Into the blue

Innovation and sustainability with seaweed

The Capgemini Blue Challenge places seaweed at the cutting edge of innovation and the booming blue bioeconomy

What do you think of when someone mentions seaweed? Slippery plant life on a rocky shoreline? Sushi? In fact, seaweed is being used to develop cutting-edge products and materials and is on the frontline of the battle to combat the increasing effects of climate change.

Capgemini’s Blue Challenge innovation project has set out to prove just what an impact seaweed might have on creating a sustainable future for us all. The challenge is being run in collaboration with BioMarine, a global business community that fosters the development of marine bioresources.

But can seaweed really change our world? Actually, it already has. Seaweed is a booming industry that brings tangible social and environmental benefits by providing alternative solutions in areas such as biomaterials, carbon capture, industrial design, nutrition, cosmetics, animal feed, pharmaceuticals, and more.

And when it comes to climate change, it is estimated that seaweed can capture around 290 million metric tons of carbon from the atmosphere each year. It also improves the ocean’s health, helping it play a fundamental role in regulating global temperatures while also producing around 50% of the oxygen on the planet through the photosynthetic activity of marine plants and algae.

“For many people, seaweed is just a slimy green plant that grows underwater, covers a beach or holds a sushi roll together,” says Pierre Erwes, BioMarine’s executive chairman.  ”But for me, as a marine oceanographer, it’s clear that seaweed – which is the most abundant biomass in the oceans – can help to address everything from the environment and climate change, to food, fuel, and the production of bioplastics. That’s why seaweed is now one of the fastest-growing sectors of the blue bioeconomy.”

 Ready for the challenge

For Capgemini’s Blue Challenge, five startups were selected to deliver projects that innovate with seaweed to create positive environmental impacts:

  • Eranova: Seaweed bioplastics company based in France
  • Marea: Marine-based bioplastics company based in Iceland
  • Mwani Zanzibar: Seaweed farms and skincare based in Tanzania
  • Redrose Developments: Seaweed cultivation company based in Ireland
  • Zero Circle: Biomaterials company based in India

 

“For us at BioMarine, what is amazing about the Challenge is how Capgemini can mobilize around a project,” says Erwes. “With projects like this, people can participate at their own level on a truly global project to help solve some of the most important environmental crises that we face. In that way, the Blue Challenge becomes the beginning of an answer to some of the questions around sustainability. Sometimes, we need to try to change the world through a top-down approach. But you also need approaches that start from the ground up, and this is one of those.

Throughout the Challenge, the startups are supported by a Capgemini mentor and sponsor, and judged on the environmental impact, social and inclusion impact, and innovation that their projects can deliver.

“We have a responsibility to act for a better future,” says Eric de Quatrebarbes, head of the Europe Cluster at Capgemini’s Business Unit. “Supporting this kind of initiative, developing partnerships between large groups, startups, NGOs, and involving our employees, and our ecosystem in our approach, is, from my point of view, essential in bringing a significant and lasting change.”

“Carbon capture, reducing pollutants and slowing coastal erosion are global challenges,” says Erwes. “And if we foster the development of seaweed as a bio resource, it can help with all of these and more. It can really serve the cause.”

Innovating with seaweed

  • Environment: Carbon capture, nutrient capture, processing waste water, biodiversity protection, coastal protection
  • Biomaterials: Used to make plastics, textiles, glue, and in 3D printing
  • Cosmetics: Anti-aging, anti-wrinkle, antioxidants, anti-bacterial, and stem-cell products
  • Nutrition: Innovation in foods and ingredients, protein alternatives, and disease-fighting “nutraceuticals”
  • Agriculture: Feed or cattle, protein supplement for fish, dog food, and more
  • Industrial products: Material for biofilms, fibers, corrosion inhibitors, enzymes, and emulsifiers
  • Pharmaceuticals: Anti-cancer medicines, genomics, and marine-life drugs
  • Engineering: Composites building materials and construction, jet fuel, and more

 

 

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