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European Marine Biology Resource Centre preparatory phase 2

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - pp2EMBRC (European Marine Biology Resource Centre preparatory phase 2)

Reporting period: 2015-10-01 to 2016-09-30

EMBRC is a distributed infrastructure of marine biology and ecology, encompassing aquaculture and biotechnology, exploiting the latest “omics”, analytical and imaging technologies, and providing on site and remote scientific and technical services to the scientific community of the public and private sector.
EMBRC successfully completed a preparatory phase in early in 2014 with the production of a business plan and a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed by 9 countries. An implementation phase was initiated with France chosen as host country. Since only institutions from 5 MoU signatory countries went through the preparatory phase, pp2EMBRC had as objectives: 1) to harmonize the access mechanism to the operational EMBRC-ERIC across all the partners, putting all the practical tools in place, including host contracts and single point online access platform, to enable EMBRC-ERIC to commence its access program when it becomes operational; 2) to put in place practical guidelines towards the full implementation of the new European and international legislation and commitments on Access and Benefit Sharing of the use of marine biological resources, thus providing clarity to future users of EMBRC-ERIC about their legal rights over obtained biological resources, and to position itself globally as a broker between users and the supplying countries ; 3) to focus the smart specialization of the regions and the opportunities marine biological resources offer for blue-biotech development and innovation, thus demonstrating the member states that EMBRC is a tool towards economic development of their maritime regions, enticing them to sign the EMBRC-ERIC, and prioritize its sustained support, particularly from regions which are now underrepresented in EMBRC.
As planned, the main outputs of the project were 1) a harmonized set of contract templates and a methodology for costing access to be included in the EMBRC-ERIC service level agreements with the national nodes, as well as the establishment of single entry online platform for users to apply to the infrastructure; 2) a MoU between EMBRC and the Conference of the Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR) to be signed shortly that underlines mutual commitment to promote marine biotechnology in the European maritime regions and the long term support of EMBRC by the CPMR; 3) dialogue with some countries (Ireland, Finland) to join the EMBRC-ERIC; 4) The establishment of best practice recommendations for EMBRC implementation of the Access and Benefit Sharing legislation; 5) dissemination of EMBRC activities in multiple contexts.
The pp2EMBRC work plan was divided in four work packages.
Work package 1 (led by CCMAR) was dedicated to coordination and communication of the project. Project activities were initiated with a kick-off meeting (Kom) held in Paris, France, October 12-13, 2015 at the EMBRC headquarters with the presence of all partners. The Kom started with the presentation by the coordinator of an overview of project highlighting the content and timing of key deliverables and milestones, and their timing, as well as administrative procedures. Each work package planned in detail the work of the coming months and the contribution of each partner. Throughout the 12 months of project duration the management team maintained a close contact with work package leaders by e-mail, telephone or skype, receiving feedback and helping with organizational aspects and any issues as required. A project sub-webpage was setup at the EMBRC webpage ( where information about the project and news were constantly added: entries of pp2embrc events/workshops with announcements, registrations; agenda and supporting documents, including presentations. Content was also added to social media EMBRC sites (; The management team with contribution from the partners produced two newsletters at month 6 and 12 (deliverables 1.1 and 1.2) which were distributed among partners and the EMBRC community.

