In October, UiB and NORCE launched our joint advice on priorities in ocean-related research and innovation in the Horizon Europe Strategic plan for 2025-2027.
The recommendations for increased and more strategic research and innovation investments are presented in the position paper:
Why we want to make the green wave blue
Achieving the goals set for a green transition in Europe will require huge investments in ocean-related research and innovation. In particular, the EU’s overarching goal of climate neutrality by 2050 cannot be achieved without a significant attention to coastal ocean space and the Arctic.
Norway has the longest coastline in Europe and is a main gateway to the Arctic for Europe. Norwegian actors are key partners in the efforts to meet the EU's policy guidelines and to succeed in the 'blue' ocean- and coast-related efforts necessary to achieve the Green Deal.
Our key messages are:
Increased interdisciplinary and intersectoral research on coastal processes
There is a critical need for coordinated interdisciplinary and intersectoral research to increase our understanding of coastal processes under multiple stressors. This is fundamental to achieve the European Green Deal’s ambitions. The linkages between land and coastal areas and seas are continuously changing – therefore, research on the dynamics of, and interconnections between, these systems and border zones is urgently needed.
Ice-free Arctic: Dedicated investment in research and innovation in relation to a warmer and ice-free Arctic
Under pressure from climate change, the Arctic is high on the political agenda in terms of security, stability, environmental pressure, access to marine resources, and societal development.
Dedicated investment in research and innovation in relation to a warmer and ice-free Arctic is urgent. Collaboration between the EU and Norway is particularly important in this context.
New tools: Development of evidence-informed decision-making tools
There is a need to prioritize the development of evidence-informed decision-making tools (observing systems and integrated simulation models) supporting conservation, restoration, and sustainable use (energy, food, bioresources, transport) of coastal areas and the Arctic.
To develop such tools, basic process studies as well as sharing of data and infrastructure to reveal fundamental mechanisms and causation are crucial.
In support of the above, UiB and NORCE jointly call for continued, increased, and more strategic investment in ocean research.
Conservation versus exploitation
During the seminar in Brussels, speakers from the European Commission, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) in UNESCO, and the European Marine Board discussed ocean-related topics and strategic priorities with researchers and leaders from UiB and NORCE. The sessions focused on three topics:
- Conservation versus exploitation
- Common use of coastal-ocean space and its management
- The Arctic
In her opening speech, UiB Rector Margareth Hagen pointed out that we are facing a difficult dilemma. We want to get more food and energy from the ocean, but ocean areas are already under pressure from pollution, climate change, and loss of biodiversity.
She encouraged increased investments in research and innovation, so that lack of knowledge will not stand in the way of a sustainable development:
"A balance between conservation and restoration and sustainable use must be found, and to find this, we need knowledge in many different fields as well as interdisciplinary knowledge".
Hagen was joined by CEO of NORCE, Thor Arne Håverstad. In his opening speech he pointed out that ocean research remains siloed and fragmented. He too called for stronger interconnections in research, inclusion and integration of social sciences, and increased multidisciplinarity and data sharing.
We need a paradigm shift
"This position paper picks up on many of the areas we are working on for the Ocean decade”, said Emma Heslop from IOC.
She mentioned the need for co-design processes and interdisciplinary research and highlighted the important role of universities and research institutions.
Ana-Maria Stan, Policy Officer for Healthy Oceans & Seas in the European Commission, also emphasised the need for transdisciplinary science:
“We need a paradigm shift for the oceans, toward a system approach taking account of relations and interdependence of different elements”, she said, and added: “We must mobilize different research fields and innovation via Horizon Europe. A success factor will be how we can interlink these different elements”.
Perspectives from law, social sciences and humanities
The position paper emphasizes the need to integrate perspectives from law, social sciences and humanities in ocean research and innovation. This point was also highlighted by several of the panellists.
“To include social and economic aspects in marine spatial planning is crucial”, observed Juan Ronco Zapatero, who is a Policy officer for Marine Spatial Planning in the European Commission.
“From a policy making perspective this is a whole area where more research is needed. We need to know what the goals are, and what the impact of different types of activities will be”.
He also added that we need more knowledge to make good decisions and secure that benefits and risks and negative effects are distributed in a just manner.
The Arctic as a “global canary”
The Arctic has been described as the “global canary” for climate change, as changes occur more rapidly here than elsewhere on the globe. A warmer, ice-free Arctic requires more research and innovation activities.
Researchers from UiB and NORCE pointed out that although we have many important research projects in the Arctic already, a lot of knowledge is still missing – and is particularly demanding to obtain because of the conditions in the Arctic. Therefore, they urged, Arctic research and observation must by prioritized in the years to come.
Several researchers raised the issues of increased conflict with Russia complicating relationships with Russian researchers. Broken relationships are already affecting the collaborations in the Arctic region, restricting access to important areas for research.
Basic research is needed
During the panel debate, Rector Margareth Hagen encouraged the Commission to highlight the importance of basic research. Both as a component in the efforts to find solutions to the great challenges we face, addressed for example by the Missions in Horizon Europe, and as laying the ground for radical innovations.
Strategic adviser Dominique Durand from NORCE agreed and added that we must recognize the difference between curiosity-driven research and basic research; curiosity-driven research is mainly funded in Horizon Europe’s Pillar 1 (Excellent Science), but excellent basic research is needed in projects in Pillar 2 (Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness) as well.
What happens next?
The position paper was presented to representatives of the EU Commission at the seminar in Brussel on 18 October. UiB and NORCE will continue to present the key messages to relevant actors at regional, national, and European level in the months to come.
The Strategic plan for 2025-2027 will be developed based on a broad stakeholder consultation process, with a public consultation opening in November 2022, remaining open for 12 weeks.
UiB and NORCE invite other stakeholders to share their views on priorities for ocean-related research and innovation and to reinforce common messages. We also invite the European Commission to take into consideration the position paper and reflect this in the new Strategic plan for 2025-2027.
Read more in Khrono's news story: Bergenskrefter i kamp for EU-midler til havforskning (in Norwegian)
This article was first published on 28 October by University of Bergen.