The MarinERA Programme

The European Union is today recognized as a top-3 international economic market and a primary stakeholder in nearly any global trade deal that goes down. Decades before the Euro’s first minting in 1999, however, Europeans in founding states of France, Italy, Belgium, (West) Germany, Holland and Luxembourg were already working toward the EU ideal celebrating the free movement of people, capital, resources … and ideas.

In the 1980s, the development of European Research Framework Programme (RFP) were introduced in the founding states and beyond. EU RFPs were designed to re-coordinate and/or reorganize extant running programmes. From these in turn came the system of European Research Area Networks (ERA-Nets). The ERA-Net system promises to “serve to enhance collaboration while reducing fragmentation and duplication of effort across the European Research Area and beyond.”

The MarinERA Funding Initiative was one such ERA-Net project launched under the terms of the 6th Research Framework Program (FP6) of the European Commission (EC).

Like most EC-funded programs, MarinERA had a term of five years (or a five-year mission, one might say) and was funded with the FP6. Under the auspices of The Institut Français de Recherche pour l'exploitation de la Mer (the French Research Institute for Exploration of the Sea or IFReMer), many MarinERA projects and offshoots from the original investment continue on. And the goal of post-MarinERA work remains the same as that of the progenitor program: to better orchestrate and coordinate Europe's maritime programs, thereby promising a more transparent and efficient promotion of Europe's maritime research projects, a uniform orientation of various research projects and permanent expansion of international research relations.

Naturally, as the EU is primarily all about the economics first, such an aspect colors MarinERA work as well. The ever-present objective of strengthening the EU’s competitiveness is integral to the mission of every MarinERA sub-step.

In practice, the results of the MarinERA project was touted as a positive example of the merger of research management institutions within the European Union. In addition to international observers including the French Ministry of Research and New Technologies (MRNT) and the European Global Ocean Observing System (EuroGOOS), MarinERA collaborated with various partner organizations such as IFREMER, the Irish Marine Institute, and the Juelich Research Center.

The outward results of MarinERA’s five-year funding cycle may not be the most outwardly scintillating, but the program justified its existence with the production of a directory of all research infrastructures in marine research in the European Union. One of the main objectives of MarinERA, the pooling of pan-European forces, was also deemed a success early on in the program. Further, to the general goal of increasing responsible use of extant natural resources, MarinERA is another important step In pan-European studies of the oceans as such a resource.