sporting goods stores. Retail and hospitality rank second and third, just behind healthcare, in number of employees in our area.

Seafood is big in North Carolina. The NC Division of Marine Fisheries reports nearly 3,000 licensed fishermen sold 60 million pounds of seafood valued at $94 million. Recreational fishing is a $3.7 billion dollar industry and, according to NOAA, the state has the potential to make it $10 billion.

Not to mention transportation and commerce. According to a release from N.C. Ports, the Port of Wilmington recorded 36% year-over-year growth for general cargo operations, moving a total of 2.8 million tons of bulk and breakbulk cargo in FY20.

And, we have our challenges with both potentially life-threatening events such as hurricanes and long-term issues like high-tide flooding.

UNCW professor, Ryan S. Mieras, PhD, has been awarded a $926,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to develop an instrument for measuring sand movement at shorelines, leading to the development of more resilient coastal communities. Mieras, an assistant professor of coastal engineering, is the first full-time, tenure-track faculty hired in the Bachelor of Science in Coastal Engineering program, the university’s first engineering degree program and the first of its kind in the U.S.

UNCW has more than 100 faculty that are directly in the marine sciences, or in some way affiliated with the work being done to preserve ocean and coastal environments. Marine Science accounts for the majority of our university’s sponsored research. Among the universities in the UNC system, UNCW has the greatest number of undergraduate and graduate students in marine biology, marine science, and environmental sciences – and is the only university with a degree program in Coastal Engineering and plans for a PhD program in Applied Coastal Ocean Science.

Don’t let the ship sail without you. Contact the CIE.

 
Diane Durance, MPA, is director of UNC Wilmington's Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE). The CIE is a resource for the start-up and early-stage business community to help diversify the local economy with innovative solutions. For more information, visit www.uncw.edu/cie.

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