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What  is the "conveyor  belt" of  oceanic circulation?  How can we  avoid the
erosion or silting up  of the coasts? What can sponges contribute  to medical
research? Such are,  among many others, some  of the questions raised  by the
34 research  projects in marine sciences  and technologies  which involve 258
partners and which have just been approved by  the European Union following a
proposal of Mrs CRESSON, Member  of the Commission responsible  for research,
education and training. The financial  contribution of the European  Union to
this first  batch of projects amounts  to ECU 54  million. By the  end of the
month, the  Commission  will take  similar decisions  in  some of  the  other
fields  covered by the Fourth Framework Programme (1994-1998): industrial and
materials technologies,  biotechnology, biomedicine  and health,  agriculture
and fisheries, and energy.

These  projects  are the  first to  be accepted  within the  Fourth Framework
Programme  of research and technological development, including demonstration
(RTD). In the  words of Mme CRESSON: "The  Fourth RTD Framework Programme has
now  entered  its   operational  phase.  By  paying  more  attention  to  the
competitiveness of Europe  and of its  industry, by taking  into account  the
daily problems  encountered by our citizens,  it will  contribute to fighting
effectively for  employment while  improving the quality  of life in  a whole
series of fields,  whether it is health, transport, education, environment or
information and communication between persons".

The Fourth  Framework Programme  has a  budget of  12.3 billion  ECU for  the
period  1994-1998, plus a  reserve of  700 million ECU  to be  decided by the
Council  before mid-1996.  The  Fourth  Framework Programme  supports  mainly
shared cost projects for which the  Union covers no more than 50% of all  the
research costs.

Bringing research and industry closer together

The  projects approved  are  the first  batch  of projects  supported by  the
programme "Marine Science  and Technology" (MAST III),  which is part  of the
Fourth  Framework  Programme  (1994-1998)  of  the  European  Union.  Through
reinforcing  the links  within  the  European oceanographical  community  and
stimulating the development  of marine technologies, these  research projects
should improve  our knowledge and management  of the  marine environment (see
some examples in the attachment). 

This first selection illustrates the orientation which will characterize  the
implementation of  the Fourth Framework Programme, i.e. bringing research and
industry closer together: 28  industrial companies, known for their expertise
in marine  technologies, will take part  in the  projects selected, including
Thomson Sintra Activités  Sous-Marines (France), IDRONAUT  (Italy), Datawell,
DRIE and  Kantakun (the Netherlands) or  Oxford Computer  Services and SIMRAD
(United Kingdom).

The  other participants are made up essentially  of research centres (96) and
university  institutions (128).  A  total of  293  projects have  requested a
Community financing.

Why European research in this field ?

Covering  71% of the  Earth's surface  and accounting  for 99% of  the volume
accessible  to the  living organisms,  oceans  play an  important  role at  a
planetary  scale: they have  a decisive influence on  the climate  and are an
important  factor for  economic  development  through activities  related  to
fisheries (each year,  more than 60 million tonnes of shellfish are harvested
from  the  seas),  drilling,  exploitation  of  hydrocarbons,  transport  and
leisure. And  the  European Union  is  directly  concerned: thirteen  of  its
Member States border on seas. Moreover, the marine environment  is in danger:
each year, increasing  quantities of waste are  poured into the seas  and the

Given our limited knowledge  of marine life, we are not always able to choose
the  most   appropriate  protection  methods   and  utilisation   strategies.
Improving  this knowledge is  a key challenge to  avoid wasting or destroying
the resources available.
Given  the urgency and  the complexity  of the  problems, Member  States must
pool their  resources  and  efforts.  By pooling  experience  and  expertise,
Europe can raise  the intellectual and  financial resources  to generate  the
essential "critical mass".

 The programme "Marine science and technology"

 Endowed with a budget of ECU 228 million for the period 1995-1998,
 MAST III comprises three major fields of research:

 .    marine sciences: where the objective is to understand the basic
      processes which govern marine systems, including the extreme marine
      environments (deep sea, seas covered with ice etc) and certain
      specific European basins (the Baltic, the Mediterranean etc). Fifteen
      of the projects adopted cover this field.

 .    strategic marine research: this research aims at making compatible
      the exploitation of the marine environment and its protection.
      Accordingly, the research work will help to identify the risks and
      negative impact likely to affect the marine environment (primarily in
      the coastal areas). Seven of the projects selected concern this
      research area.

 .    marine technologies: the aim here is to develop generic technologies
      required for monitoring, use and protection of the marine environment
      (oceanographical observation, underwater communication and vision,
      analysis of natural substances, development of measurement
      instruments, of remote-controlled vehicles and of benthic
      laboratories for exploration of the deep sea and of the Arctic).
      Twelve of the projects selected cover this field.

