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STRengthening MARritime Technology Research Center

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Portugal fulfilling its potential in maritime and deep-sea technologies

Portugal’s Institute for Systems and Computer Engineering, Technology and Science (INESC TEC) envisioned becoming a centre of excellence in maritime and deep sea technologies, but lacked the skills and an integral network in the field. Thanks to an EU initiative, INESC TEC is now a recognised European maritime research asset.

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INESC TEC is a private non-profit research institution that tackles two main challenges involving the Portuguese maritime region. The first is the coverage of a vast area of water and soil, where the sole use of manned vehicles isn’t feasible if physical presence is required on site. The second is the exploration and exploitation of deep and ultra-deep sea, where the physical presence of humans isn’t an option. Addressing these challenges requires building multiple competences, improving knowledge in the domain, and acquiring new knowledge to collaborate with multidisciplinary teams in Europe and beyond. The EU-funded STRONGMAR project “boosted the scientific knowledge of INESC TEC’s researchers in key marine science and technology areas while enhancing their European and international standing,” says coordinator Prof. Eduardo Silva. Specifically, personnel “lacked fundamental skills and experience in underwater robotics and a strong network in this field.” To achieve its goals, STRONGMAR supported transnational access to European partners in Italy, Spain and the UK – the worldwide leaders in deep sea technology. Raising researcher profile Summer and winter schools and thematic workshops reinforced INESC TEC staff’s scientific and technological potential. These week-long meetings enabled the exchange of know-how, experience and best practices among partners. This helped to provide INESC TEC research staff with the skills necessary to work at different technology readiness levels. Networking meetings, short-term meetings and conferences fostered dialogue and promoted new joint research activities. Employees networked with top researchers and experts to discuss advanced topics related to sea technologies and cross-disciplines. Such events also offered opportunities to explore potential project proposals and research contracts, and to establish connections with leading experts. Scientific expertise and research and innovation capacity will help develop innovative low-cost sensors. They will increase the capabilities for resilient long-distance and long-term deployment of autonomous and semi-autonomous platforms, as well as long-distance and underwater control of robotic platforms. They will also play a role in developing, producing, deploying and operating off-shore and deep sea platforms. European maritime research centre of excellence Extensive exploitation and outreach efforts increased INESC TEC’s visibility in marine robotics. Dissemination and communication activities mainly included presentations at international scientific events, participation in global trade fairs and organisation of technology transfer workshops with stakeholders. “INESC TEC is now a recognised institution in this field alongside prestigious research institutions,” notes Prof. Silva. Enhanced visibility and credibility led to collaborations with the Portuguese Navy and prominent national organisations such as the Portuguese Institute for Sea and Atmosphere and the Interdisciplinary Centre of Marine and Environmental Research. International institutions have also contacted INESC TEC for future partnerships. STRONGMAR has contributed to the long-term sustainability and viability of the TEC4SEA research infrastructure, a unique and pioneering European platform for research, development and testing of marine robotics, telecommunications and sensing technologies in support of a sustainable blue economy. It’s also helping to overcome technological barriers that limited the full implementation of the Portuguese National Ocean Strategy 2013-2020 and the National Research and Innovation Strategy for Smart Specialisation 2014-2020. Lastly, the INESC TEC team successfully participated in a proposal submission to co-organise OCEANS Europe, an influential conference in marine robotics. The event will be held in 2021 in Porto.

Keywords

STRONGMAR, INESC TEC, maritime, marine robotics, deep sea, maritime research, marine science and technology, underwater robotics

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