Commission Action Plan for Innovation in the ‘Blue Economy’

EC presents plan to help use ocean resources sustainably and drive growth and jobs in Europe

Source: EUROPA, Press release database

The Commission action plan proposes to:

  • Deliver a digital map of the entire seabed of European waters by 2020.
  • Create an online information platform, to be operational before the end of 2015, on marine research projects across the Horizon 2020 programme as well as nationally funded marine research, and to share results from completed projects.
  • Set up a Blue Economy Business and Science Forum, which will involve the private sector, scientists and NGOs to help shape the blue economy of the future and share ideas and results. A first meeting will take place in the margins of the 2015 Maritime Day event in Piraeus, Greece.
  • Encourage research, business and education actors to map out the needs and skills for tomorrow’s workforce in the maritime sector by 2016.
  • Examine the possibility of major players from the research, business and education community to form a Knowledge and Innovation Community (or KIC) for the blue economy after 2020. KICs, part of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) can stimulate innovation in multiple ways, for example by running training and education programmes, reinforcing the path from research to the market and setting up innovation projects and business incubators.

The EU’s maritime or “blue” economy is vast, with over 5 million employees in sectors as diverse as fisheries, transport, marine biotech and offshore renewables.

Between 2007 and 2013, the European Commission contributed an average of €350 million a year towards marine and maritime research through its seventh Framework Programme. A substantial amount of marine research is also carried out through Member States’ programmes (around €300 million per year in France and Germany for example). Blue growth is a “focus area” in the new Horizon 2020 programme, with a specific €145 million budget for 2014-2015 alone, and further opportunities across the programme.

Around 30% of the seafloor surrounding Europe has not yet been surveyed. This varies from 5% of the Bay of Biscay and the Iberian Coast to more than 40% of the North Sea and the Ionian and central Mediterranean. A better understanding of what is happening below sea level will provide a better knowledge of ocean resources and a better understanding of how these can be used sustainably.

Skill gaps are already apparent in the wind energy sector. In 2012, this offshore sector represented 10% of the annual wind capacity installed, and employed 58,000 people directly and indirectly across Europe. It is projected that by 2020, the proportion of wind power offshore will reach 30% of the annual wind installed capacity. That means 191,000 jobs by 2020, growing to 318,000 by 2030. But the sector could also see a skill shortage growing from 7,000 now to 14,000 full-time equivalents if the future workforce is not equipped with skills in maintenance and manufacturing for example.

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