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European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries
The new blue economy
Seminar "The Future of Marine and Maritime Innovation in Europe" at the European Parliament
Brussels, 7 December 2011
Honourable Members of Parliament, dear Ms Meissner, Representatives of the Member States and maritime regions, dear Members of the European marine research community,
Governments are waking up to the fact that we have just about reached the limit of what can be squeezed from the 29% of the planet that is land. Therefore, it becomes clear that we need to look even more to the sea.
The sea can provide energy that does not use up finite resources; that does not emit carbon dioxide; that does not need land; that does not need fresh water; and that does not need to be imported from unreliable suppliers.
Already wind turbines account for most of the EU's new electricity generating power. More is moving offshore.
By 2020, 30 percent of the annual market for new wind capacity will be offshore and by 2030, 60 percent. By 2020 wave and tidal power will join the wind platforms in providing energy to our cities.
To continue, the sea can help in providing our population with a healthy diet. We are still growing byone percent per year. Our aquaculture production must overcome this annual growth rate. If people don't want fish farms near their favourite beaches, then we need to build them further offshore.
And there are many more opportunities. ExxonMobil is investing more than six hundred million dollars in algal fuels. This week, the Nautilus minerals mining company upped its estimate of the gold and copper deposits in its concessions, nearly two kilometres down in the Pacific.
Researchers are looking into life forms that can survive without light or oxygen and at temperatures that can melt lead – in order to examine if we can find new medicines that can help us in fighting cancer.
Things are coming together. We have the technology to build platforms that can withstand hurricanes or tsunamis. We have the submarines to get us to the bottom of the sea. We have the sensor technology to observe what is there. We have the robotics technology to bring what is in the bottom-sea to the surface. And we have the genetics technology to analyse the organisms that we have found .
Within the Commission we are working on a "blue growth" Communication that will deliver policy recommendations able to facilitate sustainable economic growth and employment in emerging - and established - maritime sectors.
Of course we need research. At a time of deep austerity, the Commission's proposal to increase its research spending by nearly 50% is a clear declaration of intent and commitment in further fostering growth and development.
This EU funded package had been adopted by the Commission last week.
I've worked together with Ms Maire Geoghegan-Quinn the EU Commissioner for research and innovation, to reinforce the recognition of the seas and oceans in this future framework for research.
I am glad today to inform you that for the first time, the marine and maritime research is clearly indicated in all relevant documentation of the Horizon 2020 package. This will facilitate cross-cutting actions/projects in the field of maritime and marine research and innovation for future activities.
Further, the inclusion of ''Ocean energy'' has equally been ensured in the relevant sector of the package, together with wind and solar energy. This signals the need and the importance to be given to the ''ocean energy'' in the near future as an alternative source of energy.
The new '' Horizon 2020'' is therefore a good step forward. But the Commission can't obviously act alone. I would like to thank the Member States as well as Norway for their ongoing cooperation under the umbrella of the Joint Programming Initiative for "Healthy and Productive Seas and Oceans". The European marine and maritime research needs the effort of national research programmes.
A couple of weeks ago I was talking to the Chairman of IBM's European operations. He informed me that IBM, which is the second-largest technology company in the world, has bet the company's future on data.
There are new jobs in data. Unfortunately, although Europe spends about one and a half billion euro of public money on marine data, it is very difficult for business, especially the small start-up enterprises, to get hold of them. And even when they do so, it costs them so much to put incompatible data from a multitude of bodies together, that they give up.
The Commission's studies indicate that making all these data available in a compatible form would save European companies at least 300 million euro a year.
Industry is planning 5.8 trillion euro investment in offshore wind turbines by 2050. They need data to work out where to place their turbines, they need data to comply with environmental impact rules and they need data to operate and maintain the relevant installations. EU is not going to tell industry how to invest in the new blue economy. However, we can make sure that we have the infrastructure to make that investment really happening. For instance we can encourage the unlocking of public data.
I am therefore proposing that the EU supports the development of a seabed map of European waters ready by 2020. This will include water depth, marine sediments and marine life as well as real-time information on parameters such as temperature, salinity and sea-level.
At the same time, we are setting up mechanisms that allow us to find out from data users – private companies, public authorities, academics – where the gaps are, where we need new measurements.
This is part of our "marine knowledge 2020" initiative, which already started with preparatory actions in 2009. We now have prototype maps covering a small number of sea-basins. Feedback from users has been encouraging.
Last week Council and Parliament adopted the first financial regulation for the Integrated Maritime Policy that will allow us to extend prototype maps to all European waters by the end of 2014.
Finally, with the financial aid of the new European Fisheries and Maritime Fund that we are proposing for 2014 onwards, we will be able by 2020 to produce a more detailed sea-bed map that can really accelerate the expansion of the marine economy and provide opportunities for business.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am confident that your seminar will be profitable for the future development of the EU marine and maritime research which is one of the most important pillar of the Integrated maritime policy.