The European seaweed sector transitions from harvesting wild stocks only to harvesting and farming seaweed. This transition comes with the need to rethink the role of the European sector on the global scale; insight is needed into the organization of, and innovation in, the global seaweed value chain. This article presents results from our study on value chains using Gereffi’s conceptual framework. A systematic review of scientific publications published between 2010 and 2020 was executed for five markets: pharmaceuticals, bioplastics, biostimulants, alginate and cosmetics. It is concluded that innovation in the use of seaweed takes place across the globe and thus that a focus on high-value applications alone will not set the nascent European seaweed sector apart from established producing regions such as Asia. The studied global value chains are organised around strong lead firms that require suppliers to produce according to codified product characteristics. The European seaweed sector needs to increase the collaboration and develop joint efforts to develop safe and sustainable products that meet the demands of regulators, lead firms and consumers. Stronger coordination in the value chain will facilitate further business development, by stimulating collaboration and innovations.