In May 2010, Norway, Belgium and Spain were given the EU's go-ahead for a large-scale joint European marine research programme. The planned co-operation aims to boost knowledge of environmental conditions, marine resources and commercialisation in the seas and oceans managed by European countries.
The, 'Healthy and productive seas and oceans' is one of six new European Joint Programming Initiatives (JPIs). The new marine research programme will cover three main areas: knowledge about the marine system; knowledge for the sustainable exploitation of marine resources; and knowledge for use in political decision making.
Countries that sign up to thematically oriented JPIs agree to enter into binding research co-operation. Ten European coastal countries have already expressed interest in taking part in research co-operation on European seas and oceans, according to a statement by the Research Council of Norway.
Participating countries provide their own funding for these initiatives as part of their existing national research programmes aimed at international co-operation, for example. This approach is designed to trigger a significant joint research 'synergy effect'.
The marine research JPI will have a broad-based scientific profile and put special focus on issues related to climate change. "Common challenges call for more coordination of research efforts that will give Europe a better knowledge base for action," commented Simen Ensby, director of the EU RTD department at the Research Council of Norway.
"This is the case both for global challenges, such a climate change and the energy and food situation, and for more Western-oriented health challenges, such as cancer and ageing."
While Norway is not an EU Member State, it is a regular contributor to collaborative programmes and projects under the EU's Framework Programmes for research. And now, thanks to its strong marine and maritime experience, it will take a leading role in the 'Healthy and productive seas and oceans' programme.
"Never before has Norway made such a large investment in international research," noted Mr Ensby, who emphasised that the new marine research programme will lay the foundation for Norwegian research policy in the years ahead.
EU Joint Programming Initiatives, according to the European Commission, are designed to address 'grand challenges' which cannot be tackled effectively and efficiently by any one country acting alone. The programmes, set up to study different themes such as the management of water resources and joint marine research effort, help the EU meet its Europe 2020 Strategy aimed at improving quality of life and delivering new sources of growth.