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Rapid progress for WATERBORNE Technology Platform

The maritime sector is big business; 90% of the EU’s external trade and 40% of its internal trade relies on waterborne transport. As a world leader in the design and production of specialised, high-technology vessels, Europe must continue to innovate, and this is the guiding principle behind WATERBORNETP.

River Tagus © Peter Gutierrez
River Tagus
© Peter Gutierrez

Supported by the European Commission under the Sixth Research Framework Programme (FP6), WATER BORNETP is one of a series of transport Technology Platforms that includes ERRAC, ERTRAC and ACARE. Launched in January 2005 in Bremen, WATER BORNETP delivered its ‘Vision 2020’ document just one year later, in February 2006. More recently, at the ‘European Technology Platforms’ conference in Vienna, Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik received the ‘WATER BORNETP Strategic Research Agenda’ (WSRA).

On that occasion, WATER BORNETP Support Group Chairman and Bureau Veritas Director of Research and Development Pierre Besse said, “Europe is a world maritime superpower. Our unique position is the result of a constant flow of innovation, based on a wide array of advanced European research and development projects. Implementation of the WSRA will assure this position for the next 15 years.”

From words to action

Michael vom Baur, Janez Potočnik and Pierre Besse
Michael vom Baur, Janez Potočnik and Pierre Besse

WATER BORNETP’s Paris Sansoglou says the WSRA is a milestone for the transport sector, particularly for maritime transport and inland navigation. “This important document represents a consensus of all actors involved,” he explains, “including EU Members States and the European Commission. The research community, made up of universities and other institutes, is also a key actor. The SRA specifies which research topics are relevant and what results are expected in the medium and long term.”

In brief, the WSRA focuses on three broad themes:

  • Safe, sustainable and efficient waterborne operations;
  • Maintaining a competitive European maritime industry;
  • Managing and facilitating growth and changing trade patterns.

Sansoglou says a WSRA Implementation Plan is now being finalised. Next steps include:

  • Definition of large scale projects;
  • Progress on financing of R&D projects, in co-operation with the European Investment Bank;
  • Analysis of regional, national and EU programmes and identification of synergies;
  • Establishing closer ties to other European initiatives and Technology Platforms;
  • The first WATERBORNE General Assembly, in October 2006, to coincide with the MIF Congress in Oslo;
  • Establishment of an effective structure and organisation to manage the results of the WATER BORNETP innovation activities.

Pulling together

Michael vom Baur, Secretary of WATER BORNETP and Senior Group Management Vice-President at Aker Yards, says the momentum created by WATER BORNETP among both industrial and research stakeholders is very strong and the WSRA is expected to have a real impact on the Commission's R&D activities under the upcoming Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

“The participation of Members States has also been very fruitful,” says Sansoglou, “although each state has its own priorities and responsibilities in the sector. We hope that the WSRA will now be reflected in their national R&D programmes. Several initiatives have already been launched with national clusters in order to achieve this goal, in particular in the Netherlands, Poland, France and Spain.”