COLUMBUS scales the Atlantic in a “New Era of Blue Enlightenment” - July 2017

On 13 July 2017, Atlantic Ocean stakeholders from science and policy gathered in Lisbon to witness history unfold as the Belém Statement was signed, launching a strategic alliance between the European Union, Brazil and South Africa. In celebration, and to stimulate new collaborations and knowledge sharing, a high-level ministerial and scientific event entitled “A New Era of Blue Enlightenment” was organised in parallel to this event from 12-14 July 2017. Key cooperation areas were outlined as: Climate variability; Food security, fisheries management, aquaculture and biodiversity; The effects of emerging pollutants; Ocean observation (including seabed mapping), forecasting and monitoring processes and systems; Oceans technology (including for observation and renewable marine energy); and, Polar research (especially interconnections between the Atlantic, the Southern Ocean and Antarctica). 

The event comprised a "Project and Ideas Meeting Place", as well as keynote speeches and roundtable discussions. AquaTT and EurOcean hosted the workshop “H2020 COLUMBUS Project – Knowledge Transfer for Blue Growth”.

The COLUMBUS session looked to highlight how focused effort can stimulate impact from existing research and innovations in the marine and maritime sector, presenting case studies of interest to audiences representing the Atlantic Ocean. The scene was set by David Murphy (AquaTT) and Ned Dwyer (EurOcean), and three case studies of Knowledge Transfer were presented by Georgia Bayliss-Brown (AquaTT). The session closed having gathered insights from attendees on the need to build capacity in methodologies to maximise impact from research investment in the South Atlantic and expressing the potential for Knowledge Transfer between Europe and the South Atlantic. A brief meeting report has been submitted to the European Commission for publication. 

For more information on COLUMBUS, please contact the Project Manager, Cliona Ní Cheallacháin, AquaTT, at

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The Belém Tower and venue for the signing of the Belém Statement (Image: Planetware)

COLUMBUS workshop identifies recommendations for marine Knowledge Transfer and innovation in Europe - May 2017

Organised by AquaTT, EurOcean and Marine South East, COLUMBUS hosted a workshop entitled “Marine Knowledge Transfer & Innovation: Learning from Regional & European Initiatives” on 17 May 2017 at the National Oceanography Centre’s facility in Southampton.

COLUMBUS aims to measurably increase the uptake and application of outputs arising from publicly-funded marine research projects by different end-users, specifically industry and policy makers. It is therefore in COLUMBUS’ interest to become familiar with local and regional examples of best practice and propose recommendations to the European Commission to better enable Knowledge Transfer and innovation within the marine and maritime sector.

Held as a side event of European Maritime Day, the workshop brought together a range of stakeholders to a) examine good practice and progress arising from recent initiatives at a regional and European level; b) identify where barriers have been overcome and whether efforts can be replicated; and, c) brainstorm on ideas as to how to overcome challenges and barriers in the future.

Welcoming participants from policy, consultancy firms, regional clusters, SMEs and large companies, the scene was set by AquaTT and Marine South East, with Cornwall Marine Network invited to present their experiences. Discussions were lively and a number of barriers to impact were identified and solutions proposed. A detailed summary is available through the project website, but key recommendations to funding agencies are:

• Projects should have champions for collection and transfer of their outputs, either within the consortium or through an external provider;
• Impact beyond current metrics of research quality (ie scientific publications) must be recognised and incentivised;
• Support the development of knowledge broker organisations to ensure that impact potential of research is achieved;
• Investment should be made to improve access to Knowledge Outputs from marine projects; and
• Regional clusters can provide an opportunity to support Knowledge Transfer.

For more information on COLUMBUS, please contact the Project Manager, Cliona Ní Cheallacháin, AquaTT, at

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Staff from Nausicaá and AquaTT disseminating information about the COLUMBUS project at European Maritime Day

Stress-testing European marine data towards a European ocean observing system - February 2017

The upcoming Stakeholder Conference & Sea-basin Workshop will be held on 14-15 February 2017. The Final Conference Programme and list of speakers is now available for your information from the Conference webpage. The Conference brings together EMODnet experts and interested stakeholders to consider whether marine data collected via current observation and monitoring activities in Europe serve the needs of those who rely upon marine knowledge derived from observations and monitoring data. Findings of the EMODnet Sea-basin data stress tests (Checkpoints) will be presented to consider how open marine data repositories can better serve users facing real problems. Finally, the participants will discuss how to improve and better coordinate the existing and future monitoring and observation activities in Europe.

In short, the main objectives of the EMODnet Stakeholder Conference are to:

  • Inform interested stakeholders about the outputs and findings of the EMODnet Sea-basin data stress-tests;
  • Consider how to improve future data adequacy assessments and outputs by seeking input from stakeholders’ needs and identification of gaps.
  • Look forward with Stakeholders from science, policy, industry and civil society on how marine monitoring and observation activities could be improved and better coordinated in Europe. 

The Conference will take place on Tuesday 14 and Wednesday 15 February 2017 at the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts in Brussels, Belgium.  

The Conference is free to attend but registration is obligatory.

About the Conference

The Conference aims to mobilise a wide group of interested stakeholders to consider joint issues, present common findings as well as highlighting differences between the Sea-basins as identified by the EMODnet Sea-basin Checkpoints in terms of existing and future monitoring and observation activities, data availability and usefulness to address real problems.   

