AWE alumna makes waves in sustainable technology

Alexia Massa-Gallucci fell in love with the ocean during childhood summer vacations on the island of Ischia, off the coast of Naples, Italy, where she was born. She later turned her passion into a career as a marine biology professor and researcher.

Through her work, Massa-Gallucci, who now lives in the island nation of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea, repeatedly saw humans’ devastating impact on ecosystems — simply fishing or anchoring a boat can destroy seagrass. She wanted to use her knowledge and experience to conserve marine life.

She launched Blue EcoTech to explore methods of deriving useful compounds from marine waste, such as fish waste or washed-up seagrass, to support various industries. Changing from academia to business meant a steep learning curve, and so Massa-Gallucci enrolled in the U.S. Department of State’s Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) in 2022.

“I realized I needed training as an entrepreneur,” she said. “AWE provided that training and gave me access to a network of other women entrepreneurs who were in the same boat as I am.”

AWE has provided more than 25,000 women in 100 countries the skills, knowledge and networks to launch and scale successful businesses. More than 60 women in Malta have participated in AWE since the program launched there in 2021.

The program includes access to Arizona State University’s Thunderbird School of Global Management and Freeport-McMoRan Foundation’s DreamBuilder platform, which Massa-Gallucci credits with helping her create a business plan. Through AWE, Massa-Gallucci also had the opportunity to pitch her business idea for Blue EcoTech and won runner-up for best overall pitch, earning $5,000 in seed funding.

Woman kneeling on beach holding clump of sand and seaweed (Courtesy of Alexia Massa-Gallucci)
With support from AWE, Massa-Gallucci shifted from professor and researcher to entrepreneur. (Courtesy of Alexia Massa-Gallucci)

So far, her company has developed technology to convert waste into components for textiles, 3D printing and pharmaceuticals. While the products are not yet for sale, the company is advancing marine conservation.

“Blue EcoTech is also committed to raising awareness about the importance of marine habitats,” Massa-Gallucci said. “Even though Malta is surrounded by the sea, many people don’t know the importance of what they see.”

Blue EcoTech hosts educational events with experts and the community, and Massa-Gallucci’s team recently researched reforesting Mediterranean seagrass destroyed by human activity. Seagrass in the Mediterranean is critical for producing oxygen, fighting climate change, reducing coastline erosion and supporting diverse underwater ecosystems.

Now equipped with knowledge, funding and a network of supporters, Massa-Gallucci said she is excited to offer Blue EcoTech products for sale in the coming years and to launch an underwater reforestation program in collaboration with the University of Malta.

“If you have a dream or an idea for a business, try to make it real — it’s a thrilling experience,” Massa-Gallucci said. “Resources like AWE help make your dream a reality.”

This article was written by freelance writer Allie Dalola. A version was previously published by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.