Final Report Summary - EMSAC (European Marine Science Applications Consortium)
The EMSAC project has acted to expand the innovation capacity of four important maritime regions, focused on the opportunities arising from management of Europe’s coastal water resources. The four regions were each represented by their well-established marine clusters, namely:
• Marine South East in the Solent region of the UK
• Pole Mer Bretagne in Western France
• Pole Mer PACA in South of France
• Vastra Goteland in Western Sweden
The opportunities and barriers for investment, innovation and growth were explored in detail, and effective practices identified from the clusters involved. These were reflected in a Joint Action Plan agreed by the consortium.
The Joint Action Plan (JAP) presented the major results & conclusions of the first phase of work under EMSAC, and highlighted the priorities for implementation during the second phase. The plan was based on extensive research and analysis in two domains: the future market, technology and research priorities in the field of coastal water resource management; and the capabilities for stimulating investment and innovation in this field, within the EMSAC consortium and more widely.
As a result of the JAP, a programme of implementation measures were explored and developed. An online data resource on EU and national RTD projects was set up, and will be expanded over the coming years, to highlight gaps in research activity. A prospectus report detailed how the priorities for capacity building identified in the JAP can be implemented, to stimulate investment and growth across the markets for coastal water resource management. This implementation plan addresses actions which can be undertaken both within individual regions, but also collectively across a network of clusters. The implementation activities are divided under four categories:
• Assisting access to new customers
• Facilitating innovation
• Addressing skills gaps
• Enabling finance
Finally, the potential for expansion of the EMSAC cluster network and for increased international co-operation beyond the EU were examined. Scope for improved international leverage of clusters capabilities was identified, to be addressed by a more proactive role developing new international relationships. Inside the EU, several new clusters are now collaborating with the EMSAC partners on new project activities, demonstrating the success of the EMSAC work.
Project Context and Objectives:
The social and economic significance of Europe’s coastal waters is increasing rapidly. 88 million Europeans live in coastal regions, and enjoy the amenities of our coasts, whilst 5 million are employed on marine or sea-related activities. Furthermore, some parts of this large industry are growing rapidly (e.g. marine energy, aquaculture, maritime security), presenting new high-value employment potential. In addition, new regulations to protect the fragile marine environment are creating many opportunities for developing environment-friendly marine products and services.
The EMSAC project has showed how Europe can maximise this opportunity to the benefit of its citizens, by exploiting the strengths of its maritime clusters.
The project ran for three years up to the end of 2012, with a total budget of €1.5million and involved four major European maritime clusters. It is focused on growth opportunities within improved management of Europe’s estuarine and coastal resources, including:
• Management of water quality, whether for public use as an amenity (e.g. beaches), for commercial use (e.g. for aquaculture), and as a key support mechanism for important eco-systems
• Management of risks due to spills and incidents at sea, coastal and estuarine flooding, and impacts resulting from man-made interventions (e.g. construction of offshore wind farms)
• Management of living resources, including eco-systems within sensitive areas, fisheries, sources of biomass for production of fuels, and exploitation of biotechnology in marine applications (blue-biotech)
Each of these areas of requirement presents technical challenges and market opportunities. Many different marine businesses need to develop innovative products and services to address these requirements. Equally, an evolving science and technology base has to support these innovations with new capabilities and knowledge. These activities of businesses and research centres all generate economic added-value, which stimulates employment and investment.
During its first 18-month period, EMSAC has explored these market opportunities in detail, and identified priorities for expanding capacity to exploit them. It also scrutinised the cluster methodologies operated by the four participating clusters, to understand their different approaches and highlight practices that appeared to work effectively. This work formed the basis of a Joint Action Plan (D8 - Joint Action Plan on how to enhance the effectiveness of the participating clusters in stimulating economic development).
Joint Action Plan
The Joint Action Plan considered how public authorities, research centres and companies could optimise their interventions, to maximise the capacity for wealth creation by companies bringing solutions to the EMSAC priority markets. The second 18-month period of the project has been devoted to the implementation of the Joint Action Plan, and especially to stimulating some activities that can continue this implementation beyond the end of the EMSAC contract. These implementation actions fall under four main headings:
First, it is important for clusters to strengthen their ability to catalyse innovation projects involving their business and research communities. This can be achieved by highlighting where novel solutions (European/global) are needed, and focusing collaborative research effort on the RTD gaps and technology platforms that would enable such novel solutions.
Second, it is essential to target the identified barriers to innovation at such as limited finance for innovation catalyst activities, and inadequate coupling of innovation priorities with future demand for workforce skills.
Third, it is important to ensure that the network of maritime clusters is best equipped to facilitate new innovation projects at international level. This requires an expansion of the network beyond the EMSAC partners, and commitment to shared priorities for investment. This can broaden the collective capability for RTD and innovation projects, and equally offer more effective access to global markets.
Fourth, building on the point above, clusters need to focus on their specialist strengths to support better integration between European-level innovation projects, (e.g. projects strengthening the European Research Area) and regional economic investment (e.g. through European Regional Development Fund projects).
