Navigation path

Left navigation

Additional tools

Other available languages: none


Brussels, 3 September 2008

EU Strategy for Marine and Maritime Research: Frequently Asked Questions

What is the distinction between Marine research and Maritime research?

Marine research addresses a branch of earth science that studies the oceans and seas including their flora and fauna as well as their interaction with coastal territories and with the atmosphere. It covers a wide spectrum of scientific knowledge and phenomena such as marine organisms, ecosystems dynamics, ocean currents, plate tectonics and geology. These diverse topics involve multiple disciplines to understand the underlying processes and the complexity of their interaction. Nowadays, one of the major concerns of marine research is the preservation of marine ecosystems.

Maritime research aims at technologies and innovative solutions for a better exploitation of sea and ocean resources such as the design, building and operation of vessels, harbours, oil platforms and more widely any kind of human related activity centred around sea and ocean resources (e.g. tourism).

What does the maritime economy represent for the EU?

The importance to Member States of the maritime economy is illustrated below:

  • Maritime Transport (90% of external trade and 40% of internal trade in the EU is seaborne; the 1200-plus European ports host 3,5 billion tons and 350 million passengers per year).
  • Shipbuilding (shipyards and marine equipment suppliers provide 0,8 million direct and indirect highly skilled jobs and account for a turnover of €90 billion; Europe is the world leader in the production of highly sophisticated vessels such as ferries and cruise ships).
  • Energy (seas and oceans offer underexploited resource for the use of alternative energies such as tidal and wave power and offshore wind farms and account for 121€ millions in 2005).
  • Fisheries and aquaculture (0,5 million jobs; 0,3% of EU GDP equating to about € 20 billion/year; aquaculture accounts for 19% of the Union's total fishery production).
  • Tourism and coastal zones (maritime tourism accounts for about 3 million jobs with a turnover of €72 billions in 2005).
  • New resources and blue biotechnology (emerging sector with predicted growth of 10% per year and a global market of € 2,4 billion).

Why is the Commission defining a European Strategy for Marine and Maritime research?

First, in the context of global economic growth, human activities are exerting environmental pressure on oceans and seas which is threatening marine ecology and a sustainable exploitation of marine environments. It is therefore vital to reconcile the promotion of sustainable economic growth in sea-based activities with environmental preservation. Science and technology have a key role to play in this process.

Second, the engagement of stakeholders in the marine and maritime sectors in the process leading to the adoption by the Commission of the "Integrated Maritime Policy for the European Union" in October 2007 has encouraged marine and maritime communities to join forces and work together. Several ad hoc partnerships have developed (such as the one which focussed on the preparation of the "Aberdeen Declaration". This called, in June 2007, for more direct actions to promote greater integration among marine and maritime stakeholders, to reduce fragmentation and to allocate available resources more effectively) and a new approach has been taken to launch research cooperation and collaboration across traditional sector-based boundaries.

Third, the important leverage effect produced by the newly launched initiatives resulting from the Green Paper on the European Research Area (ERA). ERA continues to be the major guiding principle for a more efficient European research system. The strategy is fully aligned with ERA principles and represents one of the first attempts to establish ERA within as specific research sector.

The Commission, taking stock of these emerging momentums, is proposing to make proposals and act as a facilitator in the establishment of a Marine and Maritime Research Strategy for Europe.

What is the objective?

The aim of the strategy is to create a better integration between marine and maritime research. Whilst acknowledging the importance of pursuing efforts within the different marine and maritime research disciplines (e.g. cleaner and more efficient marine engines, better design of vessels, optimal logistics of traffic flows, safety and security of maritime activities, image of shipping, etc), the Commission wishes to improve joint work between marine and maritime research rather than specifically addressing well established research sectors.

What is at stake is how to efficiently address the complexity of the oceanic system in the interaction with human activities.

What are the concrete proposals for action of the Commission?

The Commission proposes several measures and mechanisms to foster the integration of fragmented research efforts and address the complexity of marine and maritime issues. They follow three complementary directions:

  • Development of Capacity-building: this area deals with the development of new means such as specialised pan-European research infrastructures, new skills and educational initiatives to attract new professionals and to address the interdisciplinary nature of the research.

By way of examples of existing research infrastructures dedicated to marine and maritime-related research that have been funded in FP6:

[ Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED ]

  • Enhancing Integration across established marine and maritime research disciplines. This aspect will seek closer integration of knowledge and research teams through cross-fertilisation, networking and information exchange, in order to reinforce excellence in science. If successfully implemented, this integration will be in a position to turn to knowledge-based innovation while achieving maritime activities' sustainability, new jobs and delivering better products and processes.

Major topics requiring a cross-thematic approach identified by the Commission are:

  • Climate change and the oceans
  • Impact of human activities on coastal and marine ecosystems and their management
  • Ecosystem approach to resource management and spatial planning
  • Marine biodiversity and biotechnology
  • Continental margins and deep sea
  • Operational oceanography and marine technology (including use of GMES)
  • Exploitation of marine renewable energy resources
  • Supporting better Synergies with and between Member States, regions and industry sectors. Community research funding accounts for only a small amount of public research resources. The greater part of public funding for research in Europe is spent through national and regional programmes. It is therefore crucial that Member States and regions use the European Community instruments such as the Research Framework Programme, the Cohesion Policy Fund and the Competitive and Innovation Framework Programme to reinforce public and private investments.

The idea here is not to ask for more money but for a better use of the existing funds.

