The European Conference on Marine Science and Ocean Technology
Hamburg, Germany; 29 August - 2 September 2000
MARINE SCIENCE AND OCEAN TECHNOLOGY FROM FP4 TO FP6
2 September 2000
THE FIFTH FRAMEWORK PROGRAMME:
A PROBLEM-SOLVING APPROACH TO EUROPEAN RESEARCH FROM THE INDUSTRIAL PERSPECTIVE
Gian Mario Bozzo, Tecnomare, Italy
- The Issues
The interest for ocean and marine matters in Europe has grown in recent years, motivated by their economic and social relevance and thanks to the combined actions of different actors involved from scientific, technological, industrial and also political communities.
The long existing relationship between mankind and the sea covers three major issues: knowledge and management of marine environment, exploitation of marine resources and utilisation of coastal and ocean space.
- The Role of Maritime Industry
These issues feature important and direct implication for the European maritime industry on significant aspects such as the sustainable economic utilisation of marine resources, the quality of life and socio-economical development connected to the maritime dimension, and the ocean's role in the global phenomena of the earth. This industry represents an important sector of the European economy in terms of employees and of EU external trade.
In this context, the mission of the maritime Industry is to provide tools, technology, organisation, and services for knowledge, management, exploitation and utilisation of marine and coastal environment or to offer such tools to someone who wants to do that. The main criteria is always the economic one, mediated by considerations of sustainability.
- The Importance of MaST
In the last decade, one of the most significant tools implemented to foster the European marine research and industry was the Marine Science and Technology (MAST) programme. Launched in 1989 by the European Commission, and positively continued within the 3rd and 4th Framework Programme, this initiative has secured the substantial growth of marine scientific and industrial organisations in Europe and has stimulated the positive competition with other players in the USA and Japan. In addition, it has produced concerted actions on marine Research and Technology Demonstration (RTD) initiatives among the Member States and the European Commission.
MAST has given the opportunity for the establishment of a marine science and technology community in Europe that did not exist before. How "efficient" and to what extent such community is strong enough to act on a Global Scale and operate "autonomously" on the "markets" associated with knowledge and management of marine environment, exploitation of marine resources and utilisation of coastal and ocean space, is something worth thinking about.
However, up to the 4th Framework Programme (FP), the effective implementation of the RTD results to actual applications has been underachieved, in terms of direct use of result of the EU funded research project, business competitiveness and transfer of technology to other fields. This is mainly due to a lack of understanding of market requirements and an inadequate interaction among the actors involved including researcher, technologist and end users. In addition, the dynamic evolution of the market and the fast growth of new technologies and advances in other fields like information technology, space and intelligent materials, widely applicable to the marine sector, requires new approaches to the future RTD initiatives, and to the justification of them, both from the Commission and the Industry view point.
In particular for the marine industry, the crucial aspect is the different level of development of the marine markets, not yet properly advanced apart from offshore oil&gas, shipping and tourism sectors.
- 5th FP and Problem Solving
The present 5th FP has been organised in order to increase the socio-economic impact of the European research efforts on business competitiveness and daily life of ordinary Europeans, and has been mainly structured in thematic programmes broken into specific key actions.
From the Industrial perspective the more stimulating criteria of the 5th FP are the problem-solving and future-oriented approach, and the European social, economic and environmental objectives to be achieved.
The Problem-solving principle behind the 5th FP is certainly the most correct and in line with the present philosophy of public expenditures. But to what extend is such principle being translated into practice by the projects accepted for funding in the 5th FP? And to what extent those reviewing the project proposals are ready and equipped to tackle the multidisciplinary aspects of the problem-solving principles? Also, to what extent it is possible to assign a temporal horizon to the "future" in the "future-oriented approach"? All these questions bring to the identification of present limits of the 5th FP and suggest the need for specific actions to be implemented to improve its performances.
- Marine Science & Technology can Only Advance Together
In the past years, the relationship between Scientific and Industrial Communities has been more a "client-vendor", relationship rather than a real co-operation where both parties have a complementary role to play. In this respect, the difficulties in accepting the complementary role of each other, which characterised the discussion during the first years of implementation of the MAST Programme are over.
Nowadays nobody questions the importance of co-operation, but how to trigger, stimulate, improve, and increase it.
