European action plan for innovation in the blue economy - Ireland’s opportunity

Ocean WaterThe European Commission presented an Action Plan for Innovation in the 'Blue Economy' (8 May ‘14) to help use ocean resources sustainably and drive growth and jobs in Europe.

Two thirds of our planet is covered by oceans and seas. If we manage them in a responsible manner, they can provide sources of food, medicine and energy while protecting ecosystems for generations to come. However, in order to make this possible, we need to know more about our seas and oceans.

Dr. Peter Heffernan, CEO Marine Institute said:

“The European Action Plan reflects the importance of the oceans impact on our daily lives and the urgent need to better understand our oceans in order manage them responsibly to generate benefits for all citizens. It’s a very welcome initiative and consistent with initiatives already underway here in Ireland such as Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth - An Integrated Marine Plan for Ireland, which aims to increase the turnover from our ocean economy to exceed €6.4bn by 2020.”

A key objective of the Blue innovation action plan is to create a digital map of the entire seabed of European waters by 2020. European Commissioner for Research and Innovation, Maire Geoghegan-Quinn cited Ireland and the INFOMAR programme as leader in seabed mapping in an article in :

“One very concrete thing we must do is get a better understanding of what lies beneath the oceans. This will, for instance, allow private companies and public authorities to cut the costs of surveys and to plan maritime investments more effectively. That is why we want to deliver a digital map of the entire seabed of European waters by 2020. We estimate this will be worth at least a €1bn a year. Ireland is already a leader in the area, as evidenced by the INFOMAR initiative.”

Such maps are also crucial for accurate localised models of climate change and forecasting.

Research and innovation across public and private sectors is central to driving future sustainable economic developments. Ireland’s marine researchers have been very successful in competing for research and development funding.

The opportunity for Irish marine researchers will be enhanced by the focus on blue growth in the new Horizon 2020 programme, with a specific €145 million budget for 2014-2015 alone, and further opportunities across the programme. There are also plans to look at the possibility of forming a Knowledge and Innovation Community made up of major players from the research, business and education community to (or KIC) for the blue economy after 2020.

The blue innovation action plan also proposes to set up a Blue Economy Business and Science Forum which will involve the private sector, scientists and NGOs to help shape the blue economy of the future and share ideas and results.

“Ireland’s marine plan has established similar forum – a ‘marine development task force’ to look at pushing opportunities and significantly moving the plan forward, ”explained Dr Heffernan.

All of this will mean more opportunities for Irish researchers and business to partner and support EU initiatives on marine economic development in line with our national integrated marine plan.”