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Forum for Impact // Inside the "Building for the Future in the Blue Economy" Event

Recently our Co-Founder Jeff Stoike had the privilege of attending the "Building for the Future in the Blue Economy" event hosted by the Forum for Impact Americas in Grand Bahama. It was an atmosphere filled with collaboration, bringing together development bankers, politicians, non-profits, and innovative entrepreneurs from across the region.

The Funding Challenge: Are We There Yet?

Jeff Stoike speaking at Forum for Impact event in Grand Bahama with Michael Meehan

Michael Fitton (CEO Clean Marine Group), Jeff Stoike (CSO Blue Action Accelerator) Brock Mansfield (Principal at Meliorate Capital), Jean-Louis Warnholz (CEO, Future Green), Michael Meehan (co-Founder Forum for Impact)

One key focus of the discussions was the state of early-stage venture funding, particularly in the US. There were positive signs, with Brock Mansfield, Principal at Meliorate Capital, highlighting increased government and private sector support through a rise in funds and accelerators. Initiatives like the historic Inflation Reduction Act and related grants from various federal agencies are providing critical support to the climate startup ecosystem, with emphasis on foundational data systems and CapEx-intensive technologies that can transform our energy, transportation and construction sectors.

However, as Jeff Stoike, Co-Founder of Blue Action Accelerator, and Mansfield pointed out, the industry still has a long way to go. They emphasized the need for a quality-focused approach, prioritizing impactful sustainable technologies over sheer quantity of investments. Building strong relationships with researchers, universities, and governments is crucial for effective capital deployment.

Beyond the Lab: Bringing Ideas to Life

Stoike offered valuable insights on the current accelerator landscape, emphasizing the need for differentiation and vertical specialization to move beyond theoretical development and focus on practical, real-world applications. He highlighted the unique approach of the Blue Action Accelerator, which takes ideas into real-world testing grounds and leverages strategic relationships to make projects happen. The three key points at the heart of the BAA program are:

  1. Patient Capital: Investors willing to wait slightly longer than traditional timelines for returns.

  2. Physical Testing Grounds: Unlike traditional venture capital and accelerators, early-stage climate innovation cannot be confined to a Silicon Valley garage, a university lab, or other theoretical spaces. These innovations need to be tested in real-world environments. Creating "living laboratories", like Grand Bahama’s Conservation Cove by Blue Action Lab, in supportive jurisdictions, allows for piloting and proof of concept for new technologies, enabling their scalability. BAA provides access to real-world testing grounds in locations such as the Port of San Diego, Miami-Dade County, AltaSea in the Port of Los Angeles, New York, Monaco, and now Barbados.

  3. Regulatory Environments: Stoike underlined the necessity of working with modern, agile, and responsive regulatory frameworks. These frameworks should prioritize the development of climate technologies expected to underpin future industries in the 21st century. At BAA, we work hand-in-hand with the Grand Bahama Port Authority to provide permitting, infrastructure, and market advantages to companies advancing the sustainable blue economy.

Event Highlight:  Exploring Conservation Cove

Forum for Impact on a tour of Conservation Cove by Blue Action Lab

A highlight of the three day event was the experiential program, a trip to Conservation Cove by Blue Action Lab. Conservation Cove functions as a biodiversity restoration hub with a primary focus on growing the local sustainable blue economy through efforts to protect and restore key marine and coastal resources, such as mangrove forests, coral reef systems, and the Queen Conch fishery. The aim is to connect local and international conservation efforts with world-class entrepreneurs, innovators, scientists, funders, and community organizations to find solutions that are of immediate benefit to The Bahamas and have global applications.

Conservation Cove has already partnered with local conservation initiatives such as Coral Vita, a founding partner, whose high-tech coral farm works to restore dying reefs impacted by ocean warming and other serious challenges. Additionally, Waterkeepers Bahamas spearheads Mangrove Mania, a community engagement and outreach effort working to revitalize mangrove forests destroyed by Hurricane Dorian. The latest addition to Conservation Cove is the Grand Bahama Queen Conch Mariculture Center. This exciting project, in partnership with Florida Atlantic University Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, East Grand Bahama Fishing and Farming Cooperative Society, and Bahamas National Trust, aims to ensure a sustainable future for this critical species. It also provides hands-on internships for University of The Bahamas marine science students and educational and training opportunities for community members and the Center’s Bahamian staff.

Building a Sustainable Future Together

 Hon, Michael Halkitis, Minister of Economic Affairs

Hon, Michael Halkitis, Minister of Economic Affairs

The Hon, Michael Halkitis, Minister of Economic Affairs, emphasized climate justice, focusing on equitable solutions for climate impacts. He also highlighted the importance of a recent $30M project financed by the Inter-American Development Bank supporting micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) through collaboration with BAMSI (Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute). In early 2024, a BAMSI research and training facility in Long Island was opened, with the objective of nurturing talent and expanding educational opportunities in Agriculture and Marine Science.  Additionally, Minister Halkitis projected the blue economy's potential to contribute up to 50% of The Bahamas’ GDP, a significant economic shift.

Challenges and Opportunities: A Look Ahead

Nakira Wilchcombe (VP Building & Development Services GBPA), James Farrah (Head of Development Americas, Six Sense Resort), Madhvi Shukla (Development Manager, Waller Development Partners), Michael Meehan (Co-Founder Forum for Impact)

Nakira Wilchcombe (VP Building & Development Services GBPA), James Farrah (Head of Development Americas, Six Sense Resort), Madhvi Shukla (Development Manager, Waller Development Partners), Michael Meehan (Co-Founder Forum for Impact)

James Farrah, Head of Development Americas at Six Senses Resort, and Madhvi Shukla, Development Manager at Weller Development Partners, were on the panel at the 'Building for Sustainable Tourism' dialogue. They discussed the thorough process undertaken to ensure Six Senses hotel locations can achieve complete sustainability, emphasizing that sustainability is at the forefront of everything they do. This rigorous commitment provides great hope for Grand Bahama's unlocked potential to become the sustainability gateway to the Caribbean.

The dialogues also explored the complexities of blue carbon markets such as The Bahamas’ extensive seagrass meadows and mangroves. Meehan emphasized the need for a holistic appreciation of blue carbon market development through international investment, considering not just carbon as a sole asset to be valued, but also factoring in attendant benefits such as training for monitoring, reporting and verification, as well secondary benefits to industries such as fisheries and tourism.

A fascinating topic was blended finance, particularly relevant for nations like The Bahamas. This approach combines philanthropic funds with private capital to mitigate risks and attract large-scale investment. The key challenge lies in ensuring private capital is on-board at the design stage. This approach is seen as crucial for aligning stakeholders and creating coordinated efforts in policy and finance.

The Bahamas faces a hurdle due to its high-income status, which excludes it from the OECD's DAC list and limits access to certain international finance resources . Minister Halktis lauded a multi-vulnerability index that considers a nation’s exposure to natural disasters, economic shocks and supply chain disruptions. This could open doors for crucial funding from institutions like the IDB, World Bank, and IMF, which are vital for The Bahamas' climate and economic resilience.

The Road Ahead: Collaboration is Key

The event concluded with a focus on the importance of risk-tolerant and patient funding, as well as strong  government partnerships. By encouraging international climate entrepreneurs to work in The Bahamas, cultivating homegrown talent in resilience-oriented industries, and establishing a well-defined benefit-sharing plan for blue carbon development, The Bahamas can attract and sustain investment in its sustainable blue economy initiatives and serve as a global leader in the industries of the future.


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