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Portugal and Norway align research strategies in marine science and technology

Portugal and Norway share strategic, scientific and economic interests in the sea: both countries enjoy natural marine resources, both have jurisdiction over vast maritime areas (in the case of Portugal, the country holds one of the largest exclusive economic zones of maritime space in Europe, with over 1 700 000 km2, equivalent to 18 times its continental plate). Both are nations facing the sea, with population concentration in coastal regions, and strong contributions of these regions and/or sea-related activities to their respective GDPs. Additionally, Portugal and Norway have similar marine ecosystems, geo-location, scientific areas, and economies of the sea in many respects. In order to take advantage of these complementarities, and to promote mutual benefits, FCT and its Norwegian counterpart, the Research Council of Norway (RCN) signed in May, the Memorandum of Understanding for Scientific and Technological Cooperation in Marine Sciences and Technologies.

The Memorandum of Understanding establishes cooperation with Norway in the area of marine science and technology as a priority, starting next year. The Memorandum sets out some of the measures planned for the implementation of this cooperation: joint funding of R&D projects, the organization of seminars, symposia, workshops and other scientific meetings between research centers and companies in both countries (with a view to producing a roadmap for cooperation), the exchange of researchers and technical staff, and incentives for the involvement of companies in the areas of knowledge transfer and innovation. The Memorandum also foresees the exchange of information and best practices between the public agencies involved in the cooperation, so that they can better understand each other's systems and thus ensure effective support for the collaborative process. 

Within the broad field of marine sciences and technologies, the Memorandum covers the following areas: marine biotechnology, food (fisheries, aquaculture and industrial processing), environment (marine ecosystems, environmental management, pollution and climate change), underwater technologies and offshore systems, deep sea (including ocean floor mining), offshore energy (including fossil fuels, renewables, and methane hydrates). 

In addition to bilateral collaborations between Portugal and Norway, also at the multilateral level the cooperation will consolidate joint positions, and boost the positions of both countries in the Horizon 2020 framework program and other collaborative platforms, such as the Joint Programming Initiatives, ERA-NET, the EUROSTARS program, and joint marine initiatives of the European Institute of Technology, where both Portugal and Norway already have strong presences.

The Economy of the Sea - a global priority and for Portugal

For some time now the sea has been the center of attention in various international forums, for its considerable resources (transport, communication, food, biotechnological, energy, geological and genetic) and for the ecological services it offers (for example, in climate regulation, storage and recycling of pollutants). In Portugal, in 1998 the sea was defined as a national priority through the creation of a specific funding program. Under the responsibility of FCT, between 2000 and 2004 this program brought together various funding instruments until then dispersed, and allowed the creation of critical mass in the field of marine science and technology, which has remained until today.

In 2006 the National Strategy for the Sea. Revised in 2013 (after public consultation), the strategy sets out the national vision for economic, social and cultural development, based on the preservation and sustainable use of ocean resources and services, underpinned by cutting-edge scientific research and innovation.

The Economy of the Sea is thus one of the 15 strategic priorities of the National Strategy of Research and Innovation for Smart Specializationsupported by several studies, including the analysis of the national system of R&I conducted by the FCTwhich show that Portugal has a competitive advantage in R&I of the sea (in areas such as fisheries, marine biology, oceanography and maritime engineering) and presents a high economic, scientific and technological specialization in this domain.

The FCT Oceano Office

According to Telmo Carvalho, coordinator of the recently created FCT Ocean Office, "Today, after 15 years of concerted investment in marine science and technology, Portugal has a well established and strong scientific community, particularly in areas such as robotics, biotechnology, geology, and oil and gas exploration. A solid research area has been created, which is well placed to contribute to the Economy of the Sea.

The mission of the Oceano Office is to support the FCT Board in the coordination of programs and funding instruments of interest to marine sciences and technologies, in order to ensure the sustained growth of critical mass in this field in Portugal, to support the internationalization of this truly multidisciplinary community, and to promote interactions between research and business. The FCT Oceano Office will therefore play an important role in the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding with the Research Council of Norway.