EMODnet Sea-basin Checkpoints assess the quality of the current observation monitoring data at the level of the regional sea-basins. By testing the data against specific end-user challenges, the checkpoints aim to demonstrate how well the current monitoring systems and data collection frameworks provides data to meet the needs of users. In doing so, data gaps and duplications as well as significant bottlenecks are being highlighted.

Six sea basin checkpoints are in operation. The first two checkpoints were initiated in the Mediterranean Sea and the North Sea in 2013. Four other Checkpoints covering the Arctic, Atlantic, Baltic and Black Sea were launched mid-2015.

For more information about the EMODnet Sea-basin Checkpoints, consult the EMODnet central portal information pages at

About EMODnet

EMODnet is a network of more than 160 organisations working together to observe the seas, to make marine data freely available and interoperable, to create seamless data layers across sea-basins and to distribute the data and data products via the internet. The primary aim of EMODnet is to unlock already existing but fragmented and hidden marine data and make them accessible for a wider range of users including private bodies, public authorities and researchers. Currently, seven thematic assembly groups have been created to develop thematic web-based Data Portals covering data resources from diverse fields including hydrography, geology, physics, chemistry, biology, physical habitats and human activities. Many of these thematic portals are already operational. In addition, six Sea-basin Checkpoints have been established to assess the observation capacity and adequacy of marine data available at regional Sea-basin level. To strengthen the coherence and functionality for users, a common ‘EMODnet Entry Portal’ provides an entry point delivering access to data, metadata and data products held by EMODnet thematic sites.

  • More information about EMODnet in general can be found on the information pages of the central portal
  • For more information about the programme contact

COLUMBUS brokerage workshop: Open-access marine data, an untapped resource? - October 2016

On 11 and 12 October, five partners of the EU COLUMBUS project: EuroGOOS, Seascape Consultants (hosting the EMODnet Secretariat), SmartBay, Marine South East and PLOCAN, had a successful marine data brokerage event for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs). The workshop titled ‘Power of open marine data for the blue economy’ took place as part of A Connected Ocean Conference and SeaTech Week 2016 in Brest, France.

Publicly available marine data resources offer a great potential for SMEs to create value-added products and services for their customers. The workshop aimed at linking with some of those SMEs as well as other users working on the public-private interface, and collecting their feedback on experiences, needs, bottlenecks, and suggestions for improvements.

The workshop was organized within the framework of the EU Horizon 2020 COLUMBUS project. COLUMBUS works to bridge the gap between the knowledge and information collected through EU projects and concrete applications for Blue Growth sectors. The engagement of the industrial users of marine data has been identified as a priority by the COLUMBUS Marine Observation Competence Node, bringing together EuroGOOS, NOC, UK, VLIZ and Marine South East with the node coordination by Seascape Consultants.

It has been recognized that making public marine data available to private sector will drive forward innovation and competition. The EU Member States and European institutions fund a large number of ocean observing research and infrastructure activities to derive marine data for various science, policy, and society needs. It has been estimated that making high-quality marine data held by public bodies in the EU widely available would improve productivity by over €1 billion a year (EC Roadmap for Marine Knowledge 2020).

The workshop included a mixture of open-floor discussions and presentations involving both EU marine data community, EuroGOOS, EMODnet, Copernicus Marine Service (CMEMS), private sector, Open Ocean, France, dotOcean, Belgium, as well as the EU AtlantOS project, French maritime cluster Mer Bretagne Atlantique, and St. Lawrence Global Observatory, Canada.

A number of European initiatives have been harvesting marine data collected by publicly-funded national and pan-European initiatives. Commonly called data aggregators, these initiatives include, among others, CMEMS, EMODnet, and SeaDataNet. Much progress has been made over the last years in helping users to become informed about the data available, visualize these data, download them in required geographical location and format, and acquire the metadata for the required dataset. However, a number of bottlenecks still exist, spanning data availability, quality, user-friendly format and web services.

In addition, to the abovementioned issues, the workshop further demonstrated that the role of SMEs is critical as intermediaries in the marine data value chain – acting on the interface between the public marine data resources and industrial end-users. SMEs know their clients much better than the public data initiatives, and can orient them to look for required information, or create bespoke value-added products for their users’ specific needs. This is why SMEs are very well placed to advise public marine data initiatives, like EMODnet and CMEMS, on ways to improve their service.

The issue of confidentiality was also discussed at the workshop. While competition will automatically entail restrictions on opening data, progress may be achieved through sharing a very broad range of data and making a distinction between ‘strategic’ and ‘non-strategic’ data (for example, sea temperature data). Promotion and recognition of open data are also critical to attract more data from private companies into the open repositories, this can be achieved through the recognition of the companies’ corporate responsibility, for instance. Another idea which arose from the workshop is for public and private initiatives to co-write papers together. This would allow them both gain from having a publication while the data would be made available with a Digital Object Identifier (DOI).

It was re-emphasized that brokerage is important for gaining trust and understanding among public and private partners, and promoting a data sharing philosophy. This should also take into account the development of business models and openness to speak the same language. The role of maritime clusters was stressed in this respect. Finally, data discovery should be made attractive with user-friendly and efficient interface.

The workshop report will be made available on the workshop webpage

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COLUMBUS-EuroGOOS-EMODnet exhibition stand at SeaTech week 2016, 11-13 October 2016, Brest, France. From left: Dina Eparkhina, EuroGOOS, Jan-Bart Calewaert, EMODnet, Oonagh McMeel, Seascape Consultants, Vicente Fernandez, EuroGOOS. 


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