The success of new marine scientific missions in extreme environmental conditions often depends on the availability of advanced technologies while, at the same time, the successful application of technologies depends on a large extent on the availability of scientific knowledge.
- Examples from the Deep Sea
Two good examples proving the need for more synergy are relevant to deep-sea activities.
Marine research, for a better understanding of the deep ocean in the global phenomena, calls for the availability of suitable enabling technologies as well as of robust, economic and reliable underwater systems. Some of these technologies are already available to the offshore industry.
On the other side, the hydrocarbon industry is moving towards new areas for the exploration and exploitation of deep-sea reservoirs in several areas of the world (Gulf of Mexico, offshore Brazil, Mediterranean Sea, North Sea, Caspian Sea, Far East). In order to proceed in this development, the industry has to face the basic problem of achieving a better understanding of physical and biological phenomena affecting the deep sea, not yet well known, to properly design the subsea systems. In this case Science may provide the solution to the problem.
- Need for Communication
A clearer and more qualified communication between the marine community and society regarding marine science and ocean technology is necessary, with the involvement of all the different actors involved. In this regard, it is becoming more and more necessary to be able to explain to "normal people" and European society, including politicians, the importance of marine issues for the future of Europe.
It is the duty of the marine community to clarify why it is important to improve the knowledge and understanding of the sea, invest in identifying better technologies and procedures for management and safeguard of the sea and secure the sustainable development of its marine and coastal resources.
This communication should also provide qualified information on fundamental aspects such as the status of the marine ecosystem, avoiding emotional messages, which often characterises and limit the important debate on marine issues.
- Need for Vision
Recent dramatic events relevant to price of oil, the temperature increase of in the polar regions, oil spill and the submarine accident, confirm that ocean science and technology should remain as an important issue on the international agenda.
It is increasingly accepted that the future of mankind will depend on the sustainable use of the marine areas of the Planet. But, "marine technology is not a commodity!"
It needs vision, multidisciplinary skills, an adequate budget, proper planning, organisation and time. The timeframe necessary to develop, test and validate in actual operating condition new marine technologies, suitable to operate in very severe environmental conditions, is often longer than 6 to 8 years.
- Need for Training and Motivation of Personnel
Proper training and motivation of personnel involved is essential to secure positive results and qualified human resources to succeed in the preservation and sustainable development of ocean and coastal resources.
Effective improvement depends on the ability of the technology (science) source to deliver the desired technology (science) and on the capabilities of the technology (science) user to employ it. On the other hand, scientists in government and university laboratories and research organisations may be very far from the "marketplace" for their innova-tions. Barriers to the process may include lack of technology awareness among scientists (and science awareness among engineers), or lack of a trained workforce in terms of technical (scientific) skills, know-how, maintenance skills and organisational development. There is thus a need for specific training of people able to work at the edge of science and technology and for organisations able to bridge the gaps between science and industry.
- Toward the 6th FP
Considering the limited funding available in the 5th FP for developing new marine technologies, the project proposals should be more selective, focused and coherent with the problem solving approach to take advantage of the available opportunities.
In order to contribute to the preparation of the new 6th Framework Programme, it is important to activate a debate on how to improve Europe's potential and competitiveness in marine science and technology.
Considering the existing competition with other European key sectors, the marine community should convince the public opinion on the relevance of the marine issues, being more selective in identifying the future needs of the European society with respect to the ocean and coastal environment.
In particular, future marine technology needs to be focused on real industrial applications, time and cost effective to optimise both capital and operational costs, robust and flexible to operate in severe environments.
In other words it is more and more important to avoid dispersion in funding and to have enough critical mass to trigger the significant scientific and technological development that are needed to operate at sea, safely, in the right moment, in the right place, in the best way.
Finally, it is expected that next decade will take advantage of the Growing Public Awareness of the important role of the oceans in the global phenomena affecting our planet. Marine resources will increase their importance as a Source of Energy, Food, Minerals, Coastal and Sea Space. Improvement in knowledge and understanding of ocean and coastal areas is necessary to be successful in their preservation.
The 6th FP should contribute to increase skills and competitiveness of European organisations and enterprises working for management and sustainable exploitation of marine resources.
EurOCEAN 2000 | Joint Actions - Environment & Climate / MAST - Events |