Europe's 2020 strategy recognises that knowledge drives innovation, which in turn brings growth that is both sustainable and smart. For the maritime economy much of this knowledge depends on observations of the rhythms and cycles of the sea. However, the data collected through these observations can only generate knowledge and innovation if Europe's engineers and scientists are able to find, access, assemble and apply them efficiently and rapidly. At present this is often not the case.
The Commission's "Marine Knowledge 2020" initiative aims to unlock and assemble marine data from different sources and facilitate their use for purposes other than those for which they were originally intended. This will have three major benefits.
First, it will improve the efficiency of all those private bodies, public authorities and researchers which presently use marine data. Less time and effort will be spent assembling and processing incompatible data from heterogeneous sources.
Second, it will open up new opportunities and drive innovation in the maritime economy. I am confident that universal and reliable access to accurate marine data will enable European business to offer products and services that nobody could have anticipated beforehand.
And third, it will reduce uncertainties in our knowledge of the behaviour of the seas and oceans. This will not only benefit those living and working on the seas and at the coast. Circulation in the oceans drives the terrestrial climate. Improved knowledge of the sea is not a sufficient condition for better forecasting of the future severity or mildness of Europe's seasons. But it is a necessary one. Thus better marine knowledge can contribute towards Europe's adaptation to climate change.
Consortia of European bodies are already setting up a prototype European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet) to facilitate access to data in a limited number of sea basins for those public and private bodies that need them. Users can download not only the data, but also information as to the reliability of the measurements. Gaps in the observation networks are highlighted.
The further measures that we propose will help us realise the potential of a resource that covers 71% of the planet. Together they represent a coherent set of contributions from different EU policy areas and as such this initiative is a concrete example of the benefits of the EU's fledgling integrated maritime policy.