Robert Wilder is the chief executive and a co-founder of the WilderHill Clean Energy Index (ECO), the leading Wall Street index for clean energy. He founded WilderShares, which owns the index, and is chair of its index committee. He has a PhD from UC Santa Barbara and a JD from the University of San Diego.

Mr Wilder is also a co-founder of the WilderHill New Energy Global Innovation Index (NEX) for renewables worldwide, the founder of the WilderHill Progressive Energy Index (WHPRO) and the Wilder NASDAQ Global Energy Efficient Transport Index (HAUL), and a partner in WilderHill New Energy Finance.

He is member emeritus of the director’s cabinet at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. A fulbright senior specialist in Europe in 2016, he worked on innovative marine policy and entrepreneurship, and was a fulbright fellow in Fiji Islands on ocean sustainability across the South Pacific, with dozens of publications focusing on new, cost-effective solutions for the seas and earth. He has been a professor at universities worldwide, and received the National Academy of Sciences Young Investigator Award (twice) for his work in Russia for marine biodiversity, and in Croatia for coastal ecology.

This new ocean index will focus on the ocean economy, marine ecosystems and finance—specifically, on innovative products and services that can protect global oceans. The index will have a tracking fund and help fill a gap that currently exists between marine-ecosystem sustainability and the ocean economy.

The product will calculate live on the New York Stock Exchange and bourses and exchanges worldwide. It will bring capital to the task of tracking environmentally sustainable, innovative ocean solutions. This presents opportunities for reducing harm to marine ecosystems while drawing attention to key products, innovations and services that benefit and make use of the world’s oceans.

The ocean index is the creation of Robert Wilder, co-founder of the first clean-energy index, the WilderHill Clean Energy Index (ECO), which reached over $1 billion in assets in its tracking fund and grew specifically out of an ambition to conserve marine biodiversity.

Dominique Benzaken is an international public-policy specialist currently appointed by the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation (CFTC) as a senior advisor to the Seychelles government on ocean governance and the implementation of the country’s blue economy.

In this role, Ms Benzaken draws on 20 years’ experience in public policy and international affairs with government, NGOs and intergovernmental organisations. Her areas of expertise are oceans and coasts, climate change, sustainable development and islands. She specialises in policy analysis and advice, networking and building partnerships, negotiation and advocacy, innovative solutions and capacity building mentoring.

Her recent international assignments have included a two-year posting in Washington as an international marine policy advisor with the Nature Conservancy; three years based in Switzerland as co-ordinator of the European Union Outermost Regions and Overseas Countries and Territories Programme on biodiversity and climate change with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN); and three years based in Samoa as a coastal and marine advisor for the Secretariat of the Pacific Environment Programme (SPREP).

Ms Benzaken has a bachelor of science with a major in zoology and a master’s degree in tropical ecology from James Cook University in Townsville, Australia.

In 2014, Seychelles announced its vision for the blue economy. This involves ocean-based sustainable development for the benefit of all Seychellois, to achieve economic diversification and food security, to create job opportunities and to protect and ensure the sustainable use of the country’s marine and coastal environments.

Innovative finance is an essential component of the transition to the blue economy. The Seychelles Blue Bond, to be issued in 2017, will raise up to $15m to fund the transition to sustainable management of the country’s small-scale artisanal fisheries. The Seychelles government has been in discussions with the World Bank and the GEF on how best to support the blue bond issuance, which is expected to attract international investors interested in the sustainable use of marine resources. The issuance will be supported by a World Bank Guarantee and attract complementary funds of $5m from the Global Environment Facility under its new non-grant instrument programme.

The Seychelles Blue Bond, the first of its kind, aims to create a replicable and scalable model for other countries and regions interested in innovative finance for sustainable development initiatives.
Announcing finalists of The Economist Events' Ocean Innovation Challenge
The Economist Events is delighted to announce the three finalists of the Ocean Innovation Challenge, hosted in cooperation with Blancpain, as part of World Ocean Summit initiative:
  • Seychelles blue bond project by Dominique Benzaken on behalf of the government of Seychelles
  • The Open Source Tuna Blockchain tool by Nishan Degnarain from the National Ocean Council in Mauritius
  • The Wilderhill Ocean Index by Robert Wilder
Each finalist will present his/her innovation at the World Ocean Summit on February 23rd 2017. Judges will take turn asking questions to the presenter to help audience evaluate the innovation. The audience will cast their vote to determine the ultimate winner using The Economist Events App. The winner will be announced by Zanny Minton Beddoes, editor-in-chief of The Economist during the summit.

Secure your place today and vote for your favourite ocean innovator at the World Ocean Summit.
The world is in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where rapid progress is being made through financial and technological innovations. Rapidly scalable and cost effective solutions could lie in the ocean fintech space.

Nishan Degnarain’s Open-Source Blockchain tool, backed up with a variant of the Kimberley Process focused on tuna traceability, promises to solve data-integrity issues involved in promoting sustainable tuna production. The blockchain’s secure distributed-ledger technology could yield several new financial innovations and be rapidly scaled to other maritime areas.

This Tuna Blockchain will ensure greater value is captured by resource-owning countries, facilitate instant social audits of fishery labour conditions, fairer payment terms to supply-chain actors, and the creation of marine protected areas whose status can be instantly enforced.

Given the size of the tuna supply chain, which is worth $40 billion in retail value, its global scale and the critical role that the main tuna species play in marine ecosystems, tuna is the natural starting point for the application of a traceability blockchain that could be expanded to other seafood products.

Nishan Degnarain is an economist who holds degrees in international development from the University of Cambridge and from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. He was formerly a management consultant with McKinsey and Company, and then an advisor to the government of Mauritius on economic strategy and oceans. He is currently a member of the National Ocean Council of Mauritius and the monetary policy committee of the Central Bank of Mauritius.

Between 2013 and 2016, Mr Degnarain was the chair of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Agenda Council on Oceans. He was recognised for his role in formulating new economic growth models as a Young Global Leader of the WEF in 2013. He is currently a special advisor to the WEF on oceans and new technologies.
Submitted by Dominique Benzaken, senior advisor to the Seychelles government, Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation
Submitted by Nishan Degnarain, member, National Ocean Council, Mauritius
Submitted by Robert Wilder, chief executive officer, Wildershares