Polar research tackles some of the major concerns of society and it is, therefore, essential for Europe to benefit from an efficient advisory and policy support mechanism dealing with the Polar Regions. Until now cooperation between European countries took place on a case-by-case basis depending on a specific scientific project. On the EPICA project for example, ten nations got together to recover the oldest ice in the world. The collaboration only lasted the duration of the project. Basic research in the polar regions is essential in terms of understanding climate change, the ozone layer, biodiversity and the ecosystems, but neighbouring countries tend to know very little about what everyone is doing in terms of polar research. Cooperation is crucial since scientific research in the polar region requires expensive infrastructure, a lot of know-how and calls for tailor made technologies and logistics.
The European Polar Consortium was a coordination action funded under the ERA-NET priority. The consortium aimed to deepen cooperation and levels of integration while bringing together Europe's assets in terms of vessels, aircrafts, infrastructures and human capital.
The European Polar Consortium wanted to develop the ability to advise the European Commission and Member States on emerging threats in the Polar Regions. They addressed this issue through the establishment of a 'polar alert system'. Basic research in the Polar Regions was essential in terms of understanding climate change, the ozone layer, biodiversity and the ecosystems. A European polar organisation will enable Europe to maximise and direct is critical mass at the global level.
General Objectives for the EUROPOLAR ERA-NET comprised:
- Creating the conditions for a gradual deepening of the interaction between National Polar RTD Programmes in order to mobilize and coordinate the existing critical mass of infrastructures, human capital to maximise the impact of European Polar activities.
- Contributing to the establishment of leading edge collaborative Polar Research Centres and supporting the intellectual development of the next generation of Polar Research specialists especially in new and candidate nations of the Union.
- Supporting the EC Northern Dimension Action Plan by creating research opportunities (RTD programmes, researcher mobility and support mechanisms) relevant for the Arctic issues.
- Generating a prototype advisory and policy support mechanism for European Governments in the Polar Regions.
- Enabling the integration of new accession and candidate states to the European Union by the stepwise and agreed mutual opening of Europe’s Polar RTD Programmes and strengthening the relationship between Europe and the Russian Federation through cooperation between consortium partners.
- Optimizing the management and utilization of European Polar facilities and assets.
- Providing the focus of European strategic activities in the Polar Regions through the development of a common European planning and research implementation framework.
The long-term goal of the European Polar Consortium was the development of a 'European Polar Entity' that will be established through dialogue on a political level beyond the EPC and will enable Europe to maximise and direct its critical mass at the global level.
The Consortium that formed EUROPOLAR ERA-NET comprised 25 funding agencies, national ministries and Polar Authorities from 19 countries in Europe including key new accession states, candidate states to the EU and external states such as Russian Federation. The composition of the consortium represented every significant actor and European nation with Arctic and Antarctic research programme activities. EUROPOLAR therefore represented the most significant initiative to network European Polar RTD Programmes ever attempted.
The work under EUROPOLAR ERA-NET included:
- Identification of the current status of European polar programmes, including strategic areas, investment strategies, administrative practices and identification of European capabilities and leadership.
- The acquisition of a complete overview of all relevant polar programme elements and activities in Europe.
- Definition of implementation guidelines and funding for the necessary polar RTD activities harmonised in a coherent and co-coordinated way.
- The acquisition of a complete overview of European polar infrastructures (detailed in volume II of this report).
- European Polar Consortium Central Secretariat (CENSEC) provided support to the EPC SMB and management team, responsible for information dissemination, update of the European Polar Consortium web site.
- European Polar Consortium Technical Committee (TECHCOM) managed by IPEV comprising Work-package leaders and task leaders who will meet to discuss progress and technical deliverables of the project. Reports to the SMB were to be made every four months in conjunction with EPICOM.
- European Polar Consortium Scientific Advisory (SAC) managed by IPEVcomposed of senior scientists nominated by the partners of the Consortium. The Council met once a year in conjunction with SMB.Chairmanship elected on a rotating basis by the SMB on yearly basis.
- European Polar Infrastructure Committee (EPICOM) established by the Consortium to provide a discussion framework of all of the main partners and observers to plan and utilise European Polar Infrastructures. The Infrastructure Committee met every four months in conjunction with the European Polar Consortium technical committees.
- EUROPEAN POLAR SUMMIT held once a year to showcase the achievements of the European Polar Consortium project and were open to programme managers, scientists and the public as a major dissemination
Theprinciple benefits arising from EUROPOLAR ERA-NET were:
- Structuring the environment and landscape of Europe’s Polar RTD programmes to allow fully trans-national research programmes and enhanced access to Polar Research infrastructures.
- Enabling National Polar RTD Agencies to build strong multilateral partnerships within and outside Europe.
- Enabling the effective integration of new accession and candidate countries of the European Union through involvement in extensive Polar RTD activities.
- Delivering high quality science policy advice in support of European Union Policies.
- Consideration of Polar RTD issues, which are beyond the capacities of individual member states and generate sufficient critical mass Increased awareness of policy issues of relevance to the Polar Regions.
- Contributing to the strengthening of the European research and innovation area.
- The development of common management best practice and European research strategies in the Polar Regions.