The Mediterranean sea is a huge marine ecosystem with an area of 2.5 million km². The wellbeing of this unique ecosystem is vital for the health of the 427 million people living in the countries around it and the 175 million visitors it receives each year. Nevertheless, it remains fragile and continues to deteriorate due to the devastating effects of pollution. Effective decontamination is crucial and this is just one area where the Mediterranean Innovation and Research coordination Action (MIRA) is making a welcome impact.
Launched in 2008, MIRA is a dialogue and action platform encouraging scientific and technological collaboration between the Mediterranean Partner Countries (MPCs) and the EU Member States. To date, over 40 water-related projects have been undertaken in the region with an analysis of results due to shape the Horizon 2020 Initiative - itself aimed at decontaminating the Mediterranean Sea by 2020.
However, MIRA's scope goes beyond water decontamination. "We are constantly identifying other areas of common interests in order to create economic prosperity in the Mediterranean area. Energy, health and agriculture are just a few," says MIRA Coordinator, Prof. Rafael Rodriguez-Clemente.
With a network involving 30 partners in 20 countries, the MIRA platform gathers expert voices including leading scientific communities as well as policy makers and stakeholders, bridging the gap between policy and research. MIRA also provides state of the art information about EU and MPC scientific cooperation, offers training and capacity building, and organises events and workshops across the region to promote its work. Crucially, the project also provides vital feedback to the Monitoring Committee of the Euro-Mediterranean Cooperation (MoCo).
During the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership or Barcelona Process as it is also known, EU policy towards the Mediterranean countries became top priority. The EU and the MPCs expressed their shared wish for a Mediterranean space of security, economic development and socio-cultural exchange, made possible through association agreements between both areas. MIRA's objectives are in line with the Barcelona Process in that it has a structuring effect on the Euro-Mediterranean Science, Technology and Innovation policy dialogue and creates partnerships with several stakeholders such as the Directorate General Enterprise and Industry of the European Commission, private enterprises and financial institutions.
Prof. Rodriguez-Clemente stresses MIRA's European dimension confirming the fact that the project is of such a scale that "no single Member State could have provided the necessary financial or personnel resources." MIRA support is thus a clear example of collaboration initiative that could have not been led by a single country which clearly shows the added value of EU involvement.
Prof. Rodriguez-Clemente is also in no doubt about the return on the EU's €4 million investment in the project. "Results of MIRA are impacting the political decisions of the MPCs to participate actively in setting up a Euro-Mediterranean research and innovation space. The capacity building activities are now being used in bilateral cooperation projects to train a plethora of stakeholders. In addition, MIRA's cooperation with the European Research Area projects has provided a unique partnership between political authorities responsible for research and innovation and centres of excellence," he says.
The future is bright for MIRA which looks set to continue with further projects building on the impressive results already achieved throughout the Mediterranean area.
So, next time you're on holiday in southern Europe, be sure to look out for the "MIRA effect". You may be surprised.
Project acronym: MIRA
Participants: Spain(Coordinator), Turkey, Germany, Italy, Malta, Algeria, Portugal, Jordan, Egypt, United Kingdom, Lebanon, Bosnia & Herzegovina, West Bank & Gaza strip, Montenegro, Tunisia, France, Israël, Cyprus, Greece,Montenegro, Morocco