Eurofleets+, which facilitates access to the largest advanced research vessel fleet across Europe, Greenland, USA, Canada, Bermuda and New Zealand, has been officially launched at SeaFest in Cork.
The Marine Institute is the coordinator of Eurofleets+, which includes a consortium of 42 marine institutes, universities, foundations and SMEs from 24 countries across Europe, North America and Oceania, with funding of €9.9 million. The project follows on the success of two previous Eurofleets projects.
Dr Peter Heffernan, CEO of the Marine Institute, said Eurofleets+ highlighted, "the importance of international collaboration of marine research and the continued dedication required to meet the evolving needs of marine and maritime activities around the world. Eurofleets+ is intentionally ambitious, building on achievements in the two preceding Eurofleets projects and will integrate a larger number of research vessels and extend the research infrastructure by adding a range of advanced mobile marine equipment."
Establishing a strategic roadmap and sustainability plan, Eurofleets+ will extend and enhance the capabilities of the European research vessel infrastructure, bringing new perspectives, new ideas, and new research and innovation tracks that will be beneficial to all. The project will prioritise research on sustainable, clean and healthy oceans, linking with existing ocean observation infrastructures, as well as supporting innovative ideas, working closely with industry.
Aodhán Fitzgerald, Research Vessels operations manager at the Marine Institute and Eurofleets+ project coordinator, said that the project will enable access to an unprecedented number of vessels providing a significant increase in ship-time at sea.
"With a fleet of 27 state-of-the-art research vessels from European and other international partners, this is extremely exciting for marine researchers as they now have opportunities to access research vessels in the North Atlantic, Mediterranean, Black Sea, North Sea, Baltic Sea, Pacific Southern Ocean and Ross Sea, through the competitive calls process," he said.
The EU H2020 Eurofleets+ Project began in February 2019 with the first kick off meeting taking place at the Marine Institute, Galway in March 2019. With its official launch at SeaFest today in Cork (7th June 2019), the programme will now move towards its competitive call phase, including SEA (Ship time and marine Equipment Application) which will have an 'Ocean' call, due to open June 2019, and a 'Regional' call, due to open September 2019.
The CO-PI programme, aimed at early career researchers to implement their own research together with the SEA calls, and RTA (Remote Transnational Access), which enables remote access to samples or data from a Eurofleets+ vessel, are both due to open for calls in autumn 2019.
Through competitive calls evaluated on scientific excellence, applicants will be able to apply for access to 27 research vessels, 5 AUVs (Autonomous Underwater Vehicles) and 7 new ROVs (remotely operated vehicles) to capture film footage and samples from the deepest parts of the ocean. A unique mobile portable telepresence unit will also enable remote access by researchers and diverse end users including the public, which is a first for Europe.
In addition to the access programme, Eurofleets+ will also provide training and education opportunities including floating universities, Teacher at Sea programme, marine internships and blue skills labs.
Eurofleets+ is funded under EU Horizon 2020 'Integrating Activity for Advanced Communities' with respect to Environmental and Earth Sciences - Research Vessels. This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 824077.
A new Eurofleets+ website is underway and more information on the project is available on www.eurofleets.eu.
Notes to Editor:
European Research Vessel Operators (ERVO) first met in December 1999 to form a flexible forum to meet annually to share experiences of common interest, to explore opportunities for co-operation between Research Vessel managers and to define the scope for such co-operation.
The first Eurofleets project, Eurofleets1 (2009-2013) involved 24 partners, had funding of €7.2m and enabled access to five global ocean research vessels and 14 regional vessels. 221 researchers took part through the project.
The second project, Eurofleets2 (2013-2017) involved 31 partners, had funding of €9m and enabled access to eight global ocean research vessels and 14 regional vessels. 498 researchers participated.
Eurofleets+ (2019-2023) includes 42 members, has funding of €9.2 million and involves the use of 13 global ocean research vessels, 14 regional vessels, 7 ROVs, 5 AUVs and a telepresence unit.
Eurofleets+ is "An alliance of European marine research infrastructure to meet the evolving needs of the research and industrial communities." The project facilitates open free of charge access to an integrated and advanced research vessel fleet.