News, Research & Development

hav21 outlines marine r&d priorities

The HAV21 committee has newly delivered a strategy report detailing the way forward for Norway’s new integrated strategy for marine research that points to Arctic and the northern areas among one of seven priority R&D areas for the future.

HAV 21 is the country’s first comprehensive national research and development strategy in marine knowledge and management of its valuable marine resources and vast ocean areas. Its overall goal is to get a more broad-based and common strategy for marine research and development in four earmarked areas: resource management, fisheries, aquaculture (including marine bio-technology and production of bio mass) and seafood (including bio-based industries and bio-prospecting).

The strategy will also point out needs for new knowledge and technology development and help create a comprehensive mindset on marine knowledge and technology efforts by bringing the public authorities, industry and research institutions closer together.

More Comprehensive Approach

Since its launch last October, a strategy committee led by Liv Monica Stubholt, Kvaerner senior vice president of strategy and communication, has been working on identifying priority areas for future marine R&D investments. Four working groups within resource management, fisheries, aquaculture and seafood recently finished gathering input from the industry, interest organizations, authorities and research institutions. This has formed the basis for the concluding report delivered to the Ministries of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs in November 2012.

One of the key things critically examined by the HAV 21 strategy committee was how Norway currently invests in marine research, says Lars Horn, HAV21 manager of the HAV21 Secretariat at the Research Council. The country spent about NOK 2.8 billion in 2009, according to the Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education (NIFU). This represents a near trebling over the last decade and 7% of Norway’s total research spending in 2009. Almost half of the marine research money (NOK 1.3 billion) in 2009 was spent on aquaculture.

A more comprehensive approach to marine R&D spending would help Norway prioritize spending efforts in the right directions at home and help it select the best strategies in international cooperation, such as JPI Oceans (Joint Programming Initiative for Healthy and Productive Seas and Oceans), that best further Norway’s priority marine R&D areas. Given the expensive R&D costs in this sector, there could be major savings from combining resources on infrastructure such as vessels and satellites.

Seven Priorities

The HAV21 strategy committee has identified seven priority areas to promote stable growth and expanding opportunities in the marine sector. These include legal perspectives, management and use; knowledge about the eco-system; the Arctic and the northern areas; harvesting and cultivating new marine raw materials; fish health and sustainable, safe and healthy seafood; food and markets; and technology.

According to Lisbeth Berg-Hansen, minister of fisheries and coastal affairs, this new strategy towards marine research and development will be a unique starting point for opening doors to a new marine adventure and increasing the total Norwegian value creation. A new report by the Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters (DKNVS) and Norwegian Academy of Technological Sciences (NTVA) recently estimated that biomarine-based value creation in Norway could potentially grow six-fold from NOK 90 million in 2011 to NOK 550 billion by 2050.

“The government’s vision is that we will become one of the world’s leading seafood nations,” said Berg-Hansen during the report handover in November. “If we are to achieve this vision, we must also be leading in knowledge.”

“We must also be sure that we have the right knowledge to realize the fantastic potential that lies in the seas and our coastal areas,” the minister added. “That was the background for the government taking the initiative to establish HAV 21.”

Arctic Focus

In its concluding report, the committee points to the increasing geo-political, security, and strategic significance of the northern areas. Management and exploitation of resources, attention to local society, and understanding of the area’s significance for global climate development should be based on knowledge within natural sciences and technology, social sciences, and humanities, it said. Marine research in the northern areas must therefore be strengthened in line with the government’s High North strategy.

Among the committee’s concerns is the lack of data on the physical and biological conditions in the winter in the Barents Seas and Arctic because of ice cover during that time of the year. The ongoing climate changes and rising acidity of the seas, increased interest for ship traffic, petroleum resources, and importance for the fish stocks all make this area of utmost importance for increased knowledge. Another recommendation is the need for mapping how changes in air and sea currents affect pollution behaviour and the effect of environmental pollutants on the Arctic eco-systems.

“Norway’s use and management of its oceans is of national and international significance, and the country’s strategic northern location means that its activities attract extensive international interest,” said Stubholt. “We must therefore take particular care when it comes to setting priorities for marine research.”

Paving the Way

The strategic report constitutes recommendations to the government’s seafood White Paper due in 2013, Norway’s engagement in international research cooperation, and other strategic work. The HAV21 strategy will play a crucial part in the development of research programmes at the Research Council, said Arvid Hallén, Research Council director general.

The driver for creating a new national marine strategy has been the importance of the marine sector and other recently formed national research initiatives. In the past couple of years, the government has launched Klima 21 focusing on climate, Energi 21 for the energy sector, and most recently Maritime 21, an industry driven project for the shipping industry.

“Recently there has been focus on climate and energy,” said Horn. “Now is the time to open people’s eyes to the importance of the oceans.”

(Photo credits: Caption: Salmon cages in Loppa on the border of Finnmark and Troms. Per Eide Studio/Norwegian Seafood Council)