Marine Research Community Meets to Unlock Ireland's Ocean Potential

Opportunities for Ireland to develop its share of the €3,850 billion worldwide global maritime sector through a co-ordinated national marine research programme were discussed today (12th July) at Dublin Castle, at a special stakeholders meeting organised by the Marine Institute on behalf of the Department of Communications, the Marine and Natural Resources (DCMNR) and opened by Marine Minister Mr. Pat "the Cope" Gallagher, TD.

The 200-strong meeting, representing stakeholders from industry, research, state-bodies and third level institutions, had been invited to lend their experience and expertise to the process, which has already been informed by several expert reports and meetings of special "foresight panels" made up of national and international experts from industry, academia and other state agencies.

"Research and development, as tools to unlock future opportunities, are receiving a huge amount of attention at international level," said Dr. Peter Heffernan, Chief Executive of the Marine Institute.  "The Irish government is already preparing a national strategy for all research and development (R&D) and once again the DCMNR have asked the Marine Institute to propose a National Marine Strategy as part of this overall view. Accordingly, the Institute is consulting widely with stakeholders, experts and interested parties in the Irish marine community, just as we did to inform future developments in 1998 (Note to Editor see: "A Marine RTDI Strategy for Ireland - A National Team Approach"). As before this will be a team effort by the Irish research community to produce a national strategy, facilitated by the Institute."

The report "Marine Industries Global Market Analysis", will also be informing discussions at the meeting. Commissioned by the Marine Institute through Douglas-Westwood Ltd., this report highlights sectors where opportunities exist for Ireland to unlock future potential through properly targeted R&D. These sectors include:

Services - valued at €2,454 billion over the period 2005 - 2009 - dominated by the shipping industry and tourism

Resources - valued at €1,303 billion over the period 2005 - 2009 - dominated by fisheries and energy

Manufacturing - valued at €544 billion over the period 2005 - 2009 - mainly production of equipment for the shipbuilding and Oil & Gas industries

Education and Research - valued at €62 billion over the period 2005 - 2009 - activities associated with Education and Training and R&D for  specific sub-sectors.

Looking forward, the report sees the key drivers of change in the global maritime sector as including the growth of the Chinese economy; resulting in an unprecedented demand for shipping, supply shortages and large price rises in crude oil, steel and other metals arising from increased demand for commodities.

Globalisation and the growth of low-cost manufacturing centres in China, India and Eastern Europe, the aging and declining workforce in developed economies, the rising cost of environmental legislation, the risk of global terrorism and the cost of security measures to combat it, and increasing global energy demand are also key catalysts for change. The report concludes that the interplay of all these drivers means that marine industries are going through a period of considerable change, which seems to be the likely pattern for the future.

Further reports, including an assessment of the effects of climate change on Ireland's marine economy, will be published shortly.

Opening the event, Minister for the Marine, Mr. Pat 'the Cope' Gallagher T.D. said, "The delivery of the marine research agenda is a key strategic objective of the Department. This will translate into a clearly defined research and innovation strategy for 2006 to 2012 and an action plan to promote and prioritise national investment by the State and industry."

The Marine Institute already has considerable experience in broad consultation processes, having facilitated two major national marine strategy documents in the last ten years for DCMNR - "Towards a Marine Policy for Ireland" and "A National Marine RTDI Strategy for Ireland - a National Team Approach". The latter document has been the key to important strengthening of national marine R&D capability including Ireland's two research vessels "Celtic Explorer" and "Celtic Voyager", new and improved research infrastructure, and over €9 million in research grants in industry, state and third level facilities over the last decade.