The sea provides Europe with millions of jobs and important opportunities for economic and social development. The Campus do Mar and other top European universities, research centres and consortiums are working together to promote, protect and strengthen all sectors connected with the sea. This is about joining forces so that the European Union sets up a marine Knowledge and Innovation Community (KIC). To that end, representatives from institutions that are promoting this initiative met in Brussels this week with MEPs from Spain, Portugal, Germany and Greece, some of whom were from Galicia. The Campus do Mar Director, Mr. Emilio Fernández, explained “we told them our proposal so that they can then defend the creation of a Marine-KIC before the European Commission”. The KIC will be a knowledge and innovation grouping focused on the development of sustainable marine resources, and in which research centres of excellence, academic institutions and companies will participate.
Now that the ball is in the court of the European Commission, Mr. Emilio Fernández feels that the meeting was very positive “because the Campus do Mar is better positioned with the most relevant bodies in Europe who are in favour of this objective”. The Galician Campus of Excellence is the only Spanish representative amongst the promoters and therefore its function “should be that of a spearhead, and we must therefore get the remaining Spanish marine campuses of excellence and other bodies” to join us on this initiative and make it a reality.
There are three KICs in Europe at present, one for energy, another for climate change and yet another for information and communication technologies. The European Commission is preparing the creation of another six KICs but the marine subject has not been included amongst them. The proposal put forth to the European Members of Parliament during the meeting this week was to announce a call for proposals in which the six best proposals would be selected, and in this manner open the possibility for the creation of Marine-KIC, “of special relevance for the development of countries from Southern Europe”. Three of the mentioned six new proposals would be operational next year while the remaining three would become functional in 2014.
The institutions that comprise this promoter group, namely; the Campus do Mar, Konsortium Deutsche Meeresforschung, University of Açores, Pôle Mer Bretagne, Schleswig-Holstein, Marine Institute Foras na Mara, Région Pays de la Loire, Bremerhaven, and the Southampton Marine & Maritime Institute, will continue to work jointly towards this objective until the next meeting in September. They will together try to bring in more supporters and members for the cause, which in Spain would be the responsibility of the Campus do Mar, and will furthermore discuss about the different marine disciplines that should be included in the Marine-KIC.
The potential of the sea
Maritime economy in Europe is strong, diverse and highly decentralised. European universities and research centres can, through the Marine-KIC, contribute to place this sector at the vanguard in many scopes of the global maritime economy. This cluster would contain an economic combination of excellence in education and in R&D, with a strategic approach based on maritime economic development on the continent. The group explained that this idea was born in 2010, and “if we bear in mind the current debates on resources safety and future of the oceans, we believe that it is the right moment in time for a concerted European initiative based on the best available knowledge and the highest environmental standards”. This informal grouping is working to include the marine issue into the Strategic Innovation Agenda of the EIT (European Institute of Innovation and Technology) because only “at the European level and with public investment can we start an initiative based on business knowhow”, they highlighted.
The Campus do Mar, in China
After strengthening its position in Europe, the Campus do Mar will soon turn its attention to China. The Director of the Campus of Excellence and the Director of the Internationalisation Department, Mr. Alberto González-Garcés, will be travelling to this Asian country to meet with representatives of five of the most important universities and research centres in China. The objective, as stated by Mr. Emilio Fernández, “is to promote the Campus do Mar in one of the emergent economies in the world”. This trip will follow the same scheme recently undertaken in Brazil, “where it worked quite well and with good reception”. However, the Director of the Campus do Mar would like to venture further and see that this visit would serve to not only establish future research links with these centres but also to create international student mobility exchange programs. In fact, another objective is to get students interested in the Campus do Mar PhD program and other studies connected with the sea.