After two years of lockdown, the North Sea Conference 2022 was overbooked in no time. And on 23-25 May, North Sea enthusiasts were finally able to meet again.
The conference was held over three days in beautiful Bruges in Flanders. It was jointly hosted by the North Sea Commission, the Province of West Flanders, and Flanders Innovation and Entrepreneurship with support from the North Sea Region Programme.
Day 1: Diving for treasures
On 23 May, participants were invited to join a journey into the North Sea Atlantis. A hidden underworld full of treasures produced by our projects!
First in line were short dives performed by seven projects covering topics from urban logistics to community energy. And they had prepared to entertain as well as educate. See more in the video clips below!
BEGIN and Carbon Farming also shared their amazing achievements in “double dives” where invited end users told the audience how they benefit long-term from the projects’ legacy.
Ellen Kelder from BEGIN (left image) and Marjon Krol and Jana Roels from Carbon Farming (right) speaking with facilitator Sandra Vandewiele.
Next, two experts shared tips for projects to expand their reach and impact: 1) Giacomo Luciano from DG Regio at the European Commission, who offered advice on how to reach policymakers; and 2) Brussels-based journalist Gareth Harding shared insights about how to engage with the press most effectively.
Finally, the event put a spotlight on the PARTRIDGE project and their outstanding communication efforts. Consistent messaging and excellent storytelling have led to a high level of visibility for the project.
See clips from Day 1:
A special dinner
Did you know that the North Sea Region Programme has its 25 year anniversary this year? The Flemish hosts kindly marked the occasion with a festive cake at the opening dinner on 23 May.
This day was also a special one for the North Sea Commission: The presidency passed from Kerstin Brunnström (Gothenburg, Sweden) to Tjisse Selpstra (Province of Groningen in the Netherlands). Nina Knol has taken over as Executive Secretary from Magnus Engelbrektsson. Christian Byrith congratulated the new colleagues in charge and said a big thank you to Ms Brunnström and Mr Engelbrektsson for their excellent collaboration.
All aboard: the main conference
On 24 May, 300 people gathered for a lively mix of talks and interactive sessions.
Filmmaker Arnout Hauben received plenty of accolades for his breathtaking talk based on his film ”Around the North Sea”. In between amazing clips from the film, he shared a sweeping history of the North Sea, from the times when it was not a sea at all to the Viking era and right through to the present-day marine biodiversity and climate crises. A vivid reminder of the fabulous stories that exist in our very own back yard.
The day also featured three North Sea Region projects – Inn2POWER, BITS, and North Sea Wrecks – presenting their success stories on stage: Buildig capacity for the offshore wind industry, making cycling safe and convenient with intelligent transport systems, and getting to grips with munitions left in the North Sea during the world wars.
Bernard Malherbe of Jan de Nul and professor Carl Devos of the University of Ghent ventured into the future, such as prospects for energy production in the North Sea and the local impact of sea level rise. The talks were packed with food for thought.
The day also offered more interactive sessions including a panel discussion and workshops.
Buzzing halls and corridors
As always at North Sea Conferences, the audience enjoyed networking during the breaks. In addition, many projects had exhibitions where participants could learn about them in fun and engaging ways.
Watch the video below for a live throwback:
Day 3: GET READY!
On the third day, it was time to GET READY! This event was designed for applicants in the new programme. Participants learned about all the ins and outs of the new programme and also took the opportunity to network and get in touch with future partners and collaborators, organising meet-ups during breaks.
To Whova or not to Whova
Conference evaluations were overwhelmingly positive. Many appreciated the effort to make this event diverse and engaging.
The Whova conference app was a novelty for the North Sea Conference. As many as 338 conferencegoers downloaded the app and the vast majority said they enjoyed it, especially because it allowed for interaction before, during, and after the event. Participants used the app to share more than 1,500 messages (in private or in public).
A heartfelt thanks to all who participated in the conference and hope to see you again next time!