Science and Technology CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by the Association of Marine Scientific Industries

1. This evidence is being submitted on behalf of Association of Marine Scientific Industries (AMSI) Council of the Society of Maritime Industries (SMI). The AMSI Council of SMI sets the policy and guides the activities for the marine science and technology market area within the Society of Maritime Industries, utilising the extensive expertise of its members. We welcome the opportunity to submit evidence to this important enquiry and would be happy to arrange a personal briefing to the committee.

2. In summary, our key points are as follows:

The Marine Science Coordination Committee (MSCC) and the public sector marine science community in general do not engage effectively with private sector users, funders or providers of marine science.

Strategic coordination of marine science has seen limited improvement since 2007, with priorities not sufficiently aligned to needs and little consideration given to marine science in relation to supporting “UK plc” more generally.

Little progress has been made in improving value for money in the delivery of marine science, for example, by seeking greater understanding of private sector capability.

3. The 2012 AMSI Council survey of the UK’s marine science and technology sector shows a sector with an estimated annual turnover of £1.35 billion but dominated by SMEs (85% of companies surveyed) employing nearly 17,000 (up by 12% on 2011). 77% of companies export to a value of £500 million.

4. The private sector is an important and growing provider of marine science. It is also a major user of and investor in UK marine science. Industry turnover and gross value added in research and development is about six times that of the public sector and ten times of Higher Education Institutes.1 The number of people employed in research in industry is similarly much larger than that in the other sectors.

5. This submission focuses on questions, 1–4 in the Committee’s terms of reference for the enquiry.

Since 2007 has there been improved strategic oversight and co-ordination of marine science?

6. In the period since 2007, the need for high quality marine science has grown, driven by new policy and regulatory drivers and a step change in growth of the marine economy. In the same period private sector R&D investment continues to grow. In our view, although some progress has been made, the strategic oversight and co-ordination of marine science remains sub-optimal. Our key concern is that the important role of the private sector as a funder, user and provider of marine science has yet to be recognised or incorporated into the work of the MSCC.

7. After the initial flurry of activity, following publication of the Government’s response to the Committee’s 2007 report, the pace and drive of the follow up appears to have waned. It was over two years before the Marine Science Strategy appeared following the Government’s response to the Committee’s recommendations and another three before the communication strategy appeared. Most of the recorded activity has been directed at producing papers of various kinds, setting up working groups and holding meetings. Whilst clearly there is a place for this and it was to be expected that early application would be on establishing the governance arrangements, mapping out the UK Marine Science Strategy and the subsequent Communications Strategy, it would be reasonable to expect that the focus would then shift to delivery. We have yet to see strong evidence of this shift and of the “step change” promised in the UK Marine Science Strategy. We suggest that the collective effort should now be highly focussed on achieving firm outputs and outcomes.

8. Improved coordination and cost effectiveness in the delivery of marine science to support implementation of key policies is urgently required. There are a number of pressing examples. Five years ago the Committee drew attention to the importance of sound evidence to select and designate marine protected areas. It is worth looking back at the Government’s response at the time. It was stated that Defra and its agencies already had a fairly good scientific understanding in relation to the current network of sites, and intended to build on this to inform the development of the overall MPA network. Natural England was committed to enabling a designated network of sites by 2012. The timetable has since slipped, quite substantially. In a statement to Parliament, the Minister explained in November last year that an independent Science Advisory Panel had concluded that the science and evidence base was insufficient. “Significant additional work” was needed. As a result the designation of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZ) is now going to be phased with the first designations in 2013.

9. Marine planning is another area where the Committee and the Government, in its response, identified that effective co-ordination of research was vital. The marine planning process is now well underway. CEFAS reported in July 20102 that there was a basic lack of information about the shape and makeup of the seabed. To fill gaps, projects such as UK SeaMap (2010) produce broad scale predictive habitat maps based on “best available data”, but the confidence in some of the maps is as low as 20%. The CEFAS report indicates that the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) is reliant on this tool as “best available evidence”, however the low confidence levels associated with some of these modelled data may limit the effectiveness of early marine plans. Charting Progress 2 echoed this finding. There are the comments that “current habitat maps cover only 10% of the UK continental shelf. For future assessments we will need to improve the accuracy, resolution and scope of these habitat maps by undertaking more surveys and making the existing data more widely available.” The dearth of adequate data is likely to be a continuing issue as marine planning extends around the English coast. There is no obvious long term delivery plan to address these gaps in a systematic way.

10. It is evident that marine conservation measures, marine planning, the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) are all highly dependent upon a robust scientific information base. Without it implementation will be flawed, delayed (with associated costs of uncertainty) and could lead to unwanted and unintended consequences. These areas are illustrative of wide ranging and high impact policies that call for the type of co-ordinated approach previously advocated by the Committee but yet to be delivered in a systematic or transparent manner.

11. It is not apparent that the arrangements in place to provide strategic oversight and co-ordination of marine science up to now have enabled science effort and expertise to be aligned to areas of high impact. The experience of MCZs is a strong pointer to where problems have occurred and Government and stakeholder objectives frustrated. Marine planning and implementation of the MSFD could be similarly held back.

