For Europe to maintain the current industrial lead in the maritime economy, we need to set the framework for innovation to flourish, for moving from theory to practice and translating research findings into tangible services and marketable products.
First of all, lack of access to data on underwater topography, geology, habitats and ecosystems is a brake on the maritime economy. The benefit of reduced uncertainty can cover a wide range of activities: for instance to predict aquaculture-threatening jellyfish invasions, to guide tourists to dolphin playgrounds or to inform insurance companies of the risk of severe coastal flooding. Increased knowledge of the sea could improve efficiency resulting in €300 million a year savings for industry, public authorities and researchers. An initial quantification of the benefits of innovative services is €200 million a year. Reducing uncertainty in future sea-level rise by 25% would save €100 million per year. After having successfully tested a limited scale prototype, we are aiming to make all data available via a single access point with no restrictions of use through the EMODnet project.
Initiatives to boost the new “Blue Growth” will need to be underpinned by specific research actions: as regards wave and tidal energy, the challenge is to reduce technology costs to accelerate commercialisation and invest in grid connections and transmission capacity. EU aquaculture needs to seize the opportunities offered by new species, non-food aquaculture, multi-trophic aquaculture and multi-use maritime platforms. Research efforts are vital in the domain of Blue biotechnology, to produce fuel or feed from algae and exploiting the potential of marine organisms to deliver medicines, cosmetics or industrial enzymes. For Seabed mining, we need technologies that can help us discover, extract and process minerals from the sea-floor whilst respecting ocean ecosystems. As regards Coastal and maritime tourism, it is paramount to limit the impact of connected activities, by for instance devising and commercialising the technology for increasing ships energy-efficiency and improving waste-management.
These will be our next years’ action targets.