The Future of Seas and Oceans Flagship Initiative

Our future is intimately linked to the future of the seas, oceans and coasts. The seas, oceans and coasts provide multiple ecosystem services and a wealth of resources, influence climate and provide many economic opportunities. To fully profit from the seas and oceans also in the future, we have to preserve those valuable resources and ensure that their exploitation is sustainable. Furthermore, without appropriate ocean observations for forecasting and for the protection of property and human activities, the global economy would lose hundreds of billions of euros annually. For this, we need to have the technologies for observations, integrated ocean observing systems, data management systems, and appropriate models and services. This action will contribute to make ocean observations and data management in European seas and the Atlantic Ocean fit for the future, in line with the G7 Future of the Oceans Initiative (Tsukuba Communiqué of the G7 Science Ministers). It will also support the Collaborative Research Action on Oceans of the Belmont Forum and the International Ocean Governance Communication. Similarly, ocean observation data must be available to effectively address local, national and global challenges such as the forecasting of ocean conditions and climate change, to take stock of biomass and biodiversity, to mitigate the impact of climate change and ocean acidification, to ensure food security and food safety (also in fresh water), and to contribute to the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, notably UN SDGs 2, 13, 14 and 15, and monitoring their targets for 2020 and 2025.


Proposals shall address one of the following sub-topics: blue cloud services, or ocean observations and forecasting, or technologies for observations (in 2020). Actions shall demonstrate integration, capacity and (scientific, economic etc) potential. They shall complement and build on existing observation tools and systems such as EuroGOOS/EOOS, IOOS, GEO/GEOSS, COPERNICUS Marine Service or EMODnet, European research infrastructures such as Euro-Argo ERIC and EMSO ERIC as well as funded H2020 projects such as SeaDataCloud. The interdisciplinary and cross-sectorial nature of the proposal should also apply to training activities improving the professional skills and competencies of workers and supporting the creation of new jobs in the blue economy.

[A] 2019 - Blue Cloud services

Activities shall develop cloud services for applications that are specific for oceans, seas and fresh water bodies and are necessary for marine ecosystems research, conservation, forecasting and innovation in the Blue Economy, building and implementing also Blue Cloud demonstrators as needed. Blue Cloud demonstrators should integrate the Essential Ocean Variables, notably the biological variables, including plankton biomass and diversity. They shall build on ongoing efforts (data, tools, EOSC, including its Pilot Blue Cloud, Data and Information Access Services (DIAS) of COPERNICUS, etc) and take account of the parallel EOSC thematic initiatives being developed – such as the Food Cloud Demonstrator. The action shall contribute to unlocking the innovation potential of the Blue Cloud, and demonstrate its potential in promoting the blue economy shortening the time span between research and innovation in frontier fields, such as micro-organisms and genomics-enabled innovations. Activities shall build on existing research infrastructures, take advantage of existing data sharing activities (for example EMODnet), and build on relevant results of past and on-going global, national and EU projects such as SeaDataCloud, BlueBridge, the EOSC Pilot and other relevant projects funded under Horizon 2020, including those under Information and Communication Technologies. Proposals should include a task to cluster with other projects financed under this topic and – if possible – with other relevant projects in the field funded by Horizon 2020.

[B] 2019 - Observations and forecasting

The action shall contribute to the development and demonstration of the feasibility of the European component of a future Global Ocean Observing System in line with the G7 Tsukuba Communiqué. It will support activities in the different EU sea basins and the Atlantic Ocean, including the deep sea (below 2000 m), also supporting the needs of food security and safety as outlined in Food 2030. It will also support the future Collaborative Research Action on Oceans of the Belmont Forum. It will underpin forecasting of the state of the ocean, climate change impact and weather. Activities shall include the demonstration of methods and technologies and their integration in existing systems to collect information on the state and variability of European seas and the Atlantic Ocean, including the impact of stressors and marine litter, and underpin sustainable management of the marine environment and its resources (e.g. the effect of networks of protected areas and other spatial protection measures). They shall take account of the needs deriving from the G7 Future of the Seas and Oceans Initiative, from actions such as the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance and its related South Atlantic Flagship, the BLUEMED Initiative, and notably common priorities with the WestMED Initiativeand the EUSAIR, and actions addressing other European regional seas. The inclusion of forecasting tools (for example to protect aquaculture installations or to inform fisheries decision making) shall be an advantage. Similarly, the sustainability of the approach selected, the integration of innovative observations solutions and existing systems, the smooth storage of data in open access data centres and the improvement of the predictive capability shall be demonstrated. Observations and data handling may also include pilots for Essential Ocean Variables (EOVs) under consideration (for example, nutrients, carbonate, sound and microbes/omics) and variables that are of importance in European regional seas as well as the integration of “augmented” observatories (i.e. genomic-enabled multidisciplinary observatories). Flow of information across variables and disciplines shall be included. Data collected shall be in line with agreed standards, be openly available via portals (including EMODnet) and feed into the Pilot Blue Cloud (part of the European Open Science Cloud). International cooperation with Third Country partners is encouraged.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU in the range of EUR 6 million for sub-topic [A] and EUR 12 million for sub-topic [B] would allow this specific challenge to be adequately addressed. Nonetheless, this does not preclude the submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Proposals shall include a task to cluster with other projects financed under this topic and – if possible – with other relevant projects in the field funded by Horizon 2020. Possible links with related research and innovation activities supported by the Belmont Forum on Ocean sustainability shall also be considered.

[C] 2020 - Technologies for observations

Expected Impact

Contributing to the ongoing implementation of EU Policies such as the Bioeconomy Strategy, the Circular Economy Strategy, the European Open Science Cloud Initiative, the Blue Growth Strategy, the Common Fisheries Policy, the Maritime Spatial Planning Directive, the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, the International Ocean Governance Communication and the UN SDGs, activities shall:

In the short term:

  • Support the implementation of the Future of the Oceans Initiative of the G7 Science Ministers.
  • Deliver cloud services with work starting at technology readiness level (TRL) between 4 and 5 and achieving TRL between 6 and 7 or higher (sub-topic A).
  • Achieve at least TRL 6 for ocean observations' systems and tools (sub-topic B).
  • Contribute to regularly measure 50% of biological and biogeochemical EOVs, including in the sea below 2000 m, and predict negative impacts of ocean acidification and other selected stressors to take timely prevention, notably to protect aquaculture resources by 2020 (sub-topic B).
  • Lay the foundations for and contribute to the sustainable management and protection of marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts (UN SDG 14) (sub-topic).

In the medium term:

  • Increase scientific knowledge, develop research capacity and transfer marine technology, taking into account the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Criteria and Guidelines on the Transfer of Marine Technology, in order to improve ocean health (UN SDG 14).
  • Improve forecasting of climate change, weather and ocean conditions to protect human activities in support of UN SDG 14 and other relevant goals, and of the objectives of related Conventions (for example, on biodiversity).
  • Shorten the time span between research and innovation and foster economic value in the blue economy.
  • Improve the professional skills and competences of those working and being trained to work within the blue economy and in the context of open data sharing.
  • Contribute to policymaking in research, innovation and technology.
  • Increase data sharing and increase integration of data.

Delegation Exception Footnote:

This topic is expected to continue in 2020.

Cross-cutting Priorities

  • Socio-economic science and humanities
  • International cooperation
  • Blue Growth
Application date
Social sciences : Economy