The European Council Lisbon Declaration setting a new strategic goal for the European Union: 'to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010' and in addition the European Union Transport Policy goals of 'efficient accessible and competitive transport systems which are essential to growth, employment and EU competitiveness' and 'a high level of safety and environmental protection' call for an invigorated, structured cluster approach in the maritime industry, notably in the field of innovation, research and development.
To this end, main stakeholders from within the Maritime Industries Forum (MIF) decided to establish a platform for continuous dialogue between all stakeholders (including the EU and national government institutions), the Advisory Council for Maritime Transport Research in Europe - ACMARE (later re-named Waterborne TP) - for establishing consensus on future research directions and to support mobilisation of the necessary financial resources.
The primary missions of Waterborne TP were to:
- Establish a continuous dialogue between all stakeholders in the maritime transport sector on R&D;
- Contribute to the widest possible consensus regarding R&D and to focusing of efforts and resources;
- Develop common medium and long term R&D Vision and a Strategic Research Agenda (SRA);
- Contribute to the appropriate mobilisation and allocation of the necessary financial resources (private/regional/national/EU sources;
- Support education and training to maintain the high skilled workforce in Europe;
- Accommodate the social expectations regarding clean and safe waterborne transport.
The Waterborne Technology Platform (WTP) was launched primarily as a forum gathering all stakeholders from the waterborne sector (sea & inland), in order to define and share a common vision and a Waterborne Strategic Research Agenda (WSRA), thus steering innovation efforts.
More precisely, Waterborne TP is a Co-ordination Action (CA) with the objective of preparing and securing full participation and implementing this platform. The main emphasis is on the management and organisational features and necessary technical support as well as on the dissemination and promotion of the objectives and visions of the Waterborne TP.
Waterborne TP's main achievements stem from its Strategic Research Agenda, built around three 'pillars':
- Safe, Sustainable and Efficient Waterborne Operations;
- A Competitive European Maritime Industry;
- Manage and Facilitate Growth and Changing Trade Patterns.
The first pillar set two targets for innovative projects. The first target was to reduce risk, and keep the environmental footprint of waterborne transport and operations to a minimum, using risk-based frameworks for cost efficient safety in ship’s design and waterborne operations. The second target focused on reducing pollution emissions from vessels and waterborne activities.
The second pillar stressed the need to develop innovative services and products in order to respond to constantly changing market, society and environmental conditions. The innovations under consideration concern:
- vessels' design, production, and operation,
- maritime equipment and systems on-board vessels, incorporating intelligent automation and navigation systems,
- the improvement of waterborne and marine operations, incorporation Decision support-systems for operations, maintenance and planning, and enhanced sub-sea capabilities.
The aim of the third pillar was to ensure that Europe's seaways and infrastructures remain capable of safely handling the increased number and size of ships. In this setting, the Waterborne TP sought ways that could accelerate the development of new port and infrastructure facilities, using innovative planning tools for optimal logistic chains and hinterland connection, and ensuring full interoperability between transport modes.
The Waterborne Technology Platform is an important step forward on the road to forge ties between European waterborne companies, sectors and national clusters, thus aiming to unite the whole European waterborne industry, and to defend its current and future competitive advantage.
The framework research carried out tackled aspects such as competitiveness, environment, energy, safety and security and human considerations. Further, the research ventures and potential innovations promoted through the Waterborne TP can therefore be considered as a major step towards the deployment of a coherent and efficient European-level institutional setting, in order to enhance coordination in scientific, industrial and regulatory issues. Finally, the Waterborne TP set the scene for further coordination of maritime data collection, management, and sharing.