Sioen wins the Blue Innovation Award with the Coastbusters project

Sioen has won the Blue Innovation Award with the Coastbusters project we are involved in. The partnership between DEME, eCoast, Jan De Nul, ILVO and Sioen is funded by the Agency for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (VLAIO). Together, the multidisciplinary team of companies and research institutes developed nature-based solutions for coastal stabilisation, leading to biogenic mussel reefs.

New coastal protection methods are needed

Coastal protection measures are becoming more and more important due to the influences of climate change, such as rising sea levels, intensification of storms, increasing beach erosion, among others. In addition, demographic evolution, economic expansion and loss of habitat cause even more pressure, meaning that the ecosystem is threatened.

Traditional hard coastal structures, such as sea walls and dykes, have long been the preferred way to decrease flood risks. Those methods, however, are now considered unsustainable due to their unwanted ecological side-effects. Their ecological, societal and even financial costs are very high, as maintenance, restoration and conservation are expensive.

The Coastbusters project

The Coastbusters project targeted a more ecological alternative. The result was a highly innovative solution by means of nature-based engineering.

Coastbusters is a public-private partnership between DEME, eCoast, Jan De Nul, ILVO and Sioen Industries. The project is funded by the Agency for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (VLAIO) and took place from 2016 to 2019. They searched for a nature-based solutions approach to coastal defence in front of the Flemish coastline.

The team’s innovative research focused on biobuilder species that contribute to coastal stabilisation. The initial experiments have proved that it is possible to restore key biobuilders at the Belgian coast, meaning that it can be used as a solution for nature-based coastal protection. The project’s reef growth has a positive effect on water quality, marine ecosystems’ resilience and biodiversity.

Since the beginning of 2020, the team has been working on the follow-up project, Coastbusters 2.0.

Biobuilder species

Biobuilders are also called ecosystem engineers, as they are “specific marine plants or animals that create, significantly modify, maintain or destroy their habitat.” Their impact on natural processes is positive and improves their ecosystem’s resilience. Biogenic reefs with biobuilders can protect the coast and can counter coastal erosion by stabilising sediments around and under the reef. Without that protection, the impacts of storms would be much higher.

The 2020 Blue Innovation Awards

The Blue Innovation Awards are a Blue Cluster initiative to “give exposure to promising projects, products and services of companies, consortia and government institutions within the blue economy.” Blue innovation is believed to significantly contribute to the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals.