Developing the maritime innovation ecosystem
To drive innovation, it is necessary to connect port agents with new activities, educational institutions, business support organisations and the availability of public spaces and cultural infrastructure.
City-port spaces are places of creative destruction and experimentation, hubs for migrants and travellers, seafarers and the cultural diaspora, places of capital accumulation and circulation of common goods, centres for new social movements, socio-cultural entrepreneurship, community initiatives, etc.
Understanding the port city as an ecosystem means that the actors involved should be able to reconcile economic and social values in an environmentally sustainable way. The economic actors located there have the opportunity to exchange and strengthen themselves while building a common vision.
So how can we make sure that when something so crucial comes up that triggers a reinterpretation of the cityscape, we can simultaneously deal with all these parallel issues where talking about city positioning and competitiveness is no more or less important than talking about environmental issues, mobility issues, participation issues, cultural issues, civic participation issues, etc.?
Recent projects in port cities have sought to create innovation ecosystems in coastal areas, with programmes to accelerate blue economy businesses, use industrial heritage buildings, and create new infrastructure and regulations for experimentation and testing. Old shipyards would be transformed into training facilities, educational institutions would be located in the old docks, special measures for entrepreneurship and social innovation would be designed, spaces would be opened to the public, and social and cultural infrastructure would be created.
Large operators are actually thinking in these terms [of new innovation spaces] and see the synergy of sharing space with like-minded companies. It doesn't just have to be [sharing a space in a] physical aspect, it can be about the intellectual aspect as well.
Chairman of the Board of Stockholms Hamn AB – Ports of Stockholm
The attractiveness of seashores grows with the coexistence of activities related to maritime transport with other uses and public facilities. The key lies in the possibility of cross-fertilisation and exchange between all these activities: traditional port activities and innovative and creative activities related to the blue economy; the integration of educational and economic development facilities; and the availability of public spaces and cultural infrastructure. These are the ingredients to transform port areas into innovation districts that have the potential to reinvent and change.
- Mapping of environmental actors with a focus on the quadruple helix: administration, science, businesses and citizens.
- Creating spaces for formal and informal dialogue and exchange between actors.
- Defining social, technological and economic innovation strategies at the level of the port district.
 Ravetz, J. (2013). New Futures for Older Ports: Synergistic Development in a Global Urban System. Sustainability, 5, 5100-5118.
 Witte, P., Slack, B., Keesman, M., Jugie, J.‐H., & Wiegmans, B. (2018). Facilitating start‐ups in port‐city innovation ecosystems: A case study of Montreal and Rotterdam. Journal of Transport Geography, 71, 224–235.