In the  fields of  marine science  and technologies,  Europe  is well  placed
compared with  the other large industrialized  blocks. Europe is even  at the
cutting-edge of research in coastal engineering  and in certain technological
domains  (for example  vehicles for  deep-sea exploration).  The objective of
the  MAST III programme  is to make it  possible to  maintain and improve the
position  of the  European  Union in  these  fields.  Part of  the  programme
resources  will  be  concentrated on  specific  priorities,  namely  bringing
research and the needs  of the maritime industry closer together,  a priority
stressed at the recent Bremen Forum devoted to this sector.

. For additional information, please contact:

Jean Boissonnas, Head of Unit, DG XII
Telephone: + 32-2-295.67.87
Fax: + 32-2-296.30.24

Michel Claessens, Information and communication, DG XII
Telephone: + 32-2-295.99.71
Fax: + 32-2-295.82.20
E-mail: michel.


Some examples of projects selected under the MAST III programme 

  The fight against the silting up of coasts
     As walkers can  observe, certain  coasts are inclined  to silt up.  This
     phenomenon results in  fact from  a general  retreat of  the sea,  which
     threatens those  marine species living in  the areas located between low
     and high tides, such as oysters. 
     In Europe, these areas generally shelter a rich  and diversified fauna -
     but  are also  very  sensitive to  variations of  the sea  level  and to
     climatic   changes.   The   "INTRMUD"   project,   which   involves   14
     organizations from  4 countries (Denmark,  France, the Netherlands,  the
     United Kingdom) will  improve not  only our  understanding of the  basic
     phenomena which govern  the morphology  of these  areas, but also  their

  How to protect coastal areas?
     Coastal areas provide  complex, dynamic and relatively  fragile systems.
     The  construction of  a dam,  for example,  may in  certain  cases cause
     important local  disturbances with  harmful consequences  for the  coast
     and the surroundings  (modification of the currents,  sediment deposits,
     etc). Our  understanding of these  phenomena is still incomplete.  Thus,
     it frequently  occurs that,  under the attack  of the  waves and of  the
     tides,  a beach  erodes.  One solution  comes to  mind immediately:  the
     building of a  dam. But  often this is  exactly the worst  solution. The
     "SAFE" project,  which involves 11  partners from 8 countries  (Germany,
     Spain, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands  and Sweden) will
     study an  alternative "soft" solution, more  respectful of nature, which
     consists in a periodic reconstitution of the eroded beaches.

  Cold water currents: a key factor for the global climate
     The ocean  holds the key  of the land  climate: it exchanges energy  and
     greenhouse gases  such as CO2 with  the atmosphere. Marine currents play
     an essential  role  in  these phenomena.  The  "ESOP 2"  project,  which
     involves 21  organizations from 8  countries (Germany, Denmark,  France,
     the United Kingdom,  Iceland, Italy,  Norway and Sweden) will  study the
     engine of the world oceanic circulation in the northern Atlantic.
     It is  there that this movement originates.  Cold, dense water is formed
     at the edge  of the Arctic and  forms a  deep-water current (cold  water
     being more dense)  in the  Atlantic Ocean.  As this water  heats up,  it
     gradually  returns to the surface.  Arriving in the southern hemisphere,
     these  currents are  reversed and,  carried away  by the  "Gulf Stream",
     flow towards  Europe.  This is  what is  called  the phenomenon  of  the
     "conveyor  belt".  The  "ESOP  2"  project is  designed  to  improve our
     understanding of this phenomenon, as well as its impact on the climate.

  How is the ice formed?
     Ice formation  in the  polar seas  is an extremely  important but  still
     badly understood process.  Thus, the ice which  is formed in the  Arctic
     often has a very chaotic structure - but we don't know why.  Determining
     this structure is essential and  remote sensing is one  technology which
     may   achieve  this.  The  "ICE   STATE"  project,   which  comprises  5
     organizations from  4 countries  (Finland, the  United Kingdom,  Iceland
     and Norway) will work to improve our capacity  to forecast the formation
     of  these  chaotic structures  in  the  ice.  This  knowledge should  in
     particular facilitate the navigation and the  establishment of off-shore

  A step towards marine biotechnology
     THERMOPHILOUS BIO"  are intended to  establish an  inventory of  various
     marine invertebrates  (sponges, etc)  and micro-organisms. The  projects
     are also  concerned  with the  extraction  from  those living  forms  of
     substances of pharmaceutical interest.

  Supervision and control instruments
     The  "BIOSONAR"  project  aims to  exploit  acoustic  detection  systems
     (sonar) to evaluate  the health of  marine organisms  living on the  sea
     The "BASS" project is concerned with the  use of the response of  shoals
     of fishes to  sound signals in order  to monitor the evolution  of their
     population  (in terms  of  number of  bodies and  of  age groups).  This
     technique will  allow quantitative  evaluation of the  impact of fishery
     and environmental changes.
     In addition, two  projects illustrate two options,  radically different,
     for  underwater  observation:  the  "ALIPOR"  project   will  develop  a
     lightweight  structure  while  the  "GEOSTAR"  project  follows  a  more
     ambitious  and futuristic  alternative:  to  build up  a  non-inhabited,
     modular station which will be placed on the sea bed.


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