12. We suggest that there should be refocusing of effort—scientific resources and capacity—on these and other areas requiring immediate action in order to secure very considerable medium and long term environmental, economic and social benefits. This might mean examining all marine science funding and allocating a greater proportion to immediate and applied policy and regulatory needs.

What progress has been made in delivering the 2010 Marine Science Strategy?

13. The Marine Science Strategy promised “actions and not just words”. It is difficult to judge objectively how well the MSCC has delivered on this. The Marine Science Strategy stated that there would be a publically available dynamic web based delivery plan. It was reported that this would identify the actions being taken to implement the Strategy. A measure of the success of the Strategy was to be the effective completion of the proposed actions and the outcomes of the decisions taken by the MSCC. The most recently published version of the delivery plan appears to date back to February 2010.

14. The MSCC’s work is overseen by a Ministerial Marine Science Group. The Committee is required to provide an annual published report which includes progress on delivering the Strategy and details of the level of public sector expenditure on marine science. The minutes of MSCC meetings indicate that reports may have been prepared, but the reports do not appear to have been made publically available (there is no reference to them on the MSCC web-page).

15. Sight of minutes of meetings of MSCC only offers a fragmented and incomplete picture. The Communications Strategy has produced, perhaps of necessity low cost, modest and insular communication tools which fail to meet the stated aspiration of “engaging the wider public in discussions on marine science issues, raising public awareness of the impact of the seas and oceans on our lives and the impact of our actions on them.” We suggest that the disciplines originally proposed to strengthen accountability, improve communication beyond the immediate circle of MSCC membership and help drive the step change promised should be put in place. The delivery plan should be regularly reviewed, actions should be monitored and assessed and both the delivery plan and the annual report to the Ministerial Group should be made publicly available. Programme management principles should be applied, there should be a greater sense of urgency and the Strategy and its Delivery Plan should be employed to drive the changes required.

How Effective have the Marine Science Co-ordination Committee (MSCC) and Marine Management Organisation (MMO) been, and what improvements could be made?

16. The focus of these comments relate to the MSCC rather than the MMO. Many of the above observations apply in response to this question in relation to the MSCC. Our key concern is that the MSCC and the public sector marine science community in general do not engage with private sector users, funders or providers of marine science in any systematic way and has yet to move to a model of delivery. There is a significant opportunity for improvement. The capable secretariat is not sufficiently resourced or set up to succeed.

17. The lack of current engagement with the private sector is demonstrated by the fact that the MSCC does not include a single representative from the private sector. This is despite earlier announcement that it would do so. The omission of anyone from industry is concerning, because the Marine Science Strategy recognises the importance of and contribution made by UK marine industries. “Marine industries play a strategic role in enhancing the UK’s science base and in delivering core research and data through their own major research, monitoring and development programmes.” It is also noted that “UK industry develops and manufactures key, and often novel, marine research equipment that provides the UK with greater capability, for example, to explore new parts of the oceans or to make measurements with greater precision.” Marine science makes a positive contribution the UK industry’s competitive edge. We are told that “It is important for scientists to understand the needs of the sector and to engage with them” and that “The UK marine industry is a significant employer of the country’s graduates and postgraduates in marine science and has a highly skilled research base.”

18. After concerns were expressed by the private sector about the absence of any industry representation on the MSCC, it was agreed to set up the Marine Industries Liaison Group (MILG) in December 2010. This is chaired by a non-executive member of MSCC who is not from industry, but serves as the link member with the Committee. The MILG has made a slow start, but has the potential to make a useful contribution, if effectively employed by MSCC and given appropriate secretariat support. It should not, however, be seen as a satisfactory substitute for industry representation on the MSCC itself. This arms-length relationship with MSCC is not conducive to effective coordination and perpetuates misconceptions between the sectors on capability, areas of expertise and priorities. Industry should be encouraged and enabled to play a much more prominent role in helping to inform and deliver the Strategy.

19. In considering how the MSCC can more effectively interface with the private sector it may be useful for the committee to reflect on examples from other sectors. Part of the issue is marine science, to date, has not been adequately considered through the lens of economic and industrial policy or broader benefits to “UK plc”. In recent years, the Government has aimed to support growth and development of a number of science based sectors. Common approaches include a sector strategy to support the UK’s competitive science base, attract investment, support exports, enable the development of skills and remove barriers to growth. Such strategies are generally backed up by specific actions to align policy, governance and funding to support closer working and “clustering” between academia, research institutions, industry and government. In most cases a strategy is overseen by a single agency or department with an actively engaged Ministerial lead. Examples include:

(a)A UK Space Strategy which sets out a vision to seize 10% of the Global Market by 2030. The Strategy is coordinated by a single agency working with industry and academia.

(b)A UK Life Sciences Strategy, which supports clustering and the commercialisation of research.

20. There is an immediate opportunity to address this in marine sciences. The Marine Industries Growth Strategy is a welcome initiative and encompasses a range of marine activities including ship building and repair, leisure, defence and offshore renewable energy with a tacit reference to the marine science industry. To date the role of marine science and survey industries has not been adequately considered as part of the workstreams. The MSCC and Defra should seek closer alignment with these activities and be given a revised mandate and terms of reference to deliver a programme of work to explicitly support the growth of the sector.

