Opinion piece: Blue Cluster to strenghten Flanders' competitiveness

Opinion piece: Blue Cluster to strenghten Flanders' competitiveness

On Tuesday June 26th 2018 the Blue Cluster was launched in Thermae Palace, Ostend. Earlier this year, in March, Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship (VLAIO) approved the Blue Cluster vzw’s application to become the sixth spearhead cluster in Flanders (read more about it here). This decision was the result of about two decades worth of hard work by many, including the province West-Flanders. Large scale spearhead clusters, such as the Blue Cluster, enable companies, knowledge institutions and the government to work together in strategic domains. These triple-helix collaborations are aimed at building an ambitious long term strategy to reinforce Flanders’ competitiveness. They represent internationally relevant key sectors, important for our economy and our wellbeing.

Not only does the Blue Cluster have a large economic potential, it also focuses on a sector, crucial for our planet’s liveability. The cluster will operate in six domains, more specifically coastal protection and the use of mineral resources, renewable energy and fresh water production, maritime connection, sustainable sea food and marine biotechnology, blue tourism, and ocean pollution and waste solutions. In each of these domains, a strong scientific basis and the support of digital technology and automatization will be incorporated. During the Blue Cluster launch, demo booths built by companies and knowledge institutions illustrated the possibilities for collaborations within each of the six domains. Ghent University was prominently present with contributions to nearly all domains.

The Blue Cluster will have its offices in Ghent University’s incubation center GreenBridge in Ostend. This incubator is a joint achievement of Ghent University, the Provincial Development Agency West-Flanders, the Port of Oostende and a few other partners. For several months already, these first three partners have been working together to launch a science park, focused on blue growth in Ostend, on a site next to GreenBridge. This site, officially called a ‘science park’, is to this day still an empty plain. The Flemish government has already started the construction of an impressive new maritime research center. In the coming days, Ghent University, the Provincial Development Agency West-Flanders and the Port of Oostende will take the strategic decision to combine their resources and vision to actually develop the science park, with support of the Flemish government. This will without a doubt involve intensive collaboration with the Blue Cluster.

Read the full opinion piece, written by UGent ambassador in West-Flanders, Prof. Carl Devos, here.