Irish Sea Lighthouse Panel Discussion

On the 28 February 2024, the Office of the Northern Ireland Executive Brussels was delighted to host colleagues from Welsh Higher Education Brussels for a workshop and panel discussion on the Irish Sea Lighthouse. The Irish Sea Lighthouse is a potential hub to facilitate cross-border collaborative activities and partnerships as well as to mobilise economic collaboration in the Irish and Celtic Sea. The Brussels workshop was part of a wider series of workshops hosted by Bangor University’s School of Ocean Sciences in collaboration with University College Cork and the Ulster Wildlife Trust, which took place in Belfast, Cork, Cardiff and on Anglesey.

This project forms part of the wider Welsh Government’s Agile Cyrmru programme, which seeks to explore co-operation and collaboration in the Irish Sea Space. The aim of the programme is to align with Horizon Europe’s Mission to ‘Restore our oceans and waters’ by protecting and restoring the health of our oceans and waters through research and innovation, citizen engagement and blue investment.

The workshop focused on the experiences of collaborative work elsewhere in Europe to help position the Irish Sea Space alongside other sea basins. Speakers from a wide range of academic and professional backgrounds came together to offer their perspectives on the project, before engaging in an insightful panel discussion and Q&A session. The event was opened by Professor Paul Spencer, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Bangor University, and ONIEB Director Aodhán Connolly. The floor was then given to the speakers, who explored various themes within their respective areas of expertise. Past and present opportunities for collaboration within the Irish Sea Space were presented by Professor Sarah Culloty, Head of the College of Science, Engineering and Food Science and Director of the Environmental Research Institute at University College Cork, as well as Glenn McKnight from the Northern Ireland Executive and Professor Shelagh Malham from the School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University. Andreea Strachinescu, Head of the European Commission’s Maritime Innovation Unit presented the Commission’s Ocean Mission and spoke about the role of lighthouses in maritime collaboration. This was followed by contributions from Frode Dal Fjeldavli from JPI Oceans and Elise Wattrelot from the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions, who offered examples from wider ocean initiatives. Perspectives from other sea spaces were given by Anna Sashchenko from Ghent University and Claudiane de Corbiac from French oceanographic institution IFREMER.

The event was concluded by a panel discussion and Q&A which focused on the future of development in the Irish and Celtic Sea hub and allowed participants to further explore issues which had been raised during the presentations. The panel featured Alastair Ross from the University of Kent, Baudewijn Morgan from the Welsh Government’s Horizon Europe Unit, as well as Professor Sarah Culloty and Professor Shelagh Malham. The event was followed by a networking lunch, providing participants with further opportunity to create networks in order to advance the crucial work involved in the project.

You can receive updates on the Irish Sea Project by following the X (twitter) handle @IrishCelticSea.