Ireland Leads Discussions on European Marine Science & Technology Strategy

Dr. Peter Heffernan, CEO of Ireland’s Marine Institute chaired the final session of the EurOCEAN 2007 Conference on Friday 22nd June in Aberdeen, Scotland.  The Conference was opened by EU Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, Dr. Joe Borg andattended by some 200 marine scientists and policy makers from fifteen EU coastal member States and Norway.

The final session of EurOCEAN 2007 called for the development and implementation of a comprehensive European Marine Science and Technology Strategy (the Aberdeen Declaration) to support the EU Commission's proposed new Maritime Policy.  

“The challenges before us are clear,” said Dr. Borg.  “Sea related human activities and climate change are combining to pose severe threats to marine ecosystems. These two major challenges require complex responses of paramount political importance. We need to ensure that the decisions we make today are the best possible to secure the wealth and welfare of future generations. We strongly believe that science and technology hold the key and can allow us to reconcile the economic growth generated by sea-based activities with environmental sustainability.”  

The Aberdeen  Declaration, is an evolution of a similar Declaration, adopted in Galway during the EurOCEAN 2004 Conference, hosted by the Marine Institute as part of Ireland’s EU Presidency, which was instrumental in securing marine sciences and technologies as a priority cross-cutting theme in the EU 7th Framework Programme.

This is the third such strategic meeting on European Marine Science and Technology chaired by Dr Heffernan in the current year, the others being the Conference on Marine Science and Technology in FP7 (Brussels, 16th January), and the Marine Research and Innovation Session at the German EU Presidency Conference in Bremen on 4th May. Dr Heffernan is an invited guest speaker at the forthcoming Portuguese EU Presidency Conference on “The Governance of an Integrated, Holistic Maritime Policy for Europe”, in Lisbon in July.  

Speaking at the adoption of the Aberdeen Declaration, Dr. Heffernan said that the marine science community now had at its disposal a single unified message to contribute to the EU Green Paper discussion. “With the Aberdeen Declaration clearly stating our aims and objectives, there has never been a better opportunity to move the study of the seas and oceans forward in such a way that it can contribute not only to EU policy, but to the betterment of society itself,” he said. “It is now the responsibility of every person working in marine science in Europe to use their influence to make this happen.”  

Ireland already has extensive experience of developing and implementing such a strategy, through the development of its own comprehensive national marine research and innovation strategy – “Sea Change – A Marine Knowledge, Research and Innovation Strategy for Ireland”. This Strategy, which is managed by the Marine Institute, was formulated after two years of consultation and foresight exercises. This competence was acknowledged at a recent meeting in Dublin to discuss the European Union’s Green Paper on Maritime Affairs, where EU Commissioner Joe Borg said that “Ireland is constantly cited in global benchmarking studies as a model for best practice in innovation in the knowledge economy.”  


Notes to Editor  

Ireland and European Marine Science

Ireland has been a key player in the formulation of a unified marine science strategy for Europe ever since the Galway Declaration was signed in 2004. Irish delegates have been instrumental in obtaining a cross-cutting marine theme in the new Seventh Framework Programme for European science funding, in representing the interests of marine science at important EU meetings and as chairs of key meetings where pivotal decisions on marine science support were reached.  

Sea Change – A Marine Knowledge, Research and Innovation Strategy for Ireland 2007 - 2013

Sea Change is a national programme which seeks to strengthen the competitiveness and environmental sustainability of the Irish marine sector by developing greater alignment between the needs of industry and the research capacity of the public sector and the third level.  

It aims to build multidisciplinary research capacity and capability that can be applied to marine-related activities, leading to the acquisition of new technical skills, improved flow of expert personnel between the research community and industry and the creation of new commercial opportunities.  

Sea Change will also deliver a comprehensive planned policy support research measure to apply the knowledge gained from research and monitoring to inform public policy, governance and regulation.  

The Marine Institute

The Marine Institute was created under the Marine Institute Act in 1991 to “undertake, to co-ordinate, to promote and to assist” in the development of marine research and development in Ireland. Since its early days in Harcourt Street, Dublin, it has grown into an internationally respected science body with over 200 staff, two purpose-built vessels, a research facility near Newport, Co. Mayo and a brand new headquarters and laboratory on the shores of Galway Bay.  

It has also acted as a focus and champion for the Irish marine research community, raising the profile of Ireland’s marine resources and bridging an eighty year infrastructure deficit while also establishing open, competitive national research funding programmes over the past 10 years.