Brussels, 5. March. Around 20 scientists came first at the European Parliament to meet Clare Moody, MEP for UK South West and Gibraltar, to present the needs and opportunities of the marine environment. The debate continued during a broader scientific discussion at the Scotland House on March 5 which was attended by around 50 scientists and company representatives.
Among the points touched after a full day of lively debate was the fact that academia and industry are willing to share their expertise and match their time frame to work together at a European scale, but to do so more effectively, stronger support from the European Parliament was needed. The event was organized by Rebecca Goss from the University of St Andrews (Scotland), David Smith from CABI (UK) and Mariella Ferrante from the Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn of Napoli (Italy), as part of the European Marine Biological Research Infrastructure Cluster (EMBRIC).
"EU have to support SMEs and even small-scale projects to facilitate products getting to market", emphasized Carmen Cuevas from PharmaMar (Spain), right in the beginning of the event. Indeed, SMEs have different needs and challenges than research institutions and these have to be considered in the European funding strategy. "We need transnational funding to take away risks", underlined Andrew Mearns Spragg, Founder of Jellagen (UK). The potential of marine resources and its sustainable exploitation are still untapped due to regulatory limitations. Uncertainty of further funding and support at the end of large-scale projects investing in the discovery of new compounds from the marine environment has been recognized as another big limitation.
Marine stakeholders from the academic area was also present to demonstrate their engagement to be part of the European blue growth strategy, as summarized Marcel Jaspars from the University of Aberdeen (UK).
During the scientific round table led by Dr Marcel Jaspars and Dr Melody Clark, participants presented their current successful advances, showcasing great opportunities of the marine ecosystem. Carmen Cuevas Marchante shared the excitement surrounding the launch of the commercialization of the world’s first marine drug, its utilization in the treatment of cancer, and the huge opportunity that the marine environment presents. Mark Brönstrup demonstrated how chemistry-driven paths are used in its research as doctor at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection research (Germany), from marine natural products to pharmaceutical lead. For its part, Ólafur H. Friðjónsson representative of Matis ltd. (Iceland) presented the great icelandic marine microbial diversity and metagenomics and their role in biological sustainability. EMBRIC gave the opportunity to 13 young researchers to present their work in a poster conquest. Three of them was awarded: Fleurdeliz Maglangit PhD student at the University of Aberdeen (Scotland); Christopher Cartmell PhD student at the University of St Andrews (Scotland); and Erik Borchert postdoctoral researcher at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (Germany).
Another topic raised during the discussion was the relationship between industry and academia. “How does the industrial partners think they want to interact with European projects? How can academia serve small companies? How can companies work with Research Infrastructures?” questioned Wiebe Kooistra from SZN (Italy). The participants agreed that the more interaction generated the better. Research Infrastructures are looking to build connectivity and bring out knowledge transfer between industry and academia. The support of infrastructures such as EMBRC might partially address the need to sustain activities and interactions beyond the end of the lifetime of large projects; protecting public investments in research by enabling the generated resources to be maintained for future use and exploitation thus contributing to the blue economy.
Clare Moody and Nosheena Mobarik, MEPs, closed the meeting by emphasizing that the addressed topics are high on the political agenda to continue to support and promote the further development of a sustainable blue bioeconomy.
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