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Multi-Use offshore platforms demoNstrators for boostIng cost-effecTive and Eco-friendly proDuction in sustainable marine activities

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - UNITED (Multi-Use offshore platforms demoNstrators for boostIng cost-effecTive and Eco-friendly proDuction in sustainable marine activities)

Reporting period: 2020-01-01 to 2021-06-30

UNITED will enable the scaling of multi-use marine installations, optimizing marine space. This is done through the development of pilots in real environments elaborating on five core pillars: technical, regulatory, economic, social and environmental viability. The project will demonstrate the benefits of the multi-use of marine space concept for multiple economic activities. Optimal multi-use concepts and co-location activities will be implemented in five pilots across European regional seas in close cooperation of local stakeholders and industrial actors. UNITED will enhance the technology readiness level of the technology validated in relevant environment (TRL5) to demonstration in an operational state (TRL 7+), handling difficulties and offering solutions at the five pillars to promote the economic benefits for key industrial actors, highlighting the sectors renewable energy, aquaculture, and tourism.

In order to support the EU Blue Growth strategy and mitigate competition for space in the marine environment, the UNITED project will center on pilots that either operate multi-use platforms or exhibit the co-location of economic activities within European waters. UNITED will be harmonizing the logistic support, service vehicles, equipment and infrastructures required by the multiple users within the pilots, the streamlined ICT and information systems will be capable of supporting simultaneous activities and addressing risk management, juridical and governance aspects in operational facilities. Under the right circumstances, multi-use of a marine space through the development of multi-use platforms or co-location of complementary activities in a marine environment can result in a more efficient use of ocean space, fostering a range of productive economic and ecological processes that can potentially benefit from each other in terms of spatial efficiency, functional synergies, sharing permitting investment and infrastructures to reduce operational and maintenance costs and create win-win solutions. Demonstrating the success of such pilots will boost the capacity of the blue economy within European waters and increase the efficiency and multi-functionality between the traditionally competing interests in these sectors. Furthermore, improvements to health, safety, efficiency, and associated cost reduction of such co-located activities will be demonstrated through the optimization within the UNITED pilots. The activities in the five pilots supported by UNITED will address bottlenecks and obstacles in co-location and multi-use facilities while demonstrating synergies and benefits of such complementary activities operating in the same space. Resulting lessons learned, knowledge and technological improvement resulting from this work and subsequent assessments related to health, safety, and operational activities will be distilled into a roadmap for future implementation. Specific attention is paid to the scalability of such actions to provide viable business plans ready for implementation. The roadmap will be utilized in the up-scaling of activities and roll-out of additional MUCL operations. This will enable stakeholders and other industry actors to adapt configurations and scales of UNITED in other locations for implementation.
The overall objective of UNITED is to provide evidence of the viability of multi-use by the development of large-scale pilots that showcase the translation of technical, regulatory, economic, social and environmental solutions from the development state (TRL5) to demonstration in an operational environment (TRL7). The pilots will demonstrate the benefits of the multi-use of a marine space, that the development of multi-use platforms or co-location of different activities in a marine and ocean space is a viable approach (economically, socially and environmentally) for European maritime industry and that they can operate sustainably in (healthy) local ecosystems while supporting, safe, socially accepted viable businesses. This involves both the technology development and field validation to address the identified risks and barriers. UNITED will include a business plan and a commercial economic feasibility assessment (informed by the pilots’ results), addressing possible trade-offs and costs for other sectors, for the combined activities to generate revenue.
It is the ambition of the UNITED project to operate and deploy facilities, technologies, tools and methods that will minimize risks and maximize the environmental including restoration, socio-economic, and social benefits related to multi-use infrastructure, resources and ocean space in a way that will fuel understanding and the acceptance of multi-use platforms and aid in the scaling and full deployment of such measures. Outputs and generated knowledge from UNITED will represent a major step forward in upscaling and widespread implementation of MUCLs. The current global population sits at 7.7 billion people as of January 2019 and is expected to increase to over 9.7 billion before 2050, according to the World population Forecast, which bases its projections on statistics from the WHO, FAO, IMF and World Bank. Offshore cultivation of food and other mar-cultural products, while still quite new, is a rapidly developing market to ensure sufficient productivity for the expected population increase. Moreover, marine aquaculture can deliver large quantities of marine biomass (i.e. macroalgae) that is a resource of polysaccharides with cosmeceutical, nutraceutical and pharmacological applications. Earlier projects such as MERMAID, TROPOS, H2Ocean have developed promising multi-use concept designs and technologies; however, many of the elements within these projects have not been operationalized or scaled. By demonstration of the benefits of co-location of offshore economic activities including wind farms, floating solar, tourism and aquaculture, and providing a roadmap with solutions to bottlenecks in implementation, UNITED will be paving the way for scaling implementation of multi-use platforms and co-located marine and maritime activities.

UNITED will contribute to the overall competitiveness of European businesses, adding multiple operational multi-use sites to the portfolio of EU based industrial actors and SMEs while including in the roadmap steps for upscaling and wider implementation to a wide range of stakeholders. Bringing cutting-edge technology at an operational stage in Europe will open up possibilities to export these technologies, monitoring systems, and operational levels while providing first-mover advantages to the EU with long lasting effects. Technology and knowledge transfers will also contribute to the operational and process-related enhancements in other sectors of the EU economy and blue-growth actions, with impacts that can extend to the structural nature and the technological profile of production process in the EU. An additional ambition regards the contribution towards food security, sustainable spatial planning, energy and environmental integrity. Enabling the multi-use concept to gain its momentum in the real-life environment will add to the EU efforts and goals towards the sustainable and efficient management of space and resources at reach, with the effects extending well beyond the life time of the project.
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