Dr Heffernan, ladies and gentlemen,
I am delighted to be here at the Marine Institute, and proud that Galway is
home to such a solution-oriented organisation.
This appeals to me because I am a very practical person, a 'doer', someone
who wants to bring about real change on the ground, and to make a real
difference to people's lives.
I am also delighted to discover that Ireland is in fact the third largest
country in Europe! I will come back to that in a moment.
Less than three weeks ago the Commission adopted a new Strategy for Europe,
'Europe 2020'. Europe 2020 recognises that the only way to deliver new sources
of growth and sustainable jobs is through research and innovation.
As Research, Innovation and Science Commissioner, I will be responsible for
delivering large parts of the Strategy. My job is to create the conditions for
a more dynamic Europe, where innovative firms are encouraged to do business,
and where talented people want to live and work.
My job, in short, is to work with the Member States, business and other
stakeholders to transform Europe into a really vibrant innovation economy, what
I call an "i-conomy."
In doing so, I have the strong support of President Barroso. His personal
commitment to the research and innovation agenda is solid. Under the Europe
2020 Strategy, we plan to turn Europe into a Flagship Innovation Union.
Research and Innovation are rapidly moving to the top of the political and
One of my first tasks will be to draw up a new Research and Innovation Plan,
setting out how we intend to drive forward the research and innovation parts of
the Europe 2020 agenda.
The European Parliament will be involved at every stage along the way.
The Plan will be ready by September when a special discussion on research
and innovation at the Autumn European Council is foreseen.
Grand challenges & the i-economy
Europe faces 5 grand challenges. We need to get down to fixing our problems,
Europe needs to get real.
Climate change, energy security and food security must be addressed. We need
to enhance the health and wellbeing of our ageing population, and we must
deliver a smart economic recovery. We need to innovate to tackle these
And it will be based on a broad understanding of innovation. The
"i-conomy" depends on a strong science base. But we must also be able
to transform our inventions into innovative products and services that the
For each major challenge, we need to connect up and speed up innovation
along the whole policy chain, from research to retail.
This is a new approach. I
want to assess and address every link in the chain. I want to identify and fill
the gaps. I want to find solutions to the grand challenges.
Our seas and oceans are essential to our wealth and well-being. The maritime
economy accounts for as much as 5% of Europe's economic activity, and in
Ireland has a turnover of €3 billion annually. Getting smart about our maritime
economy will play a vital role in Europe's economic recovery.
The sector supports 44,000 jobs in Ireland, many of which are in less
developed parts of the country. However, the potential offered by our oceans is
enormous but underdeveloped.
Overfishing, pollution, and the effects of climate change have dramatically
affected the marine environment, putting fragile ecosystems at great risk. Sea
level rise, coastal erosion and extreme events threaten our coasts.
However, with focussed research and innovation, we can address these
challenges and maximise the potential of our natural resources.
Maritime transport is vital to most EU trade and particularly for island
States like Ireland. The sea is a critical source of food and energy. The deep
seas in particular represent a new and exciting frontier for us, one as
technologically challenging as space exploration.
3rd largest country
As I said a few moments ago, it came as a very pleasant surprise to me to
learn recently that on the 'real map of Europe', Ireland is the third largest
country in the EU. The Continental Shelf around this little island is one of
Europe's largest sea beds.
This represents a natural extension of Ireland's land mass to beyond 200
nautical miles past our visible shores.
Although much remains undiscovered, this underwater land mass presents vast
opportunities for the Irish economy and places Ireland in pole position to be
at the cutting edge of marine innovation. This value should not be
underestimated – Do you know that every €1 invested in discovery yields €4 in
Making the most of our natural resources in a sustainable way and turning
challenges into opportunities are at the heart of Europe 2020. This is what the
“smart and green economy” is all about.
We need to pursue the exploration of the seas and improve our knowledge of
the natural processes that allow the rich marine biodiversity to flourish,
particularly in deep sea areas.
Our secret to success and economic recovery lies in collaboration across
borders and cultures. That is why we must have a single, unified research area
in Europe, within which researchers and knowledge can move around freely. It is
known as the European Research Area, and I am determined to make it a
For the European Research Area to work, Member States must see their own
research efforts as part of a greater whole. That means, for example, setting
aside sufficient resources for participation in cross-border co-operation,
something I know the Marine Institute already embraces.
FP7 & the bio-economy
Meanwhile, we must make the best possible use of European funding
instruments to develop the bio-economy. A number of collaborative FP7 projects
are exploring marine resources to produce biologically active compounds to cure
diseases, cancer in particular.
Other projects, like MABFUEL which involves two Irish organisations, are
working on micro-algae to produce bio-fuel. Micro-algae grow quickly and have a
high yield of oil per acre. Critically, unlike conventional first generation
bio-fuels, they do not compete for land used for food production. This is a
perfect example of how we can tap into the unexploited potential of the waters
Food security is another of our grand challenges, and seafood already
represents 20% of global protein consumption. This proportion will continue to
increase, and to meet demand, we need to further develop our aquaculture while
ensuring that our fisheries are sustainable.