21. More recently (August 2012) the MILG has commissioned a capability review of private sector marine science which invites recommendations on where and how the private sector can help to deliver the Government’s marine objective. This review has been part funded by Government and Industry and although modest in scale has the potential to have strategic significance. The findings and the recommendations from this review must be used to inform a programme of actions to enable more effective working between sectors and support the points made above in paragraphs 19 and 20.

22. Notwithstanding the outcome of the review mentioned in the above paragraph we believe that there are areas that the MSCC should take forward which can support the broader UK marine science base. One action could be to commission a strategic view on future technology requirements, for example, monitoring equipment needs for the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive or equipment needs for more deep sea exploration) and how research agencies can work with industry to support the R&D development “pull through” and commercialisation of these technologies. At the very least this would offer the UK supply chain greater long term certainty on needs. A second area of action could be to make available existing research/data to enable the development of value added products (along the lines of the “open government” programme3).

23. In addition to opportunities for more effective collaboration there are also barriers that have been identified. A number of members have offered examples of public sector funded agencies or assets being used to compete against private sector providers. An example is Cefas, an executive agency of Defra, which has specific revenue raising objectives, business development staff and aggressively competing against the UK private sector within UK and overseas markets. It is not clear how Cefas charging and commercial activity is in line with relevant guidance on public spending and governance and supports a “level playing field”. How the principle of the UK public and private marine science sector competing against each other best supports the aims of the UK Marine Science Strategy, or the competitive position of UK science and economy more broadly, warrants further investigation by the committee.

24. One of the central aims of the MSCC and the Marine Science Strategy has been to improve value for money. This would be assisted if the MSCC had in place a set of suitable indicators to enable them and others to judge whether or not they were making progress in this direction. Industry might well be able to assist here. Without metrics or transparency there is a risk that the MSCC becomes a forum for coordinating inefficiencies within and between public sector bodies.

25. Commissioning should also have a role. Commissioning practices—as opposed to traditional procurement—vary enormously across Government Departments and agencies. Some are much further ahead than others on this. The Marine Science Strategy refers to commissioning: “The commissioning process will... be key to ensuring best value for money and the Marine Science Co-ordination Committee members will ensure that they apply best practice in commissioning...”. We support this, and suggest that the MSCC should be encouraged to prepare firm proposals implementing commissioning. There may be an absence of expertise among MSCC members and their support staff in this field but external advice is available—including from elsewhere within Whitehall.

26. The Committee previously highlighted the fragmented nature of marine science interests and the need for a single agency. There remains a complex web of co-ordination bodies in the publicly funded marine science sector. The attached organogram, produced by Defra, clearly demonstrates that this remains the case. Although each will no doubt be able to justify its existence and will be attended by, dedicated, committed and hard working individuals, they soak up resources and capacity and because of this can prove an obstacle to progress. The MSCC should constantly seek to rationalise these groups and keep the number to the absolute minimum in the interests of efficiency.

27. The 2007 reported highlighted the committee’s view that there is scope for better integrated management of research vessels. We understand there to be an MSCC programme looking at this and highlight this as an area where greater transparency and the use of expertise from the private sector is utilised. Similarly, the committee recommended that NERC consider the costs and benefits of greater utilisation of commercial vessels and an independent review undertaken of vessel operation. The Government response cautioned that “expectations should be realistic”. We understand that NERC have undertaken work examining this, however much of this is not in the public domain with “commercial confidentially” used as a blanket reason not to subject analyses to external expertise and scrutiny. In the absence of any evidence of actions to reduce cost and improve efficiency we believe there is a case for an independent review.

28. Two years ago the signatories to the Marine Science Strategy concluded that “the challenges are significant. We need to deliver the right marine science at the right time in order to meet both current and future policy needs. This requires a clear focus on what science is needed, tighter alignment of programmes and funding and greater coherence of effort across funders and deliverers.” Those needs stand and, if anything, are today more acute with the new and pressing obligations arising from the Marine and Coastal Access Act and various strands of European Legislation. The MSCC needs to accelerate its pace and ensure that its co-ordination efforts are effectively targeted, monitored and delivered. The MSCC should have more active Ministerial Leadership, as well some actual “levers” (particularly some element of pooled funding) to drive and enforce coordination and delivery.

About the Society of Maritime Industries

The Society of Maritime Industries is the voice of the UK’s maritime engineering and business sector promoting and sup-porting companies which build, refit and modernise commercial and naval vessels, and supply equipment and services for all types of ships and underwater vehicles, ports and terminals infrastructure, offshore oil & gas, maritime security and safety, marine science and technology and offshore renewable energy.

The AMSI Council

The Association of Marine Scientific Industries (AMSI) Council sets the policy and guides the activities for the marine science and technology market area within the Society of Maritime Industries, utilising the extensive expertise of its members.

September 2012



1 The Crown Estate, Socio-economic indicators of marine related activities in the UK economy, 2008.

2 CEFAS, Marine survey needs to underpin Defra policy. July 2010


Prepared 9th April 2013