Boot Director Petros Michelidakis on the Blue Innovation Dock
The Director of Boot Düsseldorf explains the background and ambitions of the first Blue Innovation Dock, which will be held on all nine days of the world’s largest indoor boat show.
The Blue Innovation Dock will be held in Hall 10 from January 21-29
This year’s edition of Boot Düsseldorf includes the Blue Innovation Dock (BID) forum, a ‘new platform for sustainability and transformation’, with a different topic (click here for details) on each of its nine days. The content partner is European Boating Industry and the programme covers exhibitors’ innovations, goals and developments from the international watersports community, and even European politics.
Free for Boot Düsseldorf visitors and exhibitors, the nine-day forum will be held in Hall 10 and has strong support from the yachting industry, with Groupe Beneteau as Performance Partner, Sanlorenzo as Project Partner and Pool Partners including Azimut, Bavaria, Brunswick, D-Marin, ePropulsion, Fabiani, Greenline, Princess, Sunreef and Torqeedo.
The topics for the nine days are, in chronological order: Leaders dialogue – business meets politics, Sustainable propulsion, Financing innovation & start-up disruption, Future fuels, Circular materials, Sustainable nautical tourism and water sports, Innovation for sustainability, Engaging NGOs and all players, and Engaging citizens and boaters.
Petros Michelidakis, Director of Boot Düsseldorf
What can we expect from the Blue Innovation Dock?
We had this idea for quite some time, but could not put it into practice because of the pandemic. The Blue Innovation Dock is designed to intensify dialogue between the sector and policymakers. We want to flag up the relevance of the watersports industry and encourage a legal framework that allows the industry to grow.
Now is the time to chart the course for the future. Our virtual premiere last August already resulted in the EU developing a watersports roadmap that will be presented at Boot for the first time. I am a little proud of that.
What role does Boot play in the Blue Innovation Dock?
We are the world’s largest watersports trade fair and therefore very suitable as a platform. We have both B2C and B2B visitors and all major boatbuilders and shipyards are here. Boot is predestined for intensifying dialogue. Although not pioneers in this field, we are ideally suited to bringing together the greatest number of key stakeholders.
Which topics will be on the table?
The whole cross-section of topics will be addressed. Do e-fuels make sense? How well suited is hydrogen as a fuel? How can marinas be digitalised faster? Can we involve water sportspeople to protect endangered regions? How will we be boating in 30 years from now?
To table the right topics and gain an insight into opinions, we initiated a study. In cooperation with ADAC, we polled 1,500 boating enthusiasts plus members of our Boot Club. This means, the Blue Innovation Dock is very close to the market, which is why I hope politicians and other decision-makers will be following it attentively. Even today, 100 exhibitors will be presenting sustainable propulsion solutions at Boot 2023.
Halls 13 and 14 will be dedicated to the Destination Seaside. Coastal tourism is a hot topic. Will it also be integrated into the Blue Innovation Dock?
The coastal tourism theme is highly topical and relevant. This tourism in the immediate vicinity of the seaside and up to 11 km inland generates €240 billion in Europe every year. Of this amount, the watersports industry generates between 11-12 per cent, so about €25-30 million. This survey was carried out by us in cooperation with the European Tourism Board.
A small aside on this. Boats only contribute as little as 0.1 per cent to the entire C02 emissions in the EU. What we’re talking about here are 6.5 million boats up to 24m LOA, which are registered in the EU. They have an average of 35-50 operating hours per year.
As an industry, we must go that extra mile occasionally because we are in the public eye, especially when it comes to larger yachts. I see them as part of coastal tourism and like to compare them to hotels, as they are used for living, eating and enjoying entertainment. And how many yachts are berthed in marinas that serve as a residence? In Greece, for example, this is very popular.
So, this is also about societal change?
Absolutely. Let’s have a look at how we will most probably be living in future. We will have a four-day working week. Young people will select the employers who can offer this and the boating industry is also fighting for this day.
We need to remember how the boats and yachts are used here. We must become far more digital and invest while the market situation is good. We have also created the Blue Innovation Dock for this, for inspirations in this regard.
Is there a willingness to change?
I understand from the response to the Blue Innovation Dock that the interest from the industry is very high. What’s more, the numbers speak for themselves. We are a market worth billions that can probably still be expanded if society changes the way many experts forecast. As a boatbuilder or shipyard, I could think about how I could participate in that market even better with my product. This will probably mean looking at use rather than design or propulsion.
Can Boot visitors attend the Blue Innovation Dock without any registration?
Yes. They can simply take a seat, listen and be inspired. We will make some 40-50 seats available and have already enlisted speakers and panellists to appear on stage. On the first day, there will be a session involving policy makers and business, so the initial course can be charted. The updated programme can be found on our website and will be featured on Boot’s social media channels.
Note: Part two of the interview to follow.