Workpackage 2 “Procedure for setting up single entry service provision” had two main objectives: (1) to harmonize access procedures among partners and (2) to develop the single point access platform for EMBRC services.
The first objective included i) harmonization of service offer, in particular to ensure that the same designations are used by partners for similar services, ii) the calculation of service costs, and iii) contracts for user access.
For compilation and harmonization of service offer (Task 2.1 – Compilation of services provided by national nodes, led by UGENT) a questionnaire was initially sent to the partnership to collect the descriptions of the services offer. The resulting catalog of services and ontologies was presented and discussed at the workshop “Harmonization on access to services within EMBRC” organized in Bilbao, Spain, November 17, 2015. A harmonization procedure was carried out and the resulting catalog of services that EMBRC can provide to users was compiled and stored in database format: deliverable D2.1 “Integrated database of services” (UGENT)
The second harmonization procedure was the calculation of Full Economic Costs (Task 2.2 – Harmonized calculation of full economic costs across EMBRC led by CCMAR) from which to derive the estimation of user access costs. A manual and spreadsheet was produced which partners could use to calculate their infrastructure access costs and discussed and clarified at the “Access cost calculation workshop”, Olhão, Portugal, February 4-5, 2016. Results of the workshop were condensed in deliverable D2.2 “standardized full economic cost method of services” (CCMAR), which provided a common methodology for all EMBRC partners for cost calculation across.
Finally, the third harmonization procedure was Task 2.3 “Definition of hosting contracts” led by SZN. A series of contract templates to host users at marine stations and EMBRC laboratories were produced contemplating various types of users (academics, private), intellectual property, and several other aspects. The templates were circulated by e-mail for discussion and finally adopted as deliverable D2.3 “Hosting contracts (SZN).
Task 2.4 (Development of central web-based service-access system) led by UGENT and VLIZ produced the online access system allowing users to find services based on multiple entries and to compare similar services offered by different partners. It contains the electronic forms for user access application linked to the databases produced in task 2.1 with a back-office allowing, among others, commentating and evaluation of applications - Deliverable D2.4 “Web-based service-access platform” (VLIZ). The web-platform is presently available for internal checks of accuracy of information and testing. This resulted also in achieving milestone MS1 (UGENT), the setting up of the online access system.

Work package 3 “Facilitate access and the use of marine biological resources in areas within and beyond national jurisdiction” had as main objectives: (1) preparing best practices within EMBRC for compliance with the applicable international framework for accessing and using marine bioresources (UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, Antarctic Treaty System, Convention on the Biological Diversity and its Nagoya Protocol on Access to genetic resources and benefit sharing, EU ABS legislation) and (2) strategically positioning EMBRC-ERIC as a broker between providing countries and users of marine bioresources and a voice for the community of users of marine biological resources.
In task 3.1 a best practice guidelines (BPGs) was prepared for the EMBRC culture collections to enable them to register as collections nationally (Deliverable 3.1 “Best Practice Guidelines for the community of users and for the collections” HCMR, MBA and UPMC. The guidelines were formulated with wider participation and a workshop organized by HCMR and MBA “Practical guidelines for accessing and providing marine genetic resources” Heraklio, Crete, Greece, June 29-30, 2016. The guidelines ensure that all EMBRC culture collections have the right systems in place and that the material utilised has been obtained within the rules of law as well as providing the terms of use for the material. As far as the users are concerned, by using these registered collections they can easily consult the relevant documentation and determine if they can legally conduct their research using those organisms, and thus demonstrate that they have exercised ‘due diligence’ in the eyes of the law.
To further aid its user community, in task 3.2 pp2EMBRC has prepared BPGs for the use of marine genetic materials. To this end a workshop was organized by MBA “Accessing the sea and its biodiversity for science: what role European research infrastructures?” (Brussels, Belgium, September 13, 2016) bringing together different stakeholders. The BPGs provide the users with information regarding traceability, standardised practices, but most importantly, step-by-step guides on how to gain access to new organisms and obtaining a priori informed consent (PIC) from the source country. This will in turn provide much greater clarity for the user community on their legal obligations. The outcome of the work package was a white paper on EMBRC-ERIC positioning towards facilitating the access and the use of marine bioresources (deliverable D3.2 “White paper on EMBRC-ERIC positioning towards facilitating the access and the use of marine bioresources”; MBA, HCMR and UPMC). This white paper delineates the role of the infrastructure can play as a broker and negotiator for access to biological resources, its strategy for taking this initiative forward and generally outline the central role EMBRC occupies in providing access to bioresources for the user community. With this work milestone 2 (MS2) “Preparation of guidelines for access and benefit sharing” was achieved.