The EU has world-class research in all these areas but we need to do more to
turn our research potential into industrial innovations. For example, the FP6
REPRODOTT project has produced a major scientific breakthrough towards blue fin
To bring this to fruition, investment must follow research, and transform it
into commercially viable production. We will need to find sustainable
ocean-based locations for the aquaculture sites, sources of feed for farmed
fish and new medicines to protect them from diseases.
In order to develop the infrastructure for projects like this, we need
better linkages between research and structural funds. Up to €86 billion of EU
Structural Funds is available for research, and this must be used to maximum
Single Market for Innovation
This brings me to my next point. A strong science base is not enough on its
- We must tackle the bottlenecks that prevent bright ideas from reaching the
- We must build a fully functioning 'Single Market for Innovation.'
- That means tearing down the barriers to cross-border trade in services, and
the cross-border provision of venture capital.
- It means finally finding an agreement on the Community Patent.
- More than this, we need to take a fresh look at our entire intellectual
- Indeed, we need to ask ourselves some pretty profound questions about how
best to foster innovation in the early 21st century.
- It may be by promoting the growing trend towards greater openness. On the
other hand, firms will inevitably vary in terms of how open they want to be,
depending on their line of business. Some will want to be 'open' in some
markets, but 'closed' in others. We need Intellectual Property Rights rules
that reward innovation while preserving competition. We will have to get the
Climate Change, Job Opportunities
In order to tackle climate challenge, the EU intends to increase our use of
renewable energy to 20% of overall consumption.
Wind energy should contribute one third of this overall objective and one
third of the total wind energy to be produced will have to come from offshore
wind farms. This is another huge opportunity for the marine sector.
Turning this objective into reality will require close collaboration between
the renewable energy industry, marine scientists and geologists to identify the
best and safest locations for wind farms. It will also require cooperation
between the energy and the shipbuilding industries.
Furthermore, we will probably have to move far offshore into deeper waters.
Not only will it be more challenging to install wind farms in such areas but we
will have to develop new technologies based on floating platforms.
I can assure you that I will support the cross-cutting research effort
needed to deliver these platforms.
When delivered, all of these new opportunities will of course bring jobs
into coastal areas all over Europe.
The potential for wave and tidal energy is important in countries with
Atlantic coastlines. In Ireland, wave energy could go a long way towards
delivering energy security, reducing dependence on fossil fuels and creating
Developing this potential requires infrastructure in the form of test sites
for new devices. I am particularly pleased that off the coast of Spiddal, Co.
Galway the Marine Institute is involved in the Sustainable Energy Ireland
The Commission will support this sectoral synergy by promoting cooperation
between the marine energy industry and traditional maritime industries. The
"Regions for Knowledge" programme can help promote such
Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to finish by touching on the core theme
of this workshop, namely the development of marine sensors and
information systems to monitor the development of marine industries.
Harnessing resources of the sea in a smart way starts with proper marine
In July 2008, the Marine Strategy Framework Directive was adopted. It
provides for the definition of a Good Environmental Status for our seas by July
2012, as well as monitoring and action plans aimed at reaching targets by July
We will assess this Good Environmental Status taking into account a broad
range of pressures on the marine environment such as the concentration of
nutrients, contamination levels, invasive species, and even the level of
Our ability to implement the Directive will require a strong scientific
input to help understand the combined pressures of human activities on the
We will also need remote sensing devices connected to smart information and
modelling systems that can turn raw marine data into usable information to help
policy makers make the right decisions regarding both maritime activities and
their environmental impact.
Monitoring the environment is not the only driver for such developments.
When human activities like energy production or aquaculture take place far
offshore, they can only be accurately monitored if we develop remote sensing
coupled to information systems.
These developments require knowledge integration between marine science,
biology, chemistry and physics, and Information Technology.
Smart Bay – Smart Seas
I wish to congratulate the Irish authorities and the Marine Institute for
having developed "Smart Bay", here in Galway Bay, which offers a unique
site for all scientists to test new sensors and monitoring devices in real
"Smart Bay" is a clever and valuable contribution to the i-conomy,
and is a perfect example of the innovative thinking which will lead to the
"Smart Seas" I want to develop.
It is no surprise that Ireland is pursuing largely similar objectives with
its "Sea Change" strategy. After all, it was here in Galway that the EU
Marine Scientific Community launched a call for a new approach to marine
science and technologies in May 2004.
The Commission heard the Galway call and listened. The rest of Europe has to
behave a little more like Galway Bay. By fostering demand-driven research and
innovation, I look forward to delivering a cohesive and prosperous i-society,
where together we will maximise the treasures of our Smart Seas.