2016 Press Releases

UCC helps 'blue' economy...

28 Aug 2016
The Wave Dragon which can protect seaweed farms from large waves while generating energy pictured here in northern Denmark

Aware of the problems facing maritime industries as competition for space increases, a Norwegian seaweed company, SES, has been investigating the potential of moving their seaweed farms further offshore. 

By combining with Wave Dragon, a very large wave energy device, the seaweed company could locate farms in areas not normally considered viable and where space remains abundant. The Wave Dragon protects the seaweed from large waves and creates energy at the same time.

This is one of nine fledgling ‘blue’ economy projects with which UCC have been involved by helping them to create robust business plans to secure further funding. The University is leading an EU project which is looking at smarter and more sustainable ways of using the sea by sharing space. The experience of the nine projects will be discussed at a final meeting in Cork this week.

70% of the world’s surface is covered by water and yet 98% of our food energy comes from agriculture on land. At a time when climate change and sustainability issues are coming to the fore, seaweed farming presents a sustainable and renewable source of biomass to meet the demands of a growing population. By sharing space and working together, Wave Dragon and SES could share installation and maintenance costs, reducing the overall cost to each.

The Wave Dragon project is part of an EU action, MARIBE, led by UCC where the University and partners have been involved with nine fledgling ‘blue’ economy firms helping them create robust business plans to secure further funding.  “It is hoped to pilot the Wave Dragon project off the Welsh coast,” says Dr Gordon Dalton, UCC and Principal Investigator of the programme, "and we have been helping companies involved in the Welsh scheme to prepare plans to secure the funding they require,” he adds.

The MARIBE participants will have a final meeting in UCC to discuss the progress of the nine projects to date in the MaREI Centre in Ringaskiddy on the 30th and 31st of August.

Another example of the synergy between the aquaculture and wave industry is a project that is being developed by Albatern Ltd and the AquaBiotech group.  Albatern’s wave energy devices could be installed close to a fish farm in locations (Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Malta) up to six kilometres offshore. The new wave energy device could then provide electricity directly to the fish farm reducing its costs and ensuring a supply of sustainable energy. Surplus energy could also be brought onshore to satisfy the energy needs of the farm’s onshore facilities.

“The multi-use of space projects that MARIBE works with,” says Dalton “offer the potential for great benefits in the form of clean energy and sustainable food sources. We have demonstrated that the projects are financially viable at commercial stage and that real cost savings are produced as a result of the shared use of space.” Dalton adds, that “further funding for pilot demonstrations is required to get these new technology projects through the Valley of Death”. MARIBE recommends in their report to the European commission that €120 million be made available in the next round of Horizon 2020 funding for further development of Multi-use of ocean space projects.

According to the European Commission, the 'blue' economy represents roughly 5.4 million jobs and generates a gross added value of almost €500 billion a year. They also state that there is potential for further growth; something which has been demonstrated by the recent announcement by the Port of Cork that their profits for 2015 have increased by 79%.

As maritime activity increases, however, so does the competition for space as coastal areas become overcrowded. This led the European Commission to publish a call in 2014 asking researchers to prepare for the ‘future innovative offshore economy’. Expecting economic activities to move further offshore as competition for space increased, this call was designed to promote smarter and more sustainable use of our seas.

It was in response to this call that MARIBE project was initiated with the aim of promoting growth and jobs within the Blue Economy. An 18-month project funded under the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme, MARIBE is led by the MaREI Centre in University College Cork. A total of 11 partners from Ireland, United Kingdom, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Malta and the Netherlands contribute to the project.

MARIBE has investigated the potential of combining the activities of different maritime sectors in the same place or on a specifically built platform in order to make more efficient use of space and resources. It pays particular attention to new and emerging industries that can benefit greatly from the synergies created increasing their chances of survival and enabling future growth.

These sectors are often referred to as Blue Growth industries; Marine Renewable Energy, Aquaculture, Marine Biotechnology and Seabed Mining. By developing Blue Growth industries and encouraging smarter use of our seas, MARIBE hopes to fulfil its aim of promoting job growth.

Rather than undertaking an academic exercise, the MARIBE project tried to engage with industry throughout its work. Within the consortium, it has combined academic experience and knowledge of partners from Heriot Watt, Wageningen and Swansea Universities and Universidad de Cantabria with industry expertise from a range of maritime sectors: BVG Associates, Business Model Inc., AquaBioTech Group and eCoast. Partners range from technical consultants to business model experts and the consortium also includes an intergovernmental organisation, FAO of the United Nations.

Engagement with industry is also at the core of its scientific approach. Having identified the potential for the aquaculture, offshore renewable energy and shipping industry to share space, MARIBE partners reached out to companies within these sectors to produce nine real-life case studies. In cooperation with these companies, nine multi-use of space or multi-purpose projects have been developed. The Wave Dragon and Seaweed Energy Solutions project is one of the nine case studies. The consortium has used its diverse expertise to prepare the stakeholders involved in these case studies for the next phase of their project’s development.




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