The ERA-NET on marine biotechnology (ERA-MarineBiotech) was recently launched. Special Adviser Steinar Bergseth of the Research Council of Norway is the coordinator for the new network, which has 19 participating partners from 14 countries across Europe. It marks the first time Norway will coordinate the activities of an ERA-NET project.
“Norway is rich in marine resources, and biotechnology will play an important role in realising the value of these,” explains Dr. Bergseth. “There are advantages to coordinating the ERA-NET – with our hands on the wheel we have real influence on activities in this area.”
The EU’s ERA-NET scheme is designed to promote cooperation between the national research programmes of European countries and prevent overlap in research activities.
Addressing global challenges
According to a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the global market for marine biotechnology in 2010 amounted to EUR 2.8 billion (roughly NOK 23 billion), with an annual growth rate of 4–12 per cent.
More knowledge about marine biological resources will help not only to create wealth but also to solve major global challenges related to energy, food supply and climate. Algae, for example, can be utilised as biofuel, and the pharmaceutical industry is already harvesting marine biodiversity to explore the possibility for producing new medicines. Utilising the genome sequences of important fish species will be valuable for fish farming and other aquaculture activities, and knowledge about the oceans’ capacity to absorb CO2 is critical for understanding climate change.
Network collaboration with socio-economic benefits
The Research Council and Innovation Norway are the two Norwegian participants.The network’s activities will include collaboration on identifying research areas within marine bioprospecting, R&D tools and infrastructure, molecular aquaculture, and biomass production where joint funding may be most beneficial.
The participants aim to secure national funding from their respective organisations towards joint funding of research projects with start-up inlate 2014.
According to Dr. Bergseth, Norway’s participation in this ERA-NET will have many benefits.
“Participation will strengthen Norway’s research community and give us close, lasting ties to researchers in other European countries,” he says. “In terms of economics, activities under the ERA-MarineBiotech will help to ensure that overall research funding is invested effectively and that marine resources will be utilised prudently.”