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Open Access BLUE FUTURES, Blue Opportunities from the future: knowledge and tools to inform sustainable growth for an integrated terrestrial, coastal and marine zone economy

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Blue Opportunities from the Future is a collaborative project co-designed between the University of East Anglia, Blue Ltd., the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, Coastal Partnership East, the Environment Agency, Orbis Energy and the RSPB. The project is driven by a desire to make better use of NERC funded research in coastal and marine environments to drive innovation and forward thinking in the delivery of future sustainable management and economic growth. East Anglia is already a centre for delivering advances in this area through its research organisations, forward-thinking local authorities, active wildlife conservation organisations and the Green Economy Pathfinder initiative of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership. This project provides a timely opportunity to broaden regional good practice by taking a more marine-facing view. In the East Anglian region there is growing interest among the institutions involved in planning for the coast and marine sectors in taking a more integrated and opportunity-focused look at the long-term future of our environment. This is driven by a recognition of inevitable on-going coastal change and the potential for significant future changes, for example due to global warming and rising sea level. There is a need to think creatively, adaptively and in an inclusive manner, and to consider future change as an opportunity to 'do better'. By connecting the coastal and offshore zones, and working from a bespoke set of 100 year futures scenarios, this project takes a novel and positive approach to thinking about the future of coastal and marine environments in an integrated way. We are undertaking an innovative futures analysis to 2115 to explore the potential future opportunities, spanning land and sea, for East Anglia's 'Blue' economy. We are co-creating a 'Blue Futures toolkit' of methods and associated knowledge base with which project partners can go on to develop a Blue pathfinder for the region to help drive sustainable blue economic growth. This will provide an exemplar approach that will be disseminated to end-users in other regions in the UK, EU and worldwide. The project is drawing upon many aspects of the extensive portfolio of NERC funded and related work at UEA, Cefas, partner organisations and beyond, from ecosystem service valuations (natural capital), to marine biogeochemistry. UEA is well placed to deliver novel creative thinking on future opportunities for sustainable growth, with extensive experience of research into the long-term sustainable futures of complex environments and the impacts of environmental change on economies and society. Integration of our partner groups within the project ensures our work is targeted appropriately and beneficially to maximise utility for the development of sustainable management by local and national bodies throughout the UK and beyond. Planned Impact Participation, knowledge exchange and co-creation of outputs with project partners, stakeholders and end-users is inherently embedded in this project. Combining evidence from NERC science with the expertise of our partners to develop a creative, free-ranging, long-term vision for the future, will result in the production of relevant, targeted information, which addresses real world challenges. This vision will be applied to the multi-way creation of a practical toolkit of solutions (Blue Futures Toolkit) directly relevant to our end-users, and the development of an exemplar Blue Economy Pathfinder plan, providing opportunities for all interested parties. This interaction will be strengthened through a dedicated dissemination and real-world decision-making work package. Primary project stakeholders were consulted during our proposal design and see benefit from the following innovative project features:

1) It takes an integrated view of the terrestrial, coastal and offshore zones, which tend to be managed and researched as separate entities.

2) It applies generically applicable concepts and approaches to a real case location to generate solutions, which will have local, regional and national relevance and transferability.

3) It situates an exploratory, futurescaping research exercise within a practical context, by working to a 100 year timeframe alongside partners concerned with the management and delivery of long term sustainable coastal and marine development.

The networks, communication channels and professional impact building expertise of UEA's Marine Knowledge Exchange Network (M-KEN) will be utilised in this project to ensure maximum impact is derived from this projects outputs. Impact delivery will be facilitated by M-KEN's strong network of over 950 stakeholders (43% Policy/3rd Sector, 34% Business, 23% Research), including excellent links with UK policy/implementation bodies (it recently provided evidence to the House of Lords) and industry with international commercial interests (e.g. Gardline, Crown Estate). New stakeholders will be identified by an ongoing stakeholder mapping exercise linking to the M-KEN stakeholder database.

Promotion of the project from the outset through to completion and beyond will be via social media, the M-KEN newsletter and website (marineknowledge.org.uk), and M-KEN partner channels (e.g. Tyndall Centre, InnovateUK, Cefas, UEA Research) and through regular M-KEN events. For example, the 'M-KEN Futures' event in March 2015, where 100 stakeholders participated, including marine survey companies (Gardline Environmental, Fugro), policy, implementing and marine monitoring bodies (Cefas, Natural England, JNCC, MMO, EA), data managers from Crown Estate and EMODNet and representatives of the Satellite Applications Catapult/InnovateUK. This will maximise the opportunity for participants to engage with the two-way research and decision making process. These channels will also be used for dissemination of the project outputs (Blue Futures Toolkit, framework for a Blue Economy Pathfinder) to a wide audience.

With the strong partnerships involved we are confident that the work undertaken here will lead to measurable change in the way decisions are taken in the region and beyond, better informed by a vision of the options and opportunities of the future. From a local authority to a European scale this project will produce end-user designed tools and knowledge with NERC science at the core.
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Keywords: BLUE ECONOMY; COASTAL; ENVIRONMENT; INTEGRATED FUTURES; MARINE; NERC; OCEAN; SUSTAINABILITY; TERRESTRIAL

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 December 2017

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