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NETALGAE


This project shall contribute to the economic and social development of peripheral coastal communities and regions that may be regarded within their individual member states as being areas that are at risk to population decrease due to lack of suitable economic and social drivers within the regions and communities. This project will strengthen the established enterprises using algae as their main raw material, by allowing SMEs, local and national governments to draw upon the regulatory and economic experiences in other jurisdictions and by allowing SMEs across the programme area to simply and quickly interact with each other and to exchange information and to foster trade and technical exchange.
 
There are a number of regions within the Atlantic Area Programme area of activity that have nascent seaweed industries, Ireland, Scotland and Northern France for example, have long tradition of seaweed harvesting, this was previously based on low value, high volume collection to meet raw material needs for food industry and pharmaceutical needs (Alginate, Carrageenan and Iodine production). These industries have contracted since the 1970s due to the availability of cheaper substitute material from the chemical industry and from developing countries, the quantities harvested and processed have reduced dramatically, but food industry applications still remain the main users of algae in Europe. The resource remains broadly intact and still holds the potential to act as a significant economic driver should regions focus on simplifying access to the resource and by supporting innovation and trade development amongst SMEs, the development of indigenous industries utilising algae could act as a means to develop and secure long term sustainable employment in coastal communities.    
 
The bulk of seaweed production in Norway, France, Ireland and Spain still serves food industry, this may not endure as labour costs increase in Europe and cheaper raw materials come on stream from developing countries, it is important to support indigenous high value industry to replace the migration of large industries to lower cost economies, by developing high value food, cosmetic, biotechnology, agricultural and veterinary applications across the transnational area, coastal communities shall be better able to adapt to new economic pressures and to participate in sustainable business ventures based on the unique natural resources located within the regions.
 
Norway and France have long established, reasonably well regulated macro algae industries that focus on the production of industrial raw materials, foods, biotechnology products, beauty and tourism focused products (therapy centres) it is for these reasons that partners from strategic regions have been brought into the project, Norway and France represent the most established and advanced areas for the utilization, regulation, and commercialization of macro-algae resources. France produce and process approximately 93,000 tonnes of macro algae per year, making these regions the most important macro algae processors Europe. These regions are key to providing the basis of best practise models for the management and utilization of algae resources across Europe. Brittany (Bretagne) alone processes 70,000 tonnes of macro algae (75% of the national algae harvest of France) and employes at least 100 people and supports 20 SMEs utilizing macro algae for food, pharmaceutics, energy and fertiliser. Similarly Norway harvests 180,000 tonnes of Laminaria hyperborea mainly for the alginate industry and 20,000 tonnes of Ascophyllum nodosum for fertliser and animal fodder.
 
Ireland, the UK, and Spain (Galicia) have moderately developed industries that focus on production of agricultural products, foods & food ingredients and cosmetics products, however, Ireland the UK and Galicia suffer from a lack of adequate policies and regulatory expertise that is hampering further development.
These nations and regions have been utilizing algae for various applications for approximately 60 years, there are approximately 70 SMEs distributed throughout the regions of Ireland, UK and Galicia that utilize macro algae as a primary raw material. Ireland produces and processes approximately 30,000 tonnes of macro algae per annum, supports 40 SMEs and directly employs approximately 300 people.   
 
Portugal and Spain (Pais Vasco - Basque Country) have less developed traditions and industry in the area of macro algae exploitation but both hold potential for the development of SMEs, Portugal and Pais Vasco are attempting to diversify their marine economies by developing endogenous industries that can support coastal communities.  
 
Small and Medium Enterprises are key economic drivers throughout Europe and the bulk of economic growth and job creation comes from these types of enterprises, the use of unique, locally available natural resources further enhances the stability of coastal enterprises by insulating them from globalisation and competition from low cost economies.
 
