Navigating the Blue Economy: European Funding, Doughnut Economics, and Sustainable Fisheries in the Mediterranean



 In the global pursuit of sustainability, the blue economy has emerged as a pivotal concept, particularly underscored during the 2012 Rio +20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. Embracing ocean-related industries and sectors, this paradigm shift prioritizes sustainability over conventional business practices. However, assessing the efficacy of the blue economy amidst pressing ecological crises remains a complex endeavor, necessitating innovative approaches and collaborative efforts to navigate these challenges. In this context, can European funding initiatives emerge as critical drivers of cooperation, serving as vehicles to foster innovation and collective action towards sustainability?  

 Amidst this backdrop, the European Commission’s blue economy initiatives have catalysed collaborative efforts to address pressing challenges within the marine sector. For instance, the “Initiative for the sustainable development of the blue economy in the western Mediterranean,” launched in partnership with the Union for the Mediterranean, exemplifies a concerted effort to promote sustainability in marine activities. However, despite such initiatives, the sustainability of Mediterranean fisheries remains a pressing concern, with 90% of fish stocks in the region deemed unsustainable by the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean Sea (GFCM).  

 In the present text, we reflect about the innovative framework gaining traction, the Doughnut Economics proposed by Kate Raworth, about the case study developed in the Mediterranean Spanish fishing sector and about delicate balance the world has to strike in order to achieve true sustainability.   green doughnut 2

The Doughnut Economics framework and the Western Mediterranean Fisheries Case Study  


 The Doughnut Economics framework, introduced by Kate Raworth, presents a compelling vision for economic development that harmonizes human well-being with planetary boundaries. Represented by the iconic doughnut shape, this framework delineates the space within which humanity can thrive without overshooting the Earth’s ecological limits. At its core, the doughnut emphasizes the need for distributive and regenerative economic practices, aiming to create a more equitable and sustainable world.  

 Ortega’s, Coll’s and Ramírez’s case study took a look into the purse-seiners economic sector in the Northwestern Mediterranean Sea, applying the principles of the Doughnut Economics framework to assess the sustainability of fisheries within this region. The findings paint a stark picture of an industry facing significant ecological and social challenges. Despite contributing substantially to the regional economy, purse seiners operate within an ecologically unsafe and socially unjust context.  


Ecological Challenges and Fisheries Management  


 One of the primary ecological challenges identified in this study was the overexploitation of key fish species, such as European anchovy and sardine, due to climate impacts and fishing pressure. The decline in biomass and abundance of these species underscores the urgency of transitioning towards sustainable fishing practices. The Doughnut Economics framework highlights the interconnectedness of ecological processes, emphasizing the importance of holistic approaches to fisheries management.  

 In summary, their analysis suggests that reducing total fishing pressure alone may not suffice to address ecological concerns. Instead, an ecosystem-based approach that considers the broader ecosystem dynamics is essential. Measures such as establishing protected areas and addressing interactions with other fisheries can help restore ecosystem functioning while minimizing adverse impacts on economic profitability. By aligning fisheries management strategies with the principles of the Doughnut Economics framework, we can strive for a more ecologically sustainable fishing industry.  


Social and Economic Considerations  


 Furthermore, their study highlights the significant social and economic issues within the purse-seiner fishing community. Low profit margins and high reliance on catch volumes pose viability concerns for many businesses in the sector. Moreover, disparities in wages and working conditions, particularly among non-EU citizens, underscore the need for social justice and equity in fisheries management.  

 The Doughnut Economics framework provides a lens through which to examine these social and economic dimensions of sustainability. By emphasizing the importance of social livelihoods and governance structures, the framework encourages policymakers to prioritize initiatives that promote equitable distribution of resources and opportunities within the fishing industry. Strategies such as collective bargaining and investment in workforce development can help address the systemic inequalities identified in the study.  


Moving Towards Sustainability: Challenges and Opportunities  


 These interesting findings prompt a reflection. True sustainability, encompassing ecological, social, and economic dimensions, presents a formidable challenge. A challenge that takes the collaboration of people, organizations and nations. Not only that, but those intricate players must leverage innovation and further develop it in order to really surpass these aforementioned challenges.  

 In addition, this case study does an amazing job of showing that sustainability for the sake of sustainability is not enough. Innovation for the sake of innovation, just the same, is not enough. It takes complex frameworks, trials and errors, and real minds to employ truly sustainable change. That said, and to put it simply, none of that is quite possible without money. Entering the European funding initiatives. It can be a pivotal piece in fostering cooperation among stakeholders in order to catalyze the transition towards the desired blue economy.  

