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High-level support for 'Ocean of Tomorrow'

The new joint call for proposals for marine and maritime research is aimed at building the knowledge base for a sustainable growth of sea-based activities. A special 'Information Day' on 16 September 2009 saw two EU Commissioners joining forces to underline the interdisciplinary and cross-sector aspects of this historic call.

Sailing ship © Peter Gutierrez
Oceans without borders
© Peter Gutierrez

"Maritime and marine issues are broad and complex and spread right across our society," said Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik. "Today, Europe depends on the seas and oceans for 40% of its GDP. But we believe this is still just the tip of the iceberg. The full potential is still unknown. The seas truly remain, even today, a new frontier.

"Because the seas and oceans know no borders," he added, "the only right way for Europe is to work together, to bring together all the experts, across fields and across national boundaries and even beyond Europe."

Joe Borg, EU Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, said, "An enormous amount of work had to be accomplished to create this historic joint call for proposals. And we have come a long way to get the widespread backing we needed. A truly integrated approach to science and research has been the aim. This is a golden opportunity to gather the best scientists and to pool our resources, to harness the full potential of our seas in the most sustainable manner."

Breaking new ground on the seas and oceans

The 'Ocean of Tomorrow' Info Day © Peter Gutierrez
The 'Ocean of Tomorrow'
Info Day
© Peter Gutierrez

Within the framework of the EU's groundbreaking Maritime Policy, the Communication 'A European Strategy for Marine and Maritime Research' (COM (2008) 534), adopted in September 2008, focuses on the need for excellence, and in particular improved integration between all the relevant scientific and research disciplines.

This has the major impetus behind the launch of joint FP7 calls on major research topics requiring a cross-thematic approach. The 'Ocean of Tomorrow' call, published in July 2009, is the first Commission initiative to implement this commitment.

"The task of understanding our oceans is not an easy one," said the European Commission’s DG RTD Transport Directorate András Siegler. "This new joint call represents an opportunity but also a challenge. With its launch we take a step further in the integration of the marine and maritime research communities."

Cover "A sea change for ocean management: A European strategy for marine and maritime research"
A sea change for ocean management: A European strategy for marine and maritime research

The European Commission’s Communication on Marine and Maritime Research, published in September 2008, lays out an action plan for better integration of research among the maritime and marine communities in order to address the problems of marine degradation caused by human activities and to develop new technologies for sustainable development of maritime activities. A new brochure, ' A sea change for ocean management: A European strategy for marine and maritime research' pdf - 3 MB [3 MB] , based on that communication, explains the context behind its creation and some of the proposed actions and initiatives that will be carried out in the coming years.

Seigler also placed the call in the context of a number of maritime-related initiatives, including a series of forums and a new commitment to supporting 'ERA-NET' schemes aimed at strengthening the coordination of national and regional research programmes.

Joe Borg and Janez Potočnik © Peter Gutierrez
Joe Borg and Janez Potočnik
© Peter Gutierrez

"The Commission cannot support these initiatives by itself," he added. "We need the help of the private sector and the research community. This is no time for complacency. We need to continue to intensify our co-operation, both within the Union and with our more distant neighbours."

Key event for research community

Information Day presentations by Commission Officials addressed the rationale of the calls, modalities for implementation and details on the individual call topics. Experts also responded to participants' questions. In addition, a key brokerage session allowed interested parties to present 'flash' three-minute presentations, to start to build networks and launch new consortia.

The 'Ocean of Tomorrow' call, led by the ‘Biotechnologies, Agriculture and Food’ Directorate of the EU Research Directorate-General is divided into three broad topics:

  • Quantification of climate change impacts on economic sectors in the Arctic (€11 milllion)
  • Vectors of changes in marine life, impact on economic sectors (€12.5 million)
  • Sub-seabed carbon storage and the marine environment (€10.5 million)

For more details on the 'Ocean of Tomorrow' call for proposals, see the  CORDIS websiteexternal link