Marine Biotechnology in Atlantic, Celtic Sea, Bay of Biscay and the Iberian Coast

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The European Atlantic Sea Basin contains a range of diverse habitats from semi-enclosed seas (North Sea and Irish Sea), exposed bay (Bay of Biscay) to the open Atlantic Ocean. Its coastline is equally varied and includes indented rocky coastlines, sandy beaches and sheltered estuarine mudflats.

The European Atlantic Sea Basin includes the sea surface, the water column and seabed off the European Atlantic coastline (including North Sea and the Irish Sea) extending westwards to include the OSPAR wider Atlantic region and the participating countries Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and extended Continental Shelves. It also includes the maritime territories surrounding the Canary Islands, the Azores and Madeira.

The area is richly endowed with Centres of Excellence in science, technology and innovation, has a strong engineering base, a stable political and governance system and many knowledge based SMEs. Together this represents a unique opportunity to work together to add value to the existing resource base and develop new knowledge-based and globally traded products and services that will invigorate the local population and improve their quality of life

Overarching regional science strategies, plans and policies

Currently, an Atlantic macro-regional strategy is being developed which may provide a wider framework for regional collaboration to address common goals, among other on science and technology matters also in the area of marine biotechnology research and development.

Research Funding Schemes and Programmes

At regional level, the main funding comes from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)[1] , among others via various Interreg Programmes that aim to stimulate cooperation between regions in the European Union. The current Programme is Interreg IV, covering the period 2007–2013.

Research priorities

The European Atlantic is well placed geographically to maximise the potential of marine biotechnology. A long standing maritime heritage; an acknowledged competence in marine sciences; extensive marine territories comprising highly diverse marine habitats (including the deep ocean) represent opportunities to collaborate on the development and commercial exploitation of marine bio-resources.

In the Atlantic, marine biotechnology is already contributing to almost every industry sector, from healthcare to environmental bioremediation, from cosmetics to food and including novel advanced materials with industrial applications. The as yet largely untapped resources of the marine environment are very promising for the discovery of new enzymes, biomaterials, biopolymers, and other related products such as bio-pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals, filling the gap for novelty demanded by industry in order to maintain a competitive position in global markets.

Indicative research issues of high importance for the Atlantic Sea Basin

  • Molecular biology investigation in life science- Genomic and meta-genomic analysis of systematically sampled marine organisms, including microorganisms (i.e. bacteria, viruses, archea, pico and microplankton), algae and invertebrates;
  • Cultivation of marine organisms and cell lines- Development of technologies to isolate and culture previously uncultivated microorganisms. Develop culture methods for vertebrates and invertebrate cell lines for the production of active compounds;
  • Bio-mass production-Development and application of new effective systems, including bio-engineering, bio-reactors and cultivation systems, for the production, use and transformation of biomass from marine organisms. The production systems and the organisms are optimized to target specific applications (e.g. bio-refinery, aquaculture, etc.);
  • Marine model organisms – Identify and prioritise new organisms of marine origin to increase life science knowledge and provide new opportunities for biotechnological exploitation;
  • Production of biofuel from marine algae.

Strategic documents

Seas-ERA Atlantic Strategic Research Agenda [2]

Infrastructures and coordination and support capacities / initiatives

There are a number of infrastructures, support capacities and major initiatives relevant for marine biotechnology research and development in the individual countries of the Atlantic Sea Basin area, there are no major efforts or capacities organised at the regional level at this time.

Major observations, trends and future prospects

One of the main current science policy developments at this moment involves the development and implementation of an EU Strategy for the Atlantic Region (EUSA) and associated Action Plan. Several Macro-Regions are being identified throughout the European territory, covering large areas across national borders. The EU Strategies for the Baltic Sea Region and for the Danube Region have already been developed (adopted in October 2009 and starting implementation in June 2011 respectively). The EUSA aims to provide a strategic framework and action plan to foster better cohesion at the level of the Union by working on overall coordination of actions across a range of policy areas. Science, research and Development, including management of research infrastructures, is clearly a policy area which will benefit from more coherent regional approaches as well as stimulating technology transfer and innovation and this will likely make a significant contribution which will also shape regional marine biotechnology activities.



This draft profile is based on available online information sources and contributions from various country experts and stakeholders. It does not aim nor claim to be complete or final, but should be considered as a dynamic and living information resource that will be elaborated, updated and improved as more information becomes available, including further inputs from experts and stakeholders.

The information on this page is based on information initially compiled by the European Marine Board as part of the CSA MarineBiotech Project activities (2011-2013).