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‘OCEANS 2007’ Aberdeen highlights EU maritime research

On 18-21 June 2007, the prestigious OCEANS conference and exhibition came to Aberdeen, Scotland. Under the auspices of the Oceanic Engineering Society (OES) and its parent organisation, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), this major international event allowed scientists and engineers to present their latest research, ideas and developments in all areas of oceanic engineering.

European Commission exhibit
EU Research at
‘OCEANS 2007’

Speaking in plenary session, Manuela Soares, European Commission Director of the Environment Directorate at DG Research, stressed the need for an all-encompassing vision for marine research in Europe, one that tackles all aspects in an integrated way, including:

  • Dialogue with societal actors and policy makers
  • Enhancing coordination and integration
  • Exploiting research results for the benefit of the European economy
  • Raising public awareness
  • Improving governance

Overcoming fragmentation of research efforts is a key priority for the Commission, Soares explained. “Community research is a vehicle that streamlines R&D investments, adding value through coordination and the transfer of knowledge across frontiers.

“Ultimately,” she added, “we believe EU research funding has a significant economic impact; each euro invested in the Framework Programme leads to a mid- to long-term economic return of four to seven euros.”

Marine research and technological development has been identified by the Commission as a key component of a future EU Maritime Policy. This is recognised in both the Maritime Green Paper and in the Commission’s overall strategic objectives for 2005-2009, where it notes that an all-encompassing maritime policy should be supported by excellence in marine scientific research, technology and innovation.

Why Aberdeen?

Famous for its well-preserved historic monuments, Aberdeen is the focal point of the Grampian region. The old town and the fishing village of Footdee give the ‘Granite City’ an air of bygone days. But today’s Aberdeen is also a thriving port city and the acknowledged oil and gas capital of Europe – central hub for the North Sea oil industry.

Port of Aberdeen
Port of Aberdeen
© Peter Gutierrez

The city has a strong historic connection with the ocean, with a striking coastline, picturesque fishing villages and dramatic cliff top scenery. Aberdeen also has a history of research and academic excellence; its first University, King's College, was established in 1495. United in the 19th Century with Aberdeen's second university, which was founded in 1593, it forms the present day University of Aberdeen.

All of this made Aberdeen a perfect venue for the OCEANS 2007 conference. This year’s theme, ‘Marine Challenges: coastline to deep sea’ highlighted the many challenges, from the shallowest waters around coasts to the deepest subsea trenches, that still face marine and oceanic engineers in their drive to understand the complexities of the world's oceans.

Opportunities for young researchers

OCEANS also featured a major exhibition, including the latest developments from industrial engineering and science companies, research institutions and academic establishments.

Overseeing the impressive European Commission exhibit was Marine Ecosystems Scientific Officer Miguel Nuevo-Alarcon.“The quality of the presentations and exhibits has been very high,” he said. “From the Commission's point of view, we are pleased to have had so many people at our stand, asking for information about how to participate in co-operative European research.”

 

Miguel Nuevo-Alarcon
Miguel Nuevo-Alarcon

However, said Nuevo-Alarcon, many visitors were still unaware of the opportunities open to them under the EU's Research Framework Programme. “In particular, we have seen a lot of young researchers and people from outside the EU looking for information about research funding and details about our programmes and instruments,” he said.

The importance of the next generation of marine scientists was highlighted by a student poster session and competition supported by DG Research. First prize was won by Angela Piehl Harms of the University of Bergen, Norway for her brilliant work on water masses in Norwegian fjords. “The quality of all the entries in the student poster competition, coming from a wide range of disciplines, was very impressive,” said Nuevo-Alarcon.

Staying on message

The OCEANS event coincided with the EurOCEAN 2007 meeting, the culmination of the Maritime Policy Green Paper consultation process. The main output of EurOCEAN 2007 was the Aberdeen 2007 Declaration. Following the Galway 2004 Declaration, which had a major influence on EU and national research funding programmes, the Aberdeen Declaration expresses the latest strategic priorities of European marine scientists.

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