Minister of the Sea Ricardo Serrão Santos who believes the blue economy has potential to power Portugal's social and economic progress

“Deep tech” fund invests €30 million in Portugal’s ‘blue economy’

“Portugal Blue” – the joint programme between the government and Europe’s investment fund (EIF) for ‘blue economy investments’ – has announced a €30 million initiative with Faber Blue Pioneers 1 focused on supporting early-stage start-ups in developing innovative ‘deep tech’ solutions for positive impact on ocean sustainability and climate action.

For the moment little has been said about the details of these innovative solutions. Reports have simply focused on the programme’s backers and government and corporate enthusiasm.

Launched last year, Portugal Blue is a partnership between EIF, the venture capital arm of the European Investment Bank (EIB), Portugal’s Development Bank (Banco Português de Fomento) and the government, through the Blue Fund (Fund Azul).

While Faber Blue Pioneers 1 is described as targeting a total size of €30 million, including funding from Portugal Blue, it also envisages “private commitments from strategic impact-driven institutional investors like Sociedade Francisco Manuel dos Santos (through its investment arm Movendo Capital), the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the Champalimaud Foundation”.

Says the EIF: “Faber Blue Pioneers Fund has the ambition of investing in a portfolio of 20-25 early-stage companies developing innovative deep-tech solutions with global ambition, in areas such as blue biotech, food and feed from the ocean, ocean health, ocean intelligence or the decarbonization of multiple industries”.

The fund will be managed by Faber Capital SCR, “namely by a new dedicated investment team led by Rita Sousa and Carlos Esteban as Fund Partners and by Bruno Ferreira as Venture Partner. The team will work closely with a specialized network of expert advisors, including senior strategic advisor Tiago Pitta e Cunha (CEO of Oceano Azul Foundation) and scientific lead advisors Susana Moreira and Joana Moreira da Silva (Science and Innovation Officers of Ciimar) among other scientists, founders and industry experts”.

In other words, this is an overridingly Portuguese initiative, but the wording of the press release gives it an international twist. “The fund will also leverage Faber Capital’s investment experience and specialist approach in backing high-potential founders with scientific or deep engineering backgrounds. The firm has been an early investor in “hard tech” companies such as Unbabel, Codacy, SWORD Health, iLoF, YData and Abtrace, most recently through Faber Tech II, the Artificial Intelligence & Data focused fund also backed by the EIF and BPF via Portugal Tech”. 

Again, what this all means is not really explained. But the initiative has been warmly welcomed by minister of the sea Ricardo Serrão Santos who said: “We are very excited with this first investment of Portugal Blue, which marks a new stage of maturity of the financing instruments available to the blue economy. I believe that this partnership will have a key role in boosting some of the most promising sectors and projects of the blue economy in Portugal”.

EIF Chief Executive, Alain Godard, added that “the approval of Faber Blue Pioneers Fund as the first deep tech fund for blue economy and climate action in Iberia is an important milestone for the EIF.” 

EIB Vice-President, Ricardo Mourinho Félix reinforced this message, saying: “With this commitment, we are confident that Portugal Blue will contribute to strengthen the Portuguese early-stage blue ecosystem.”

Board Member of Sociedade Francisco Manuel dos Santos, José Soares dos Santos, commented that: “At Sociedade Francisco Manuel dos Santos, we envision a future in which a healthy ocean is able to coexist with human development. We have no doubt that the ocean will play a key role in humanity’s future and we think it is important to support entrepreneurs and innovative businesses that aim to find solutions to the XXIst century challenges. Our key role in the creation of the Blue Pioneers Fund had that objective in mind. We believe this fund is very well suited to support and foster relevant innovations in this space.”

Faber Blue Pioneers Fund is currently in the final process of registration and approval by the Portuguese Securities Market Commission (CMVM) and the team is described as “already screening the first potential investments”.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com