 More specifically, European funding can play a crucial role in providing resources for innovative sustainability, such as funded research, technology, and capacity building. As stated, funding fosters is also fundamental is fostering collaboration among governments, industry stakeholders, and civil society organizations.  

 So, do you want to be part of the change? Reach out to us. At Impact Funding Europe, it’s our mission to be part of this process, easing it and lightening the administrative weight of it, so our partners can do what they do best: innovating and implementing.  




In conclusion, the application of the Doughnut Economics framework to the fisheries sector offers valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities of transitioning towards sustainability. By integrating ecological, social, and economic considerations, this holistic approach provides a comprehensive perspective on fisheries management. Moving forward, it is imperative that policymakers, industry stakeholders, and researchers continue to collaborate and innovate in pursuit of a more equitable and sustainable blue economy and it is of most importance that the European funding is used to its maximum potential in order to drive change. Which is its purpose in the first place. But that purpose can only be fulfilled by making good use of the calls for proposals, and by gathering key consortiums in a deliberate attempt to design the future. That purpose can only be fulfilled by you.  


If interested, check out the aforementioned article here.



Clean Energy

In 2019 the EU completed a comprehensive update of its energy policy framework to facilitate the transition away from fossil fuels towards cleaner energy and to deliver on the EU’s Paris Agreement commitments for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The agreement on this new energy rulebook – called the Clean energy for all Europeans package – marked a significant step towards the implementation of the energy union strategy, published in 2015.

Climate, Energy and Mobility is the focus for Cluster 5 in Horizon Europe. This clusters aims to fight climate change by better understanding its causes, evolution, risks, impacts and opportunities, and by making the energy and transport sectors more climate and environment-friendly, more efficient and competitive, smarter, safer and more resilient

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Sophie Glaser-Deruelle

Senior Consultant

Sophie is a mission-driven, analytic, and reliable consultant. Her focus is on the development of projects, and writing public funding bids and grant proposals for R&D. She holds an MA in International Relations and European Studies and has a strong background in SME development and enabling SMEs and Start-ups to access markets and funding.

Sophie has over 10 years of experience in EU funding and project implementation including international project development, tender and funding proposal writing, policy development, implementation, and project management. At IFE, Sophie is a Senior Consultant and Project Development expert. She aids companies in defining their R&D needs and aligning them to calls, this includes ideation and development of projects, consortium building and writing proposals for EU funding.

Olaf-Gerd Gemein

Olaf Gerd Gemein


Olaf is a passionate Serial Entrepreneur and Business Architect with a specific ambition: to be a change catalyst!

With over 30 years of practical experience in various markets in Europe, Asia, North and South America and Canada, he has successfully supported more than 100 projects in the ICT sector. His contributions have focused on accelerating start-up and innovation clusters, building networks, products and services from scratch, facilitating and implementing go-to-market strategies. He is frequently asked to speak at conferences and facilitate networking on smart tech topics around the world.

Peter Schottes

Peter Schottes

Eisenschmidt Consulting

Peter holds a PhD in nature science (climate impact research), worked as a project manager for software development and as a freelance consultant. He is managing director and shareholder of Eisenschmidt Consulting Crew in Kiel, Germany. He is a specialist in transformation projects and works as a sparring partner for top executives. His focus in on strategy development, digital transformation and concept development.

Peter is active as advisor for StartUps and Angel investor. At IFE he overlooks the entire process of community building, stakeholder management and is also responsible for the project kick-offs.

Alex neu

Alex Chalkley


Alex has a BSc in Mathematics, Economics & Computing and has already built a market-leading R&D Funding Consultancy in the UK from 2009 to 2019. Alex has developed funding bids, mainly in the form of R&D Grant Applications, that have secured over €60m for clients operating at the forefront of technology innovation. Venturenomix, focuses on supporting Impact Ventures by offering specialist funding related consultancy services to ambitious people seeking funding for good projects. At IFE, Alex is Managing Director and responsible for all aspects of the business, in particular recruiting, mentoring and adding value to the EU Grant Writing Consultants working on multi-million Euro EU Grant Applications.


Smart City

A smart city is a place where traditional networks and services are made more efficient with the use of digital and telecommunication technologies for the benefit of its inhabitants and business. 