These thematic implementation priorities present challenges to be addressed by clusters at two levels:
• Individually, with clusters working to improve their effectiveness to stimulate investment and growth
• Collectively, by addressing shared opportunities and by exerting increased influence on policy makers at regional, national and European level.
Specific actions and their impacts are presented below.
EMSAC is a Coordination & Support Action, and has not therefore developed S&T results. Instead it has developed priority actions that can enable increased innovation capacity, as described in the following section.
The project has identified four critical ingredients of business investment and growth, that clusters need to focus on. These are summarised in the figure attached. Of course, different clusters will attach different emphasis, and will intervene on these topics in their own preferred ways, but the diagram neatly encapsulates the interventions that companies in every region will recognise.
The implementation planning included a substantial effort by the consortium on exploring how these interventions could best be achieved, drawing on the experiences of each cluster. A particular emphasis was placed on the question of how clusters can facilitate innovation, since innovation is often collaborative and can therefore benefit from the cluster membership.
Bringing firms and research bodies together to discuss novel solutions to market needs is an obvious enabler of innovation, but the project discovered a strong dependence on how such interactions should be structured. A variety of workshop events was implemented, as described in the deliverables D11 and D13, and two conclusions were reached:
• Holding the event in association with a well-known conference or trade show is essential to attract participation, especially of businesses who would struggle to justify the investment of time in attending an international stand-alone event. Regional as opposed to inter-regional events would be less influenced by this factor;
• Defining the scope of the event is crucial to avoiding the perception that the event is either to narrowly focused to attract the necessary breadth of participation, or too general to reach any useful end-point.
The road-mapping work presented in the Joint Action Plan was instrumental in selecting workshop topics having a strong market relevance, where advances in technology could enable several areas of innovation. This process has demonstrated how the network of RRDCs is able to achieve a strong impact on the innovation capacity in their regions, as described below.
Fostering trans-national, including cross-border, co-operation
A vital ingredient of innovation capacity is the ability to exploit co-operative, cross-border relationships between organisations having recognised strengths in the specific capabilities required. Furthermore, each regional cluster needs to build on its strengths via a developing action plan that avoids unnecessary duplication and fragmentation with those of other regional clusters. The EMSAC project has addressed a range of resources that help to address fragmentation of action plans, targeting four priorities:
1) Building up the awareness of expertise (commercial as well as scientific) available across Europe in the multiple disciplines and markets relevant to coastal water resource management, as well as the advances in capability which are being targeted by ongoing projects.
Workshops on specific topics serve to promote regional cluster strengths to other regions, so these capabilities can be built into future collaborations. The ColiSense-RT consortium (currently in progress) demonstrates how this has been achieved in the field of biosensor development. A web-accessible database of relevant EU and national projects, developed by EMSAC and now being maintained for the longer term, also provides knowledge of where RTD gaps are being addressed.
2) Creating a well-evidenced presentation of megatrends and policy influences affecting the market for water management solutions, including the trends in ICT infrastructure and standardisation
Clusters within the network are involved in a wide range of initiatives and studies, at both national and EU level. This provides an understanding of policy drivers, and access to relevant reports and analyses. Inter-cluster communications allows this intelligence to be shared, in defining a common set of policy response from which all involved clusters benefit.
3) Presenting expected impacts of recent and ongoing EU initiatives on the domain (spanning ICT, Environment and Research programmes), so that future proposals can build efficiently on the current and anticipated state of the art
The impact of research and inter-regional programmes can be substantially increased by cross-border dissemination to as wide a potential user-base as possible. The EMSAC clusters are well-placed to do this, collectively, and also to incorporate such activities within their own assessment of state-of-the-art and RTD gap analysis.
4) Contributing to an improved understanding of the above at a regional level, so that regional programmes can target outcomes which effectively exploit trans-national investment.
Using their established relationships with their public authority partners, each cluster can also assist the definition of regional strategies, both in terms of investment in regional innovation capacity, but also in terms of priorities for future inter-regional projects.
Improving links between regional authorities, legal entities conducting research and the local business community
The project identified a number of actions which could enhance the ability of regional clusters to facilitate local dialogue and shared objectives, which were addressed as follows:
1) Help each regional cluster to increase its ability as a facilitator of innovation by learning from good practices within other clusters within the consortium.
Although every regional cluster is operating in a unique economic and political environment, there are coming motivations and barriers affecting business investment and growth. EMSAC has highlighted these, as shown in the diagram above, and shown how clusters can position themselves to focus on these factors. This focus will help clusters to help contribute effectively to regional innovation and economic growth goals;
2) Create a mechanism for conceiving and implementing projects under a variety of EU funding initiatives, drawing on a wider range of expertise than would otherwise be accessible.
The project has demonstrated how innovation road-mapping (see below) can be performed, to highlight specific RTD topics that would enable market-led technology applications. These RTD priorities can form the basis of new project proposals, as has been demonstrated by development of the ColiSense consortium which targeted one of the EMSAC RTD priority topics.
