The ERA-MBT project held its Final Conference in Oslo | Marinebiotech

The ERA-MBT project held its Final Conference in Oslo

Published on 6 December 2017
The Marine Biotechnology ERA-NET (ERA-MBT), has come to an end after 4 years of collaboration between 19 national funding bodies pooling resources to undertake joint funding of transnational projects in the area of Marine Biotechnology. The final conference, held in Oslo on 20-21 November 2017, was the ultimate occasion to showcase all 16 funded projects, while creating discussions on other project achievements, including the five thematic areas identified in the Marine Biotechnology Strategic Research and Innovation Roadmap. Furthermore, the event provided a chance to present the new initiatives where marine biotechnology will be taken further to build the blue bioeconomy in Europe.

Jartrud Steinsli, Deputy Director General of the Norwegian Ministry of Trade, Energy and Fisheries set the scene of day one of the conference announcing the ocean as the new economic frontier. She cited the OECD publication The Ocean Economy in 2030 that “between 2010 and 2030 on a ‘business-as-usual’ basis, the ocean economy could more than double its contribution to global value added, reaching over USD 3 trillion”. The Norwegian government plays a leading role to promote sustainable use of the oceans, clean and healthy oceans, and the role of the blue economy in development policy (white paper).

From a European policy perspective, Niels Gøtke from the Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Science and coordinator of the former COFASP ERA-net, confirmed that the marine sector will continue to be in focus in H2020, with special attention to biotechnologies and the bioeconomy. He gave a very nice overview of what is going on in the field of blue bioeconomy and concluded that partnering (PPP and P2P) will also be in focus in FP9.

Steinar Bergseth (ERA-MBT coordinator, The Research Council of Norway), Torger Børresen (The Research Council of Norway), Dermot Hurst (Marine Institute of Ireland) and Sigurdur Björnsson (The Icelandic Centre for Research), who worked as a strong team centrally in ERA-MBT, presented the key achievements from the project. They provided practical illustrations on how the project has and will impact the blue biotech landscape in Europe. The focus was on the role of the ERA-MBT roadmap, the interactions between industry and academics and targeted communication along the value chain as a tool in commercialising knowledge output.

The five roadmap themes were given much attention in a separate conference session. A keynote speaker provided a general overview of the theme, followed by a case speaker who contributed with his/her own achievements and perspectives. Separate discussions with small groups of conference participants were facilitated at the end of the session to take input on the three most important aspects of every roadmap theme that need special attention in the future.  

Day two of the conference started with a brief outline of the 16 funded projects in the three main ERA-MBT calls; call 1 on biorefinery processes, call 2 on biodiscovery and call 3 on metagenomics. This offered a unique opportunity for the project coordinators to present their work in plenary, showcase some results in a poster session and network with other project participants, supporting the establishment of possible future successful interdisciplinary research consortia.

The final session of the conference was focused on the contributors in a blue Bioeconomy setting. Regional efforts to support the development of the European Blue Bioeconomy were showcased by Deniz Tasdemir (Baltic Region) and Jessica Hjerpe Olausson (Sweden), while Ernst Kloosterman considered SME challenges and Adrianna Ianora focused on marine infrastructures. Despite the significant progress in marine biotech activities over the past decade, the speakers agreed that “there remains an acute need to continue to build research and innovation capacity – in both the research and enterprise sectors and to enhance the science and technology research infrastructure (Roadmap)”. Øystein Rønning from the Research Council of Norway presented the relevant H2020 activities that could drive this mission forward.

The ERA-MBT project has been successful in raising the profile of blue biotech and in identifying new avenues for future research funding. Kristin Thorud from the Research Council Norway presented the announced ERA-Net Cofund Blue Bioeconomy, which is in preparation mode by collaborative efforts of JPI Oceans, ERA COFASP and ERA-MBT. The participation from 16 countries and 24 partners has already resulted in a total commitment of 23 M euro, with an expected EU contribution in the range of 8 M euro. The Cofund, which is expected to be launched in September 2018, will address new blue bioresources, new use of traditional blue resources, improvement of existing value chains (e.g. circular economy), and cross-cutting and supportive issues/actions.

The ERA-MBT final conference brought together 80 delegates from industry, academic institutions, policy bodies and funding agencies. Just like the other ERA-MBT stakeholder events, the conference provided a forum for networking that fostered productive discussions and generated insights into scientific, economic and societal impacts of marine biotechnology. The programme, presentations and pictures of the conference are available online on /projects/marinebiotech/final-conference.