Ireland’s marine sector has the potential to make a significant contribution to national recovery, according the Ms. Yvonne Shields, Director of Strategic Planning and Development Services in the Marine Institute who officially launched the new MESTECH (Marine and Environmental Sensing Technology Hub) research centre at Dublin City University earlier this week (29th March).
(Left to Right: Prof. Fiona Regan, DCU President Prof. Brian McCraith and Yvonne Shields at the MESTECH launch)
As an example, Ms. Shields cited the development of the ocean energy sector in Ireland including the development of dedicated research facilities in Cork, test and demonstration facilities in Galway and Mayo and dedicated funding for industry R&D projects.
“After ten years of concerted effort we are seeing a new technology industry taking shape, and it’s very exciting,” said Ms. Shields, “In my opinion the next major development will be the emergence of a strong industry cluster in marine sensors and ICT. I believe MESTECH and its partners will be key drivers and contributors to the development of the SmartOcean Cluster in Ireland, based on the key role that DCU has played to date in the development of SmartBay, taking it from a Marine Institute pilot project to a National Shared Research Facility which will be formally launched later this year.”
MESTECH is a flagship centre of expertise focused on the development of innovative approaches to marine sensing and communication technologies. The MESTECH team brings together world-class researchers in DCU with expertise in biosensors, analytical and materials science, engineering, visual sensing and image processing for the development of integrated monitoring solutions for the marine environment.
Prof Fiona Regan Associate Professor of Environmental Sensing in DCU and Director of MESTECH outlined how the prototype technologies under development are ultimately designed to enable the collection of continuous measurements in real time.
"In order to achieve this, new approaches to instrument design such as the development of specialist antifouling coatings to prolong operational deployments are required," she said. "The development of multi-modal detection systems combining data from physical, chemical, biological and visual sensor nodes providing an integrated picture of dynamic changes in the marine environment has also been identified as a strategic development goal."
A number of companies from Ireland’s emerging SmartOcean sector attended the event including instrument manufacturers, data and software specialists and environmental consultants. There are currently over 50 indigenous and multinational companies based in Ireland engaged in the provision and development of specialist technology enabled products and services for the Global Marine Sector. These include specialist monitoring, data management and design services for sectors including offshore energy, shipping, environmental monitoring and marine renewables.
The SmartOcean strategy launched by the Marine Institute in 2010 seeks to harness Ireland’s natural marine resources and specialist expertise in Marine Science and ICT in order to establish Ireland as a leader in the development of high value products and services for the marine global sector.
A key element of the strategy involves an identification of appropriate support mechanisms and the provision of target networking opportunities for industries, academics and public agencies working across the sector.
"As an island nation,” said Yvonne Shields, "our sea is a massive resource and, thanks to the good work put in by so many over the last couple of decades in particular, we are now poised to harness this precious national asset like never before. Our pledge at the Marine Institute is to work proactively with all stakeholders to ensure this potential is realised to the full. We know that in doing so, we can count in particular on the great contribution that DCU and MESTECH have to make.”
MESTECH was provided with €2.4 million in funding in 2007 by the Marine Institute as a Beaufort Award under the ongoing Sea Change national strategy for marine research, knowledge and innovation.