Furthermore, the involvement in each cluster of regional authorities alongside research provides means that a better alignment between regional development funding and research funding can be achieved.
Developing joint action plans at the European level
In close alignment with the regional actions outlined above, the project has supported emergence of a coherent joint action plan by targeting three objectives, which were fulfilled as follows:
1) Presenting a market driven technology road map, with RTD gaps clearly highlighted and evidenced, so that research and business partners can focus attention on proposals which complement the ongoing project portfolio.
The project has shown how two capabilities can together help achieve a balanced portfolio: an understanding of RTD priorities from road-mapping work as described above; and a knowledge of recent and ongoing RTD projects on which to build. The EMSAC database of EU and national RTD projects, in the field of coastal water resource management, will provide a publicly-accessible resource for evidencing new project propositions.
2) Identifying relevant financing options for various phases of RTD and innovation support, looking at regional, national, EU and international schemes. This can help ensure that projects are able to draw on financial support which is most likely to suit the activity which is proposed
The main focus of attention within EMSAC on the question of financing has been directed towards the commercialisation phase of innovation. This is the area where there is the greatest difficulty. Whilst there are already many potential sources of such finance (seed funds, university spin-out funds, angel investors, venture capital etc), there is scope for strengthening the investment proposition to maximise the chance of success. The evidence-base reflected in the innovation road-mapping work will help to achieve this, but it is too early to see examples of this happening.
3) Advising regional authorities about how best to focus their innovation & RTD financing to achieve maximum additionality over and above funding schemes already available at national & EU levels.
Although many regions do not offer RTD finance, all regions have roles to play in supporting innovation capacity: for example, by approving incubator facilities for young firms; by aligning the provision of training with employers' skill priorities. The project has highlighted these roles, and has also established the credibility of its clusters as sources of intelligence on innovation priorities that regional/local authorities can draw upon.
Supporting the internationalization of the regional research-driven clusters
The project has recognised the importance of strengthening international co-operation, and has reported the work done on this topic in deliverable D15. In the action plan, two objectives were proposed which were addressed as follows:
1) Build links with major international funding bodies (eg UN, World Bank, ESA) and standardisation bodies recognising the breadth of expertise and capacity within a network of RRDCs
It has proved difficult to achieve very much progress with the world bodies such as UN and World Bank, but easier with bodies such as ESA and ESF. The project has initiated a mechanism in which the lines of communication and credibility of individual cluster members can be utilised to benefit the RRDCs. For example, some cluster members work closely with ESA, and the clusters are viewed as useful partners in market application cases within ESA programmes.
This is a bottom-up process, and achieving recognition by the larger bodies will take time.
2) Non-EU collaborators recognising the value of working with a network of world-class expertise offering enhanced disciplinary and geographical reach.
This objective was addressed extensively within the international co-operation tasks of the project. This concluded that most European RRDCs have not yet achieved their potential impact in the international market, and that a more pro-active approach could be beneficial. Within the project, there has been some progress on promoting the EMSAC cluster network with selected international partners, but this remains a longer term goal for the coming years.
Mentoring regions with a less developed research profile
Although all the regional clusters within the consortium are well established, the project also aimed to expand the impact of clustering in other regions by targeting three objectives, which were fulfilled as follows:
1) Involving world-class research institutions in relevant fields, which are not integrated with business communities and regional authorities, and which are interacting only at a scientific level
It is noticeable that some research centres are highly respected internationally for their scientific work, but are not engaged with their regional stakeholders to any significant extent. The project addressed this by involving such centres in technical workshops, where potential market applications were being explored. This established the business-research communication channel. Further progress has been achieved by helping such regions to develop a capability as RRDCs (see below).
2) Embryonic regional clusters which need help to justify further investment in their development as a fully-functioning RRDC
Although links were established with many clusters outside the EMSAC consortium, a particular emphasis was placed on two clusters in Portugal and Lithuania where there was a strong political intent to build up their clustering capability. This mentoring work proved very effective, as demonstrated by the fact that both of these clusters became full partners in a subsequent Regions of Knowledge project (REMCap).
3) Regional clusters which operate fully or partly as RRDCs, but which are focused on adjacent fields and/or markets (eg groundwater management, maritime transport).
EMSAC has targeted a very specific marine market (coastal water resource management) and most cluster members would have interests extending beyond this. The project has developed links with other clusters having different capabilities, such as ship and boat building. The emerging Marine Knowledge & Innovation Community (KIC) has been a useful forum for achieving this, and three EMSAC partners are members of this KIC.
List of Websites:
A dedicated web site has been developed to promote the project, at:
This site is also referenced from the web sites of the EMSAC partners, for example:
In order to maintain and extend this resource into the future, material from EMSAC and other relevant projects will be ported onto a new web site which is presently under development, at:
The contact person for these developing web resources is:
Marine South East Ltd
Tel: 0044 23 8011 1590