Workpackage 4 “Strengthening links with regional and national stakeholders” had two main objectives and corresponding tasks: (1) to establish lasting relationships and commitment of regional and national stakeholders towards the operational longer term of EMBRC and (2) to broaden the partnership of countries within EMBRC strategically aiming for geographical gaps in the coverage of European marine environments.
In task 3.1 a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between EMBRC and the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR) was agreed, materializing the intent to work together during the operation phase of EMRC-ERIC seeking the development of cohesive Blue Growth in Europe (and associated countries) through the implementation of the Smart Specialisation Strategies (S3) of their maritime Regions. The MoU is in the process of being signed by all concerned and is expected to be completed at the end of 2016, coinciding with the next meeting of the CPMR political bureau and of the EMBRC Implementation Board (Deliverable D4.1 CPMR and UPV/EHU). To further explore the collaborative opportunities with the Regions a workshop was organized by UPV/EHU and CPMR (“Region’s support to blue biotechnologies value chains in Europe”, Bilbao, June 21st, 2016). The workshop was webstreamed and is available for visualization ( The workshop debated how to better promote the priorities on marine bioresources and blue biotechnologies depicted in the CPMR Maritime Agenda and in the S3 of many European regions, so they can be made operational, the establishment of transregional collaboration and the identification of niches of collaboration and synergy with EMBRC. The main conclusions of the workshop were consolidated in a report (deliverable D4.3). The cooperation with the CPMR and the MoU signature strongly contributes to coordinate activities and work together towards the sustainability of operations of the EMBRC-ERIC (WP4.3).
In task 4.2 a mapping of regions with blue biotechnologies in their S3 was carried out by CPMR and UPV/EHU. The deep analysis, performed in collaboration with RISIS (RI for Research and Innovation Policy Studies), included information from 110 regions, from which 88 were included in the final data set (included Associated States), with detailed analysis of their documents of governance, in relation to science and development priorities and S3 whenever possible. This resulted in the elaboration of a map (delivery D4.2 “mapping blue biotechnology and bioresources initiatives in European Regions”) where regions were highlighted according to the priority given to blue biotechnology; As data obtained by the pp2EMBRC team conflicted with data displayed by the eye@RIS3 tool, the EC S3 platform, thus the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (EC, JRC), responsible for the eye@RIS3 tool was informed and is very interested in incorporating the output of the pp2EMBRC analysis.
In task 4.3 “Widening of the EMBRC partnership and commitment of national stakeholders towards EMBRC-ERIC”. Discussions with EMBRC partner countries led to the unanimous approval of a medium-term budget (5-years) and the submission of application for ERIC status. Contacts have been made with several prospective partner countries, in close collaboration with the EMBRC headquarters, with positive replies from Ireland (Institute of Marine Research), the Netherlands (NIOZ), Finland (Univ. of Helsinki). Discussions with Slovenia, Poland and Sweden are also taking place. During pp2EMBRC a proposal (Assemble Plus H2020-INFRAIA-1-2016-2017, integrating activities for advanced communities) was submitted and approved, integrating the prospective partner countries so as to entice them in signing the MoU. Milestone 3 would have been the signature of the MoU by new partners to join EMBRC. Although this was not fully achieved, great strides were taken towards this goal.
pp2EMBRC made significant contributions to the development of the RI towards becoming an ERIC and becoming operational:
1) It contributed significantly towards harmonization of services offer by establishing a common services offer vocabulary, integration of services in a common database, defining standard contracts to be signed with users, defining a common base for cost calculation and establishing a central web-based service-access system. This will allow EMBRC to become operational as soon as ERIC status is approved as expected during the first half of 2017.
2) It established guidelines to ensure that all EMBRC culture collections are registered and comply with Access and Benefit Sharing legislation and the Nagoya protocol and that the material utilised has been obtained within the rules of law as well as providing the terms of use for the material. For users, by using these registered collections they can easily consult the relevant documentation and determine if they can legally conduct their research using those organisms, and thus demonstrate that they have exercised ‘due diligence’ in the eyes of the law. To further aid the user community it produced a white paper with best practice guidelines containing step-by-step guides on how to gain access to new organisms and obtaining a priori informed consent (PIC) from the source country. This will provide clarity for the user community on their legal obligations and facilitate access to biological resources, the core business of EMBRC.
3) It established collaborative links with maritime regions towards development of biotechnology and the efficient use of biological resources in their S3. This should lead to more regional funds to be made available for this purpose and to become more accessible to EMBRC. Furthermore, it took significant steps to bring new countries to embrace the EMBRC partnership. Broadening the partnership will result in a wider coverage of the European marine ecosystems and biological resources (with the objective of all European regional seas being represented). Altogether, these steps should strongly contribute towards sustainability of the EMBRC-ERIC and for significant socio-economic impact in the regions.