Marine Institute

Harnessing Ireland’s Potential as a European and Global Centre for Ocean Technology

May 26, 2010

Photo (LtoR): Ms. Maire Geoghegan-Quinn - European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science; Dr. Peter Heffernan - CEO Marine Institute; Minister Tony Killeen T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Food; Mark White Nowcasting International LtdA major innovation strategy, designed to bring together two of Ireland’s greatest assets – its ICT sector and marine natural resources - in order to tap into emerging  global markets, was released for consultation on the 22nd March at the workshop “Harnessing Ireland’s Potential as a European and Global Centre for Ocean Technology” at the Marine Institute in Oranmore, Galway.  

Photo (LtoR): Ms. Maire Geoghegan-Quinn - European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science; Dr. Peter Heffernan - CEO Marine Institute; Minister Tony Killeen T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Food; Mark White Nowcasting International Ltd. (For the full text of the Commissioner's Speech CLICK HERE).

The workshop was opened by Minister Tony Killeen T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Food and featured a keynote address by Ms. Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, the newly-appointed European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science. It was attended by over 100 delegates including business leaders and entrepreneurs from such companies as Cathex Ocean, EpiSensor, Intune Networks, NowCasting, IBM, Intel, Veolia Water and Transas Marine Ltd., as well as scientists, technologists from leading research centres including NUI Galway, Dublin City University, Tyndall National Institute, Waterford Institute of Technology, University of Limerick  and others.

Maire Geoghegan -Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science addressing the opening of the SMARTOCEAN Innovation Cluster Strategy workshop hosted by the Marine Institute in Galway

Photo: Maire Geoghegan - Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science addressing the opening of the SMARTOCEAN Innovation Cluster Strategy workshop hosted by the Marine Institute in Galway

The SMARTOCEAN Innovation Cluster Strategy was compiled by a Working Group comprised of representatives of the companies, research institutes and State agencies. The Working Group has identified ocean innovation as a possible ‘game changer’ for Ireland by focussing our existing ICT cluster and significant investments in science and technology on our 220 million acre marine resource in order to leverage opportunities to develop new products and services for global markets. In this way, Ireland would be utilising its largest natural resource – the ocean – as a catalyst for innovation in a similar way to that by which other nations have used the oil and gas, shipbuilding, space or the defence sector to drive knowledge and innovation. 

“It came as a very pleasant surprise to me to learn recently that on the ‘Real Map of Europe’, Ireland is the third largest country in the EU,” said Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn in her keynote address to the Workshop.  “The Continental Shelf around this little island is one of Europe’s largest seabeds - although much remains undiscovered, this underwater land mass presents vast opportunities for the Irish economy and places Ireland in pole position to be at the cutting edge of marine innovation.”

Photo: Presentation of the Real Map of Ireland to Maire Geoghegan - Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science

Photo: Presentation of the Real Map of Ireland to Maire Geoghegan - Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science

The SMARTOCEAN Innovation Cluster seeks to target newly emerging niche markets (e.g marine renewable energy, environmental monitoring, water management) as well as established markets (e.g. oil and gas, aquaculture, maritime transport, tourism, coastal erosion etc.) by developing innovative and competitive production systems and service models to target niche, high value and high growth international export markets.

According to the SMARTOCEAN document, there is already a strong group of companies and academic researchers actively engaged in initiatives linked to its proposed strategy.  Many of these projects are linked to the ten Ocean Innovation Test Platforms that exist in the rivers, bays, coasts and oceans around Ireland. These innovation test beds allow companies to test new concepts, equipment, technologies, solutions in real-life situations.

Highlighting the importance of research, Dr Mark White, CEO of Nowcasting International Ltd. said Nowcasting began out of an EU research project and has grown into a globally recognised leader in its field, weather and ocean forecasting, combining awareness and understanding of the oceans and Ireland’s global leadership in ICT.

Acknowledging the importance of test bed infrastructure and IBM’s use of the SmartBay platform in Galway Bay, Mr. Robert McCarthy of IBM said “Today's environment, energy- and climate-related issues are at the top of IBM's strategic agenda. By utilising SmartBay's as an R&D test bed platform. IBM is developing environmental and energy management solutions that can help customers reduce costs and systemically manage water, energy, and carbon emissions. IBM takes a holistic approach to our planet's challenges that combine our innovative technology, deep business insight, and industry expertise. Together, we can enhance the sustainability of business — and our planet.”  

Welcoming the challenge presented by the SMARTOCEAN Strategy Working Group, Dr Peter Heffernan said, “As an island on the western edge of Europe, Ireland is strategically positioned as a gateway to the Atlantic. This unique positioning, gives us a specific advantage as a location for a European and global centre for ocean innovation. We have many of the ingredients in place already, the challenge is to co-ordinate and harness our strengths to realise sustainable economic growth”.

Photo: The opening of the SMARTOCEAN Innovation Cluster Strategy workshop hosted by the Marine Institute in Galway

Photo: The opening of the SMARTOCEAN Innovation Cluster Strategy workshop hosted by the Marine Institute in Galway

The workshop, which spanned two days of detailed discussions also featured presentation on ‘New Opportunities to Extend the Reach of Foreign Direct Investment in Ireland,’ ‘Underwater Communications,’ and an innovative project to monitor pollution in harbours using ‘shoals’ of autonomous robotic fish. Other areas under discussion included marine transport, logistics and security using vehicle and container tracking systems, and how Ireland can become the prime mover in ocean energy.

Submissions to the discussion document were invited from all interested parties, to be returned by 30th April. Details may be viewed at www.marine.ie/home/SmartOceanI.htm 

The Marine Institute will publish the outcome of this consultation process shortly. The full programme for the SmartOcean Workshop is available to download from:https://www.marine.ie/NR/rdonlyres/862D24D4-1624-4075-A2EB-C33353082370/0/OTProgrammeMarch22nd_23rdMarch2010.pdf