The start of 2023 was marked by a round of announcements and initiatives which will undeniably contribute to strengthening and accelerating research and innovation in the energy and ecological transition of the marine and coastal environments. Here’s an overview.
The “Sustainable Blue Economy Partnership” (SBEP) call for projects
The European Sustainable Blue Economy Partnership was formed in 2022 as part of the Horizon Europe programme to accelerate the transition toward a climate-neutral, sustainable, productive and competitive blue economy by 2030, while supporting the conditions necessary to maintaining clean and healthy oceans by 2050.
In February, the SBEP launched its first call for transnational projects intended to finance research and innovation projects. This CFP, titled “The way forward: a thriving sustainable blue economy for a brighter future”(1) has a budget of €50m. Projects must address one of five set themes: planning and managing sea-uses at the regional level; development of offshore marine multi-use infrastructures to support the blue economy; climate-neutral, environmentally sustainable, and resource-efficient blue food and feed; green transition of blue food production; Digital Twins of the Ocean (DTOs) test use cases at EU sea-basins and the Atlantic Ocean. The ANR (the French National Research Agency), the project’s corresponding French partner, explains that these themes were selected to “maximise participation while strengthening the blue economy sector at European level, through innovative solutions and by improving marine ecosystem resilience. They encapsulate the routes for action from science to policy, in order to observe, measure and attenuate the impacts of climate change on essential green assets such as the biodiversity and other ecosystem services on which our economies depend, and so sustain our coastal communities“.
The projects, planned over 36 months, must be developed at trans-European level and in the EU’s different sea-basins: the Mediterranean, Baltic, Black Sea, North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Further, each consortium must involve partners from three independent legal entities, and represent at least three of the 23 countries participating in the call (19 member States: Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Spain, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Sweden, and 4 associate countries: the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Norway and Turkey).
Renewal of the Sea clusters for Phase V of the clusters
The Mer Bretagne Atlantique and Mer Méditerranée clusters were signed-off at the end of March for the period 2023 – 2026. Since 2005, these have between them signed-off and supported over 1,000 innovative projects across their respective action areas (Coastal and marine environment; Marine energy and mineral resources; Marine biological resources; Ports, infrastructure and logistics; Naval and sailing; Marine defence, safety and security), with over €2.6 billion invested in R&D. They currently number over 900 members.
For the next four years, the Sea clusters have set out a strategic road map articulated around four main levers: national sovereignty (security, health, energy, food, industry), the urgent and rapid decarbonisation of marine activities, the re-industrialisation of their territories, preservation of the seas and oceans, and combating climate change. It could be said that this phase V, which also places the European aspect front and centre, will provide them with the opportunity to pursue the development and roll-out of a large number of maritime innovations.
The creation of a larger European sea testing centre dedicated to marine renewable energies and floating wind turbines
Further downstream, in March, ten public and private actors(2) created the Open-C Foundation, a research institution enabling the coordination, development and piloting of sea testing of innovations in renewable marine energies at the prototype stage. Bringing together five sites around mainland France’s seaboards, the Open-C Foundation comprises the largest fully-dedicated European sea testing centre. It will allow the reliability of several major innovations to be assessed over the next three years, with in particular tests already programmed for second-generation floating wind turbines, offshore production of green hydrogen, and floating PV systems.
1) “The way forward: a thriving sustainable blue economy for a brighter future” (www.bluepartnership.eu).
2) Centrale Nantes, EDF, Ifremer, ITE France Energies Marines, RTE, Energies de la Lune, Technip Energies, TotalEnergies, Valeco and Valorem.