Meld. St. 7 (2014-2015)

Long-term plan for research and higher education 2015–2024

To table of content

3 Seas and oceans

3.1 Direction

Norway is a seafaring nation in every sense of the word. The ocean and the coastline have permeated the development of Norwegian society, and shaped much of our identity. For many of us, the coastline means a holiday spot, a workplace, or our homes. The sea has been our most important means of transport, and the starting point for early international contacts. Norwegian trade and the economy are closely linked to the sea, from shipbuilding to fisheries and aquaculture, oil and gas. A significant portion of value creation in Norway comes from the sea and the continental shelf. Industries based on the sea are of crucial importance for settlement, value creation and employment throughout the country.

In spite of its past and present significance for Norway, we still know relatively little about the sea, compared with our knowledge about land areas. There are still great opportunities in the ocean that we are not yet aware of. In addition to its natural advantages, Norway has strong expert communities and industries connected to the sea. These include areas such as the petroleum activity, maritime industries, seafood, aquaculture, fisheries and harvesting and using other living marine resources, advanced ocean technology, fishery management and comprehensive maritime management. Important parts of higher education, for example in technology, have been aimed at exploiting our resources in, or under, the sea. The knowledge we possess about the sea is also essential to our ability to understand and deal with climate and environmental challenges both in Norway and worldwide.

The petroleum industry has brought us great prosperity. We can credit this growth to capable experts who have developed knowledge and technology in the petroleum activities, and in the supplier industries that serve that sector. We continue to need new knowledge and technology in order to exploit the remaining petroleum resources on the Norwegian shelf. The board of Norway's technology strategy for petroleum (OG21) provides advice on organisation and commitment areas for petroleum research. A revised strategy will be presented in 2016.

The expertise found in the petroleum cluster can also be exploited in other sectors and used to build up new industries. For example, new technology and know-how surrounding safer, more environmentally-friendly production of oil and gas will improve competitiveness for companies in the petroleum sector, and will have transfer value for other sectors.

Norway is a leading maritime nation. Global and technological development trends create new maritime opportunities. If we are to stay at the forefront of this evolution, we must develop and use knowledge that promotes innovation and paves the way for necessary change and adaptation.

Norway is also one of the world's largest exporters of seafood. Rising world population will mean a need for more food. The world will not have sufficient agricultural areas in the years ahead. This will make maritime food production even more important, which means that we must ensure a good basis of knowledge for fisheries and sustainable fishery and aquaculture industries.

We do not know enough about how the sum of various types of pollution impact life in the sea. Not least, we lack knowledge about the factors that affect the level of environmental toxins in the sea and in seafood. Norwegian seafood is supposed to be safe, and we must be able to document that this is the case. We need to know how we can preserve the seas as good production areas for safe, healthy food.

On the international scene, Norway occupies a leading role in developing knowledge regarding management of the maritime environment, the resources found there and on the continental shelf. This is particularly true for the northern areas. This management must also take place in cooperation with other countries. As a prime maritime nation, Norway has a vested interest in participating in the global effort to learn more about the sea.

A long-term commitment to knowledge and expertise related to the sea and the maritime industries will better equip us to exploit the resources in the sea and on the continental shelf. This will contribute to preserving the sea as a sustainable source of economic growth. This is also necessary to reinforce Norway's position as a responsible managerof the ocean and a leading international maritime nation. The Government's long-term plan includes prioritisation of an upgrade of the Ocean Space Centre in Trondheim.

The Government intends to boost its commitment to ocean-related research and higher education to achieve:

  • greater value from industries in the sea, in coastal areas and on the continental shelf

  • better management of ecosystems and resources in the maritime areas

  • clean seas and healthy, safe seafood

3.2 Value from maritime industries, in the coastal area and on the continental shelf

Knowledge and expertise for maritime-based industries

We must strengthen our knowledge base for sustainable exploitation of maritime areas to stimulate more production of seafood. The core areas in fisheries and aquaculture must be further developed and refined to ensure continued profitable value creation growth. Continued development of the fishery and aquaculture industry must take place in cooperation with the supplier industry and new marine industries. We need more basic and applied research to find the answers to biological, environmental, commercial, technological and social questions.

The know-how, technological and business development in the petroleum industries is unparalleled in Norway. Norway leads the world in technological development related to offshore production of oil and gas.

