Rising Tide for Marine Science in €50 billion EU Grant Scheme

Marine science and technology will become a priority cross-cutting theme in the European Union’s new €50 billion 7th Framework Research Programme (FP7) as formally adopted yesterday ( 18th December) by the EU Council of Ministers, thanks largely to a Europe-wide lobbying programme started during Ireland’s Presidency of the EU in 2004.

At the heart of this campaign was the “Galway Declaration”, drawn up and signed by over 500 marine experts at the Irish-EU Presidency EurOCEAN conference in Ireland.  

This historic declaration, elements of which have since been incorporated into official EU documents including the recent Green Paper on the Marine, was drawn up to ensure that recognition is taken at Member State and European Community Level of the crucial role of the oceans in maintaining life on earth, as well as the contribution that maritime industries can make to the environmental targets of the Lisbon agenda, the essential role that marine science and technology can play in assisting these objectives and the critical role of FP7 in supporting marine science and technology.  

Welcoming the Council of Ministers’ adoption of the Programme, Minister for Communications, the Marine and Natural Resources Mr. Noel Dempsey T.D. said, “I am delighted with our government’s success, on the advice of the Marine Institute, in raising the profile of the marine sector within the FP7 programme. Europe, like Ireland, will gain rich rewards through unlocking the potential of the oceans for sustainable development using the key of applied science and technology. It is therefore essential that marine science if fully supported at both national and international level.”  

Marine Institute CEO, Dr Peter Heffernan pointed out that, “Marine science is all-embracing and needs to reach across all disciplines covered by FP7, including Information Technology, Materials, Energy, Transport and Environment to be successful. The fact that cross-thematic research areas, such as the marine, will now be required to report regularly as part of the overall monitoring and assessment of FP7 will also raise the profile of Europe’s marine potential.”  

Dr Heffernan acknowledged the contribution of the Minister for Enterprise Trade and Employment who led Ireland’s negotiation on the structure and content of the 7th Framework Programme. In addition to the cross-cutting aspects of marine science and technology, the marine components of a number of priority themes (e.g. Food, Energy, Transport and Environment) have also been substantially strengthened.  

“The fact that Fisheries are now specifically included in the title of the Food, Agriculture & Biotechnology Programme of FP7 and that seafood is specifically mentioned in the sub-priority on Food, Health, and Well-being, also recognises the continued importance of this vital marine sector,” he said.  

The FP7 Programme is expected to go live on 1st January, 2007 with the issuing of calls for project proposals by the EU.