A smart city goes beyond the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) for better resource use and less emissions. It means smarter urban transport networks, upgraded water supply and waste disposal facilities and more efficient ways to light and heat buildings. It also means a more interactive and responsive city administration, safer public spaces and meeting the needs of an ageing population. Last not least, it aims to make a city a healthier, more sustainable and more attractive place to be for its residents and visitors.

More than half of the world’s population now lives in urban areas. This is expected to reach 80% by 2050. Cities and metropolitan areas are centres of economic activity, knowledge generation, innovation and new technologies. Cities influence the quality of life of citizens who live or work in them and they are major contributors to global challenges.

A mission in this area will help us meet the goals and targets set out by international policy frameworks such as the COP21 Paris Agreement, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (notably SDG11), the Urban Agenda for the EU and the Habitat III New Urban Agenda as cities play a key role in all of them.

Read more here.

Recent Projects


Green Deal

The European Green Deal sets out how to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. It maps a new, sustainable and inclusive growth strategy to boost the economy, improve people’s health and quality of life, care for nature, and leave no one behind.

The Green Deal spans and informs all of the Horizon Europe Pillars and Destinations. As such, there is no dedicated funding programme, apart from Horizon Europe itself. This strategy underpins Horizon Europe funding from 2021-2027. You can read more about the Pillars and funding opportunities here.

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Open Data

The success of Europe’s digital transformation will depend on establishing effective rules to ensure trustworthy technologies, to give businesses the confidence and means to digitise, and to ensure highest privacy standards for citizens. The Data Strategy and the White Paper on Artificial Intelligence are the first pillars of the new digital strategy of the Commission. They all focus on the need to put people first in developing technology, as well as on the need to defend and promote European values and rights in how we design, make and deploy technology in the economy.

The European strategy for data aims at creating a single market for data that will ensure Europe’s global competitiveness and data sovereignty. Common European data spaces will ensure that more data becomes available for use in the economy and society, while keeping companies and individuals who generate the data in control.

Cluster 4 in Horizon Europe is dedicated to Digital, Industry and Space. The overarching vision behind the proposed investments under Cluster 4 is that of Europe shaping competitive and trusted technologies for a European industry with global leadership in key areas, enabling production and consumption to respect the boundaries of our planet, and maximising the benefits for all parts of society in the variety of social, economic and territorial contexts in Europe.

This will build a competitive, digital, low-carbon and circular industry, ensure sustainable supply of raw materials, develop advanced materials and provide the basis for advances and innovation in  global challenges to society.

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The European Green Deal calls for a 90% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from transport in order for the EU to become a climate-neutral economy by 2050, while also working towards a zero-pollution ambition. To achieve this systemic change, we need to (1) make all transport modes more sustainable, (2) make sustainable alternatives widely available in a multimodal transport system and (3) put in place the right incentives to drive the transition.

Climate, Energy and Mobility is the focus for Cluster 5 in Horizon Europe. This clusters aims to fight climate change by better understanding its causes, evolution, risks, impacts and opportunities, and by making the energy and transport sectors more climate and environment-friendly, more efficient and competitive, smarter, safer and more resilient

More information here.

Recent Projects



The Farm to Fork Strategy is at the heart of the Green Deal. It addresses comprehensively the challenges of sustainable food systems and recognises the inextricable links between healthy people, healthy societies and a healthy planet. The strategy is also central to the Commission’s agenda to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). All citizens and operators across value chains, in the EU and elsewhere, should benefit from a just transition, especially in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic downturn. A shift to a sustainable food system can bring environmental, health and social benefits, offer economic gains and ensure that the recovery from the crisis puts us onto a sustainable path. Ensuring a sustainable livelihood for primary producers, who still lag behind in terms of income, is essential for the success of the recovery and the transition.

Cluster 6 under Horizon Europe ringfences innovation grant funding for Food, Bioeconomy, Natural Resouces, Agriculture & Environment. This cluster aims at reducing environmental degradation, halting and reversing the decline of biodiversity on land, inland waters and sea and better managing natural resources through transformative changes of the economy and society in both urban and rural areas. It will ensure food and nutrition security for all within planetary boundaries through knowledge, innovation and digitalisation in agriculture, fisheries, aquaculture and food systems and steer and accelerate the transition to a low carbon, resource efficient circular economy and sustainable bioeconomy, including forestry.

More information here.

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