Continued cost-effective and sustainable exploitation of the petroleum resources on the Norwegian shelf requires a further commitment to research, development and expertise. The petroleum sector in particular needs more basic knowledge about the seabed and the subsurface, as well for testing new technology under realistic conditions. The industry also needs new know-how to maintain high health, safety and environment standards in connection with the petroleum activity in more vulnerable areas.

New technology and equipment that can contribute to more environmentally-friendly production of oil and gas will make companies in this sector more competitive and may also have transfer value to other energy areas. Some of the companies that currently operate in the oil and gas sector are already engaged in R&D activities and business development within maritime energy production. However, we need more knowledge about environmentally-friendly offshore energy production.

Textbox 3.1 Leading international industry clusters and expert communities in the petroleum sector

The maritime-based industries must constantly adapt and develop products and solutions that can be used around the world. These industries must constantly acquire new knowledge in order to maintain the high pace of innovation. Their ability to innovate and adapt is based on market knowledge and insight, along with expert communities with close ties to the industry. Norwegian offshore and drilling engineering – NODE – is an industry cluster in Southern Norway consisting of around 60 companies. These companies deliver equipment and solutions to the international oil and gas industry. The cluster collaborates with outside expertise to develop technology, know-how and competence that will help these Southern Norway companies remain at the global forefront, regardless of competition. In 2014, NODE was designated a Global Centre of Expertise, a Norwegian system aimed at developing leading industry clusters that cooperate with Norwegian and international expert communities. The Research Council of Norway, Innovation Norway and Siva nominate these Global Centres of Expertise, and such clusters receive around NOK 10 million per year over a ten-year period.

The Norwegian maritime industry is an international leader, with competitive companies all across the broad maritime sector. Access to capable professionals is essential in maintaining and developing maritime competitiveness and value creation. Moreover, we need more expertise in safe, environmentally-friendly sea transport, which contributes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector. More activity in the northern areas requires greater knowledge about maritime operations in demanding Arctic conditions. The Government is working on a comprehensive strategy for growth and value creation in the maritime sector. This strategy will be presented in the spring of 2015 and will describe the sector's need for expertise, and how the Government will contribute to addressing this need, as well as to bolstering the maritime field of study.

To some extent, the need for knowledge and skills is specific to each separate industry, but there are also certain common challenges and a potential for cooperation and knowledge transfer across industries. This must be taken into consideration in the follow-up of the long-term plan, and we must facilitate inter-disciplinary efforts which place environmental and climate impact in context with social issues. There is a need to involve players from both the public and private sectors, as well as for international cooperation.

Unexploited natural resources

There are still major unexploited natural resources on the continental shelf and in the sea. These include biological raw materials, genes from marine organisms and mineral deposits that we lack knowledge about. Such natural resources could be the source of new industries, but we need more information and expertise in order to exploit them.

Research results, including in the fields of nutrition, bio-technology and process technology, have opened up doors for advanced industrial exploitation of marine raw materials. This includes seaweed and other algae for animal feed, clean energy and specialised products for the food and pharmaceutical industry. More research is needed to ensure even better utilisation of these marine raw materials.

Only around half of the Norwegian oil and gas resources have been produced. Much of the estimated remaining resources include deposits that have not yet been discovered. We must redouble our research effects in this area in order to prove and exploit these resources.

The oil and gas industry is characterised by strong groups of experts and companies in the fields of subsea and deep water technology. These clusters of expertise also provide opportunities to develop technology for exploration, assessment and possible future recovery of mineral deposits on the seabed.

Strong Norwegian expert communities take part in furthering international knowledge

Strong research communities and study programmes are a common trait of the sea-based industries, along with a healthy supplier sector. Norwegian research accounts for a high percentage of global research and added knowledge in many of these areas, such as marine research in the polar areas.

Strong Norwegian professional communities in marine topics can benefit greatly from the transfer of knowledge across disciplines, sectors and industries, including in the social sciences and the humanities. Facilitating development of close ties between the educational institutions, the research environments and the business sector is important in order for Norway to takes its place in the top international level of sea-related professions. Solid connections between the industries and the various study courses is also important as regards assessing future capacity needs, and to ensure that the education is relevant.

Marine and maritime research topics do not have separate research programmes in Horizon 2020, but these topics are integrated in other programmes, such as food, transport, the environment and climate. With the objective of fortifying European cooperation also at the regulatory level, Norway has participated in establishing a joint programme for ocean research – JPI Oceans. The objective of this programme is to achieve better coordination of the research funds that run through the various countries for marine and maritime research, and to facilitate sustainable growth by developing joint strategies. In addition to comprehensive research cooperation within Europe, there is also significant marine and maritime cooperation with Asia and North America.

