Northern Ireland and Ireland to become centre of excellence for marine ICT


World of opportunity in marine ICT for local businesses – announced at SmartOcean Forum in Belfast

The SmartOcean Forum, taking place at the Titanic Centre, Belfast over the next two days aims to establish Northern Ireland and Ireland as leaders in the development of ICT products and services for global marine sectors. The Invest Northern Ireland sponsored event will focus on developing high-tech products and services for traditional sectors such as fisheries, aquaculture, transport and security and emerging sectors such as renewable ocean energy and environmental monitoring, and ocean observation.    

The Forum will give insights on emerging markets, policy and opportunities for innovation associated with the launch of Horizon 2020 in 2014 and will focus on the challenges for SMEs to drive innovation in an emerging marine technology sector.  The Forum will also explore initiatives and investment for capacity build to develop a Marine ICT sector here that can derive economic benefits from our ocean. There are a number of opportunities emerging through local and international initiatives and we need to be in a position to work with Atlantic partners in the sustainable development of our ocean resource.

Arlene Foster, Minister of Enterprise Trade and Investment, said “Today’s SmartOcean forum follows our recent Northern Ireland Investment Conference which successfully highlighted to an international business audience the strengths that we have to offer.  Programmes like SmartOcean allow us to continue building on our traditional strengths of engineering excellence and our long history of innovation, whilst developing new skill sets to meet the needs of the fast changing world of technology and renewable energy, and with it bringing real opportunities for economic growth and development.

My department has been leading on the development of the Northern Ireland Innovation Strategy. Fundamental to this strategy is the concept of open innovation and collaboration. The rapid rise of innovation in technology and the emerging opportunities coming from the marine sector offers considerable scope and opportunities for those companies who are willing to finding new innovative ways of working and developing.”

Maire Geoghegan Quinn, EU Commissioner for Research & Innovation said, “There are strong convergences between SmartOcean and our plans for ocean related research and innovation in Horizon 2020, the EU’s new research and innovation programme. By bringing together the best ICT experts, marine technology providers and marine scientists in Ireland, the SmartOcean cluster has created the right innovation environment to harvest the potential of the blue economy.  Research and innovation are essential to unlock the potential of marine energy and the marine bio-economy and to use deep-sea resources in a sustainable way.”

The Forum aims to build on the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance between the EU, United States and Canada, launched at the Marine Institute, last May in Galway. A goal of the Alliance is to develop a transatlantic ocean observation system which will increase our understanding of the oceans and promote ocean innovation through improved access to a broad range of ocean data.

Dr. Peter Heffernan, CEO Marine Institute, opening the Forum said, “Our ocean territory is our greatest natural resource and the need to understand and manage it has never been greater. We have a huge opportunity to lead the way in marine ICT to support the sustainable development of our ocean resource. And we are steadily working towards the  targets set out in our government’s ‘Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth - An Integrated Marine Plan for Ireland’  to ensure that our ocean wealth will be a key component of our economic recovery and sustainable growth, generating social, cultural and economic benefits for all citizens. “

Speakers at the event include  Dr. Gilles Ollier, Head of Sector Earth Observation, DG for Research & Innovation, European Commission, Karen Skinner, Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Suzanne Kelly, Deputy Director, US Integrated Ocean Observing System program, NOAA. Microsoft, SAP, Cathx Ocean, and Magnet Networks will give keynotes.

SmartOcean, a Marine Institute led initiative, aims to establish leading edge capacity in the development of specialist ICT products and services for global marine sectors.

For more information visit  or contact