Europe is surrounded by oceans from the Mediterranean in the south, the Baltic and the Black Seas in the east, the Atlantic in the West and the Barents and Polar Seas in the north. In essence, half of the European Territory lies “under the sea”.
The marine environment represents a vast reserve of as yet unexplored natural resources. Simultaneously, the marine environment is in part highly strained and, as such, vulnerable to inappropriate future exploitation of its natural resources. Europe must protect the environment of its ocean areas, and at the same time explore and utilize its natural resources in a sustainable manner.
Ireland, Norway and Portugal believe that Europe needs to give higher priority to marine research in its collaborative research programmes and that the European Marine Research Community* is ready to meet the above challenges, given proper focus and organisation across the six axes of the proposed 7 th Framework Programme* .
In May 2004, over 550 leading marine scientists, policy-makers and representatives of the marine industry sector, from all corners of the European Union (EU+25), gathered in Galway, at the Irish EU Presidency EurOCEAN 2004 Conference. Their objective: to determine how marine science and technology can contribute to the achievement of European Union objectives as stated in the Lisbon, Gothenburg and Barcelona Declarations .
A first output of the EurOCEAN 2004 Conference, the Galway Declaration*states that the marine science community will work collectively to ensure that recognition is taken at Member State and European Level of:
The crucial role of the oceans in climate, carbon cycle and Life on Earth.
The major contribution of the maritime industries is the achievement of the objectives outlined in the Lisbon Agenda.
The essential role of marine science and technology in generating the knowledge needed to fuel this economic achievement in harmony with the environment.
The critical role the European Research Area/ 7th Framework Programme must play in supporting world class excellence in marine science & technology.
EurOCEAN 2004 was followed in June 2004 by a Norwegian-led Workshop " The Ocean and future aspects of the European Research Area” ( Brussels, 11 th June 2004)* .
This Workshop, attended by 130 participants, reiterated the Galway message and supported the call for a greater priority to be given to marine research in FP7. It noted that the oceans, including the coastal zones, hold substantial potential for European development with regard to regional development, transport, fishing, aquaculture, healthy food, energy, mineral resources and recreation. The importance of the ocean in the climate system of Europe, and as an indicator of climate change was noted. The Workshop agreed that a basic prerequisite for exploiting the potential of the oceans is efficient management, a carefully planned science scheme and a plan for business development. To support this, the Workshop called for a coherent set of activities in the forthcoming FP7 to secure a clearer emphasis on the business and value creation potential of the oceans.
The consensus views expressed at these fora provide a very strong background for proposing a much stronger focus on marine research in FP7.
Indeed the Brussels Workshop went further in proposing that Marine Science be introduced as a Horizontal Initiative with respect to each individual axes of the 7 th Framework Programme, in much the same way that each FP6 Thematic Programme is required to allocate 15% of its budget to SMEs.
Such an approach is justified given that Marine Research spans the 6 proposed axes of FP7:
Creating European Centres through collaboration Many aspects of marine research are covered and supported by current (FP6) and indicative (FP7) collaborative/thematic programmes (e.g. Biotechnology, ICT, Food Production & Safety, Global change & ecosystems, Sustainable energy, Support for policy, etc).
Launching Technology Platforms: Aspects of marine research lend themselves to large industry led technology initiatives, including Technology Platforms.
Strengthening creativity in basic research: Many challenges and discoveries remain in the domain of basic science. The marine environment, with its great diversity of life forms, will provide a natural laboratory for much of this research.
Mobility: Making Europe attractive to the best researchers: Marine research is international by nature and benefits from international co-operation and mobility of researchers and ideas.
Developing Research Infrastructures : Marine research demands the availability of and access to major infrastructures. Initial progress in this context has been made in the Report “ European Strategy on Marine Infrastructure ” prepared for the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) by an Ad Hoc Working Group on Marine Infrastructures and published by the Academy of Finland in 2003.
Improving the coordination of national research programmes: Again, the marine sector has demonstrated a willingness and ability to work together and co-ordinate research programmes. More recently (2004), 12 Member States have come together and successful won ERA-NET funding to establish a collaborative project “MarinERA – Co-ordination of National and Regional Marine RTD Activities in Europe ”
In November 2002, the European Science Foundation – Marine Board (ESF-MB), representing 25 marine research orgsanisations from 17 European countries, on behalf of the European Marine Science Community, prepared a comprehensive European Marine Science Plan (Integrating Marine Science in Europe, ESF-MB Position Paper 5, 148pp. ISBN 2-9-12049-35-0).
Science and Technology, the key to Europe's future – Guidelines for future European Union policy to support research. June 2004, COM (2004) 353 final.
For copy of the Galway Declaration see- www.eurocean2004.com .