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Branson Centre diversifies programming with focus on oceans

Published:Friday | August 23, 2019 | 12:06 AM

Branson Centre Caribbean has launched a specialised component of its programme to help entrepreneurs who are building sustainable businesses that promote ocean health in the region.

Recently, the centre welcomed 14 new businesses to its six-month accelerator programme, including four entrepreneurs working in the blue economy. The blue economy is defined as the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, job creation and ocean ecosystem health.

“We have taken our proven methods in entrepreneurship development to support inspiring innovators to scale their businesses so that they can impact the ocean in a meaningful way,” said Lauri-Ann Ainsworth, Branson Centre development and communications director.

NATURAL DISASTERS

The decision to hone in on blue economy entrepreneurs came shortly after catastrophic hurricanes slammed the Caribbean in 2017 and put climate change at the top of the regional agenda. The centre’s founder, Richard Branson, was directly impacted by the storms, as his Necker Island home was struck by hurricanes Irma and Maria in a span of two weeks.

The Caribbean has 80 per cent more sea than land and up to 27 per cent of the global ocean economy comes from the Caribbean Sea. But in recent years, the region has seen marked environmental changes as a result of climate change, with disappearing shorelines, more powerful hurricanes, and longer dry seasons. This trend is expected to negatively affect the economy and population of the region over time.

That’s why Branson Centre Caribbean, the Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator and Ocean Unite have partnered with the GETCH Foundation to grow a cadre of entrepreneurs, ready to work to fuel a sustainable blue economy in the Caribbean and mitigate the effects of climate change, pollution and overfishing on oceans.

OCEANIC PROBLEMS

In its recruiting, Branson Centre targeted ventures focused on addressing ocean-related problems in sectors such as manufacturing, nutrition and agriculture, digital transformation and tourism.

Businesses from across the Caribbean submitted applications and after careful vetting, the following blue economy candidates were selected to be part of the second and final round of this year’s cohort: Yardie Divers, Cove Restaurant, Native Spirit Scuba, and JA Bioplastics.