 
The most fundamental requirements to stimulate the growth of sustainable algae based industries across the transnational area are quite straightforward;
 
    1. Achieving sustainable, long term access to adequate quantities of raw material in order to ensure long term viability. To ensure that a workable balance between resource sustainability, environmental protection, public access to marine spaces and industrial development can be achieved, governments and state agencies shall require assistance with decision making relating to algae use, at present there is little usable information available to state agencies etc. relating to environmental effects and management protocols, therefore, decision making is being delayed and negatively impacted by knowledge gaps. A broad study outlining the various conservation, regulatory and developmental practices in force across the study area combined with industry feedback would allow the identification of best practice models for decision makers.
    2. Enabling enterprises to overcome obstacles to convenient access to information, personnel, services, scientific and business partners, suppliers and customers outside of their own geographic regions. At present the European algae industry comprises of a diverse range of enterprises ranging from micro enterprises to globally trading Small or Medium Enterprises (SMEs). The industry is mainly based in peripheral regions and most business, with a few notable exceptions, operate, almost exclusively within their own regional or national geographic area. This has had a limiting effect on the growth of many companies due to their inability to successfully interact and trade on an international basis, inadequate human resources, inadequate language skills, inadequate knowledge of product standards and regulations and consumer requirements in other states have been reported as impediments to the development of cross-border communication, interaction, trade and co-operation amongst Algae businesses.
 

By creating a diverse network of relevant stakeholders in the marine macro-algal sector it is expected that significant progress can be made towards developing industrial, commercial and scientific links and fostering a culture of trade and co-operation between the membership. At present there is a lack of communication vehicles, varying language capabilities, of functional contact points and limited knowledge amongst industry players of the resources and expertise that are dispersed outside of their own specific regions. A series of business tools will be developed: web-based communication portal, trade directory, training and development manuals. The project seeks to establish technology transfer initiatives and to support the formation of a European representative body for entities trading in macro-algae resources and products. The first European macro-algae congress that is focused on the bringing together industry, policy makers, environmentalists and regulators with a view to developing a sustainable vibrant industrial macro-algae sector across the Atlantic seaboard. At present there are problems in Ireland, the UK, France (Bretagne & Normandie) Spain (Galicia & Pais Vasco) with a lack of policies and administrative tools to support the necessary environmental research, sustainability management, industry representation and commercial development tools to support macro-algae industries. The study of national and regional development policies and regulatory environments will identify and promote an appropriate existing regulatory and development model or to develop a novel model that can act as a best practice model for regions to adopt as standard procedure to develop robust, environmentally sustainable and economically viable industries based on the utilization of endogenous marine macro algae resources.    
 

Main Objectives
1. To create a Europe-wide network of relevant stakeholders in the marine macro-algae sector. This network shall include primary producers, processors, relevant technology suppliers, process consultants, research institutes, environmental experts, development agencies, local governments and relevant community groups and interested stakeholders.
2. To carry out a wide ranging policy study to establish a best practice model and suggested policies for successful, sustainable, commercial utilization of marine macro-algae resources.

 

Actions
There are seven activities in the work programme
1. General baseline study of all national algae industries across the project area (stakeholders/economics)
2. Assessment of algae regulation, administration and management systems
3. Development of best practice guidelines for management & sustainability of algae resources
4. Development of a European algal industry database
5. Creation of a European-wide algae industry portal (website) and business tools
6. Dissemination
7. Project management
 
Expected Results
To create and support an industry network for the European macro-Algae industry and also create a number of practical business support tools such as a Web based communications portal, an industry supply and services directory, an industry focused commercial development manual for development agencies and the first industry-specific development conference on macro algae resources that shall also explore the establishment of a cohesive representative body to advocate on behalf of the macro-algae sector (medium term).
 
To provide all states and regions with a best practice development and resource management model to support national and regional governmental decision making processes regarding the development of policies, regulatory systems, administrative systems, management tools, development plans and resource and environmental protection systems. Regional and national governments shall then be better placed to set development agendas, to manage commercialization of macro algae resources and ensure that exploitation is sustainable from an environmental and economic stand point. (long term)
 

Detailed Project Description NETALGAE.pdf — PDF document, 347Kb
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