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Ireland & Northern Ireland To Become Centre Of Excellence For Marine ICT

5th November 2013
Ireland & Northern Ireland To Become Centre Of Excellence For Marine ICT

#MarineScience - The SmartOcean Forum taking place at Titanic Belfast over the next two days (5-6 November) aims to establish Northern Ireland and Ireland as leaders in the development of ICT products and services for global marine sectors. 

The Invest Northern Ireland-sponsored event will focus on developing high-tech products and services for traditional sectors such as fisheries, aquaculture, transport and security and emerging sectors such as renewable ocean energy and environmental monitoring, and ocean observation.

The forum will give insights on emerging markets, policy and opportunities for innovation associated with the launch of Horizon 2020 in 2014 and will focus on the challenges for SMEs to drive innovation in an emerging marine technology sector. It will also explore initiatives and investment for capacity build to develop a marine ICT sector here that can derive economic benefits from our ocean. 

There are a number of opportunities emerging through local and international initiatives and we need to be in a position to work with Atlantic partners in the sustainable development of our ocean resource.

NI Minister of Enterprise Trade and Investment, Arlene Foster, said: “Today’s SmartOcean forum follows our recent Northern Ireland Investment Conference which successfully highlighted to an international business audience the strengths that we have to offer.  

"Programmes like SmartOcean allow us to continue building on our traditional strengths of engineering excellence and our long history of innovation, whilst developing new skill sets to meet the needs of the fast changing world of technology and renewable energy, and with it bringing real opportunities for economic growth and development.

Minister Foster added that her department "has been leading on the development of the Northern Ireland Innovation Strategy. Fundamental to this strategy is the concept of open innovation and collaboration. The rapid rise of innovation in technology and the emerging opportunities coming from the marine sector offers considerable scope and opportunities for those companies who are willing to finding new innovative ways of working and developing.”

Meanwhile, Maire Geoghegan Quinn, EU Commissioner for Research & Innovation, highlighted the "strong convergences between SmartOcean and our plans for ocean-related research and innovation in Horizon 2020, the EU’s new research and innovation programme. 

"By bringing together the best ICT experts, marine technology providers and marine scientists in Ireland, the SmartOcean cluster has created the right innovation environment to harvest the potential of the blue economy. Research and innovation are essential to unlock the potential of marine energy and the marine bio-economy and to use deep-sea resources in a sustainable way.”

The SmartOcean Forum aims to build on the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance between the EU, United States and Canada, launched at the Marine Institute in Galway last May. 

A goal of the alliance is to develop a transatlantic ocean observation system which will increase our understanding of the oceans and promote ocean innovation through improved access to a broad range of ocean data.

Marine Institute chief executive Dr Peter Heffernan, who opened the forum, said: “Our ocean territory is our greatest natural resource and the need to understand and manage it has never been greater. 

"We have a huge opportunity to lead the way in marine ICT to support the sustainable development of our ocean resource. And we are steadily working towards the targets set out in [the Irish] Government’s Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth - An Integrated Marine Plan for Ireland to ensure that our ocean wealth will be a key component of our economic recovery and sustainable growth, generating social, cultural and economic benefits for all citizens."

Other speakers at the event include Dr Gilles Ollier, head of sector for earth observation and director general for research and innovation with the European Commission; Karen Skinner of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency; and Suzanne Kelly, deputy director of the US Integrated Ocean Observing System programme with the NOAA; while representatives from Microsoft, SAP, Cathx Ocean and Magnet Networks will give keynotes.

Published in Marine Science
MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy is a contributor covering all things on the water, from boating and wildlife to science and business

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Marine Science Perhaps it is the work of the Irish research vessel RV Celtic Explorer out in the Atlantic Ocean that best highlights the essential nature of marine research, development and sustainable management, through which Ireland is developing a strong and well-deserved reputation as an emerging centre of excellence. From Wavebob Ocean energy technology to aquaculture to weather buoys and oil exploration these pages document the work of Irish marine science and how Irish scientists have secured prominent roles in many European and international marine science bodies.


At A Glance – Ocean Facts

  • 71% of the earth’s surface is covered by the ocean
  • The ocean is responsible for the water cycle, which affects our weather
  • The ocean absorbs 30% of the carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere by human activity
  • The real map of Ireland has a seabed territory ten times the size of its land area
  • The ocean is the support system of our planet.
  • Over half of the oxygen we breathe was produced in the ocean
  • The global market for seaweed is valued at approximately €5.4 billion
  • · Coral reefs are among the oldest ecosystems in the world — at 230 million years
  • 1.9 million people live within 5km of the coast in Ireland
  • Ocean waters hold nearly 20 million tons of gold. If we could mine all of the gold from the ocean, we would have enough to give every person on earth 9lbs of the precious metal!
  • Aquaculture is the fastest growing food sector in the world – Ireland is ranked 7th largest aquaculture producer in the EU
  • The Atlantic Ocean is the second largest ocean in the world, covering 20% of the earth’s surface. Out of all the oceans, the Atlantic Ocean is the saltiest
  • The Pacific Ocean is the largest ocean in the world. It’s bigger than all the continents put together
  • Ireland is surrounded by some of the most productive fishing grounds in Europe, with Irish commercial fish landings worth around €200 million annually
  • 97% of the earth’s water is in the ocean
  • The ocean provides the greatest amount of the world’s protein consumed by humans
  • Plastic affects 700 species in the oceans from plankton to whales.
  • Only 10% of the oceans have been explored.
  • 8 million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean each year, equal to dumping a garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute.
  • 12 humans have walked on the moon but only 3 humans have been to the deepest part of the ocean.

(Ref: Marine Institute)

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