Who will implement the Strategy?

The Commission proposes a new form of governance to implement the strategy: it is proposed that a "Forum" be established creating a long term partnership with all important stakeholders of the marine and maritime research communities, from both public and private sectors (including third countries), to agree on common research priorities and measures to implement research.

Member States, regions, maritime industries, research centres and representatives from civil society are all essential actors in the Strategy. For example, within the proposed measures for a better synergy of research means, the active involvement of national funding agencies or research ministries is an imperative (e.g. for an implementation of Joint Programming and Joint Calls through Article 169 of the Treaty).

The role of the Commission will be that of a facilitator, making full use of the EU instruments – including FP7 -, facilitating a coordinated approach between Member States and overseeing the implementation of the Strategy.

What are the expected benefits of such a strategy?

Immediate benefits of the Strategy lie in the development of excellence and efficiency in marine and maritime research, to improve the preservation of the marine environment and biodiversity and to support the development of sustainable maritime activities. However, benefits go beyond research and provide concrete support to the Lisbon Agenda by the generation of knowledge-based skills, new jobs and markets and turning environmental challenges into competitive advantages (i.e. eco-innovation).

Do EU Framework Programmes already fund sectoral research on Marine and Maritime issues?


FP6 (2002-2006) funding for marine related research amounted to over €600 million.

In FP6, marine and maritime related research topics were funded under several Thematic Priorities such as Environment, Sustainable Transport and Energy, Space, Biotechnology, Food Quality and Safety, International Cooperation and Research for Policy Support.

Under FP7, Marine and maritime-related research topics are addressed in the following themes: "Food, Agriculture and Biotechnology", "Energy", "Environment", "Transport". Other marine and maritime-related topics are covered in the FP7 "Capacities" programme, in particular in relation to the "Region of Knowledge" initiative".

To date (2007/2008) an estimated EC contribution of € 120 million has been allocated from FP7 to marine and maritime-related research projects.

For 2010 Work programme cross-cutting calls could be proposed as mentioned in the Communication for the Maritime Research Strategy.

What has been achieved so far to move towards more integration in Marine and Maritime research? Do we start from scratch?

A number of projects already exist which have integrated marine and maritime research. Below are examples of the most prominent initiatives:

- Article 169 initiative – Joint Baltic Sea Research Programme – 'Bonus 169'

The BONUS ERA-NET is an FP6 project with a total funding of €3 million running from 2004 to 2008. The project brings together 11 research funding organisations, two international organisations and one research institute, from all eight EU Member States around the Baltic Sea and Russia.

The goal has been to form a network of key agencies funding research with the aim of broadening the understanding of conditions for science-based management of environmental issues in the Baltic Sea.

BONUS is currently preparing a joint Baltic Sea research programme with the aim of implementing a programme under Article 169 of the EC Treaty[1].

- The WATERBORNE Technology Platform

The WATERBORNE European Technology Platform (ETP) [2] is the initiative of the Maritime Transport Community launched in 2005. This Technology Platform includes representatives from shipping, shipbuilding, classification societies, offshore industry, marine equipment infrastructures, the marine leisure industry, ports and infrastructures development, the unions, the maritime science and R&D institutes and universities. It is worth mentioning that WATERBORNE played a key role in developing the "Aberdeen Declaration" in association with the Marine Board.

- Maritime clusters and the European Network of Maritime Clusters

Maritime clusters are being formed in a number of EU coastal regions, most notably through the "Regions of Knowledge" initiative[3]. In the maritime sector, clusters involve manufacturing industries such as shipbuilding, transport (shipping) and infrastructure (ports and terminals), ocean and sea resources (aquaculture), service providers (e.g. classification societies), leisure related activities (yachting etc), specific public sector organisations and services (coastguard) and sea related research and consultancy.

A recent European level initiative is the European Network of Maritime Clusters created in 2005. It brings together the maritime cluster organisations of ten European countries (Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom). The Network provides a pragmatic opportunity to exchange best practice.

- GMES Marine Core Service[4]

The Marine Core Service (MCS) has been created with the objective of streamlining European capacities for forecasting, monitoring and reporting on the ocean state, and to foster derived applications on specific environmental and safety issues, for both the global ocean and the regional European seas.

- The European marine observation and data network (EMODNet)

The Commission will coordinate in 2009, the launching of the European marine observation and data network (EMOD-Net). By facilitating access to interoperable data of different parameters – bathymetry, sediments, currents, marine life etc – for complete maritime basins, this project will extend understanding of marine processes.

What are the next steps?

The Communication will be examined by the Member States and the European Parliament. We expect to work very closely with the French presidency in the coming months in order to set up the governance mechanism which will be indispensable for its implementation in the long term. In the meantime, the European Commission will continue to use available instruments to promote the Strategy's objectives. But for true success, Member States' endorsement and full engagement are indispensable. The Commission will monitor implementation of this strategy and will provide a first report on progress no later than 2012.

See also the IP/08/1283

[1]. BONUS-169 is one of four potential "Article 169" initiatives identified in the Commission's Specific Programmes. The three others are:
- "AAL", a joint research programme on "Ambient Assisted Living" (ICT solutions to enhance the quality of life of elderly people);
- "EMRP", a joint research programme in the field of Metrology.
- "EUROSTARS", a joint research programme for research performing SMEs and their partners.

[2] See WaterBorneTP Technology Platform -


[4] Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) - .

Side Bar