‘Blue- Tech’ Challenge could help Caribbean solve pressing coastal problems

Did you know that oceans contribute nearly $21 billion to the GDP of Latin America and the Caribbean? Oceans also provide services that are not yet quantifiable, such as carbon sequestration, coastal protection, and the provision of critical habitat for biodiversity. The Worldwide Fund for Nature estimates that these services could be worth $2.5 billion every year.

It is therefore not surprising that one of the Sustainable Development Goals focuses on the critical contribution that the ocean makes to the world economy, and specifically to the development of the smallest and most vulnerable nations.  In the Latin American and Caribbean region, 25% of the region’s total population lives on the coast, with that number rising to close to 100% in most Caribbean island nations.

If oceans give us so much, how can we avoid the over-exploitation of marine ecosystems and pollution that — together with the increasing impacts of climate change — are causing damage to ocean ecosystems and natural capital, impacting livelihoods, ecosystem services, and threatening human health?

We believe the answer comes from combining the blue economy concept with technology and innovation. Dr. Karyn Morrissey and others broadly define the blue economy as economic activity which directly or indirectly uses the sea as an input. We propose that this marriage of innovation and the blue economy concept be applied to address sustainable management of oceans and marine ecosystems in a holistic way. Technological developments must be explored, including advanced materials, subsea engineering and technology, sensors and imaging, satellite technologies, computerization and big data analytics.

These rapidly evolving technologies will certainly contribute to better investigation of ocean-scapes, improved monitoring of ocean ecosystems (including marine protected areas and fisheries), increased linkages of marine products to markets, and expanded access to finance for marine enterprises. These new technologies will also enable solutions for problems faced by Caribbean nations, such as coastal erosion, the proliferation of ocean plastics, and the management of sargassum.

The IDBG, through its Multilateral Investment Fund, and the multi-donor Compete Caribbean Partnership Facility  is helping this effort. The “Blue-Tech Challenge,” which was launched on September 17, 2018, seeks to identify business models or solutions that foster the long-term sustainability of the ocean economy in 14 target countries throughout the Caribbean (Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines).

Entities from the 48 member countries of the Inter-American Development Bank Group are invited to participate in this Call for Proposals, as well as those from Compete Caribbean beneficiary countries which are non-IDB members (including, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines).  Please note that if the proponent entity is not located in one of the 14 target countries, it should present a proposal in partnership with an entity located and legally registered in one of the 14 target countries.

Qualifying entities will be considered by the IDB to implement a development project to pilot the blue economy model in one of the 14 target countries.  Funding requests should be within a range of US$150,000 to US$500,000 for non-reimbursable technical assistance, and within a range of US$500,000 to US$2,000,000 for loans.  Please also note that the proponent entity should contribute at least 50% of the project budget, as is customary in MIF and Compete Caribbean development projects.

For further details, including the requirements to participate and to apply, click here!  The final submission deadline is November 30, 2018.


Dora Moscoso works for the Programming for Operations Unit of the Multilateral Investment Fund, specializing in the design, supervision, and development effectiveness processes of development projects. Previously, she worked for the private sector in Ecuador, her home country.

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