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Making EU the global leader in components for marine renewables and offshore energy applications

Making EU the global leader in components for marine renewables and offshore energy applications

The Vanguard Initiative pilot project for Advanced Manufacturing for Energy Related Applications seeks to make the EU the global leader in manufacturing robust high-integrity components for marine renewables and offshore energy applications. The pilot project is being developed across a dozen of the most advanced EU regions in this sector in order to pool their resources and expertise for the benefit of industry.


Europe has a highly competitive industry manufacturing a wide range of systems and components for use in conventional and renewable energy applications. It enjoys a particular competitive advantage in producing equipment for the harshest environments.

There is a growing global market for a technology such as this whereby European companies can maintain a strong competitive advantage based on high quality and innovation. At the same time, the EU’s prosperity and security hinges on a stable and abundant supply of energy. Finding new solutions to access deep-sea oil reserves faster and more efficiently and to reduce the lifetime costs of offshore/marine renewables will unlock these energy sources across a number of EU regions.

The opportunity is attractive but developing new technologies capable of operating in the harshest environments is an expensive, risky and specialised business which is generally beyond the level of investment that a single company, or even a region, can justify. It is challenging for companies to find well-matched partners outside their home regions and few SMEs are willing to invest the time and money to search without assistance. This systemic failure due to a lack of information is acting as a barrier to smaller companies scaling-up, and effectively means that innovation diffuses more slowly than in more frictionless, integrated single markets.

Nevertheless, there are many diverse applications for such technologies which mean that, at the EU economy level, investment is likely to yield significant returns when aggregated across the industrial base. Therefore, it makes sense to align industry-driven investments with public and private sources at regional, Member-State and EU levels to further incentivise and accelerate the industrialisation of these technologies.

The Vanguard Initiative pilot project: Advanced Manufacturing for Energy-Related Applications in Harsh Environments

The first step is to build a strong network across regions with the relevant smart specialisation, which can facilitate pan-European collaboration to support the development of innovative products and services. A suite of manufacturing technologies developed across research networks with complementary specialisms can be exploited. Industry will set the agenda for research, contribute to the funding and adopt the technologies. In turn, this network will support collaboration between enterprises, research centres and specialist support infrastructure, creating a pan-European ecosystem to stimulate the development of innovative products and services in the above niche area which has significant international potential. The first plenary meeting of the pilot regions took place in December 2014. Scotland and the Basque Country are providing leadership to develop the initiative and a number of other EU regions are engaging at this stage, including Andalucia, Asturias, Dalarna, Emilia-Romanga, Flanders, Lombardy, Navarra, Norte, Ostrobothnia and Southern Denmark.

Achieved and expected results

The result of the pilot project should be the creation of a new and improved EU value chain in offshore oil and gas, unconventional oil and gas, marine renewables and deep-sea mining. As a result, European companies will be a significant net exporter to the wider world in these markets and many high-value jobs will be created and sustained.

In February 2015, the pilot project’s first deliverable was a focused mapping exercise which provided an initial basis on which to understand mutual strengths and capacity. This included the creation of a database of relevant companies and organisations across the regions of interest which already has over 200 entries and is growing weekly. The study has also generated an emerging overview of the value chain and its underpinning options in the area under investigation, through a critical analysis of the related strengths which exist across the regions involved in the study. Again, this analysis is providing unique insights into the EU’s potential to lead in a range of international markets. To our collective knowledge, this intelligence is new and provides clear signals of significant potential for business growth, driven by new forms of collaboration.

Following the analytic phase, the pilot project has moved to connecting stakeholders from across the regions. The participating regions carry the work forward in three domain groups, tasked with connecting research and test facilities, engaging and connecting industry stakeholders in the supply chain, and finally connecting partners such as cluster and intermediaries. As one of several ongoing actions, the pilot project is developing a common technological roadmap based on input from stakeholders from all the regions involved.

The incremental ‘successes’ noted above (many of them outputs and outcomes) are essential steps to achieving the ultimate goals of improved international industrial competitiveness, thereby contributing to EU growth ambitions and impact on jobs. Moreover, these incremental successes, and ultimate objectives, represent a significant departure from the current situation, in terms of scale and ambition, none of which is likely to be achieved in the absence of the interregional industry model which this pilot project is advocating.

Leading Regions (with organisations)  
Basque Country Cluster de Energía and SPRI
Scotland Scottish Enterprise and AFRC


Participating regions (with organisations)  
Andalucia IDEA Agency
Asturias FAEN
Dalarna Triple Steelix
Emilia-Romagna ASTER
Flanders OWI lab - Sirris
Lombardy Lombardy Energy Cleantech Cluster (LE2C)
Navarra CENER
Ostrobothnia Merinova
Skåne Svenskt Marintekniskt Forum
Southern Denmark


Charles Abbott [at]
Aitor Mintegui aitor-mintegui [at]  


Latest news on 'Advanced Manufacturing for Energy Related Applications in Harsh Environments'
Vanguard Initiative in latest issue of Panorama Magazine 


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