Another area which is not prioritised in the EU's research programmes is petroleum research. This makes both national programmes and bilateral research collaboration particularly important for the petroleum sector. The petroleum-geared supplier industry is experiencing steady growth in a global market that is very vulnerable to competition. International cooperation with areas such as North America and Brazil on research, technology development and higher education receive high priority.

3.3 Managing ecosystems and resources in maritime areas

The ecosystems are crucial for value creation from the ocean. Knowledge about marine ecosystems and the changes that occur in them as a result of climate and environmental change and other human activity is fundamental for all activity and utilisation of resources, innovation and business development.

Future value creation based on use of marine resources depends on maintaining a sound environment and rich natural diversity in the ocean. That is why we need to know and understand more about the function of these ecosystems, and how they are affected by climate change, ocean acidification and human activity. One example is that higher sea temperatures and changes in ocean currents can lead to movement in the fish populations. This has already resulted in Norway having to monitor an ocean area that is 50 per cent larger than in 2003 to follow these populations. We need more information about such effects of climate change in order to have a good foundation for sound management into the future. We also need more information so that the impact of climate change on the fishery industry can be taken into account.

Norway leads by example when it comes to managing the ocean areas and there is extensive information available regarding the Norwegian ocean areas. This is an advantage we can continue to build on in Norwegian research. Our experience with ecosystem studies in Norwegian waters has substantial transfer value to studies in other ocean areas. These types of studies are also an important part of Norwegian activities in the northern areas. The shrinking sea ice in the Arctic regions has considerable impact on the global climate. Changes in the Artic regions will make it possible for marine and maritime industries to establish themselves in previously inaccessible areas. A commitment to research on Arctic climate and Arctic ecosystems will yield better forecasts and a foundation for business development, preparedness and adaptation to the changes. This will result in a better basis for assessing how Norwegian and international management should be designed to address these challenges.

Norway has a large coastal area with world-class environmental assets and values. Business activity in the coastal areas is rising, but we need additional knowledge to develop a more comprehensive, effective, economical and ecologically sustainable management of the coastal areas. Norway has many professional communities engaged in tackling these issues, but there is a need to obtain a better overview of the disciplines, and to raise knowledge levels to achieve a more comprehensive management of the coastal area.

3.4 Clean seas and safe, healthy seafood

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends eating more seafood to improve public health. Norwegian and international consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the environment and health issues. As a seafood nation, Norway must be able to document that its food is healthy and safe to eat.

A long-term commitment to knowledge that can contribute to ensuring clean seas and safe, healthy seafood must provide us with better information about what impacts life in the sea, and what consequences this has for the health of fish populations and human beings. We also need knowledge about seafood and health. Norway has a vested interest in taking part in global research on such topics.

Textbox 3.2 EU project with Norwegian leadership to strengthen European aquaculture

There is great demand for seafood and other products from the sea. The aquaculture industry is still young, and faces a number of challenges as regards sustainable and profitable operations. The Nofima food research institute heads a major European cooperation project financed through the EU's Seventh Framework Programme for Research. The objective of the project is to strengthen the aquaculture industry in Europe through researching and developing technology for better breeding methods for the most common fish species in the industry. New breeding technologies can help the industry become more sustainable, effective and profitable, and can deliver safe, healthy aquaculture products. The project includes all aquaculture industries that produce such products, such as algae, shellfish and plants, as well as fish farming operations.

If we are to ensure that fish and other seafood harvested in our ocean areas is safe to consume, we need good information about the levels of environmental toxins in seafood and how these affect both fish health and human beings. Norwegian management has sound documentation as to the content of environmental toxins in farmed fish and the most important commercial species harvested in our ocean areas. However, we have less knowledge about other species in the ocean and the coastal area. There is considerable variation in the content of environmental toxins in fish, and we need to learn more about which factors affect these levels. The presence of multiple environmental toxins simultaneously, such as plastic, heavy metals, radioactive substances, environmental toxins and oil components may have greater impact together than they would separately. There is also a constant stream of new substances that could prove to be environmental toxins when they enter the marine environment. Documentation of sources, deposits and effects of environmental toxins is important as a basis for international regulation of environmental toxins.

Continued growth in the aquaculture industry necessitates the use of new raw materials to produce fish feed. We need to know more about the connections between feed, fish health and safe, healthy food.

The industries need skilled labour in order to make use of the knowledge and the technology developed to ensure that the seafood is safe and healthy.

Go to front page