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European Research Ready For Maritime Challenge

Politics Education & academia

EU - Research is essential to the sustainable use of European marine waters. Over 300 researchers and policy makers are meeting at the conference 'EurOCEAN 2010: Grand challenges for marine research in the next decade' in Ostend yesterday (12 October) and today (13 October) to outline the research and policy needs for the next decade.

They will present a state-of-the-art overview of the issue and shed light on what Europe still needs for its “blue future”. European Commissioners Maria Damanaki (Maritime Affairs and Fisheries) and Máire Geoghegan-Quinn (Research, Innovation and Science) will participate at the conference and present the EU's approach to marine research as a trigger for smart growth and jobs.

"Building a Maritime policy without a strong maritime research is like building a sand castle when the tide is coming in", says Commissioner Maria Damanaki. "This is why marine research and in particular marine observation features so heavily in our recent Communication "Marine Knowledge 2020". More and ever better scientific data and research are a condition for fostering blue growth, for strengthening the maritime industry and financial services."

Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn underlines the huge potential of the oceans for human wealth and well-being. "Oceans are key to the Innovation Union and to tackling some of today's main global challenges. We need marine research and innovation to harness wave and offshore wind energy and to prevent disasters such as the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. We need sustainable maritime food resources to feed growing populations. We need to exploit the potential of marine bio-technology as a major weapon in tackling disease. In these ways and many more, science and the sea are ever more inextricably linked."

This morning, Commissioner Maria Damanaki delivered an opening address, stressing the importance of gathering marine data and of making such data easy to find, easy to access and easy to process. The closing address, tomorrow 13 October, will be by Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn, who will highlight the importance of marine science and technology.

Since 2007, the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme for Research has funded some 345 marine-related projects with around 733 million €.

The "Marine Knowledge 2020" initiative is the Commission's most recent answer to the marine science community's wishes. It calls for reduced costs for the sector, increased innovation and reduced uncertainty in future ocean behaviour; it encompasses the Inspire Directive, the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security system (GMES) and the European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet) – the latter coming from an explicit request by the latest EurOCEAN Conference in 2007. The same Conference also called for the creation of a European Atlas of the Seas – which is also well underway.

For the future, the Commission would welcome research on "bioprospecting", i.e. finding potential beneficial biological substances, on non-energy mineral resources, on renewable energy (particularly tidal and wave energy) and on safe technology for offshore gas and oil drilling in extreme climates.

EurOCEAN 2010 is organised by the Belgian Presidency of the European Union in close cooperation with the European Commission and the Marine Board of the European Science Foundation. It will discuss issues such as climate change, marine biotechnology (food security, environmental and human health); maritime transport, energy and marine spatial planning. It will culminate with the adoption of the "Ostend Declaration" about the grand challenges posed to research by the seas and oceans and how to address them.