UAlg marine energy researchers try millions from Europe

CIMA from UAlg joins Iberian technology giants and candidate for Horizon 2020 tidal energy technology test project

The marine renewable energy team at the Center for Marine and Environmental Research (CIMA) at the University of Algarve is preparing an application to the European Horizon 2020 program to get funding to test a new demonstrator prototype of tidal energy extraction technology.

The research group, coordinated by André Pacheco, joined the Portuguese CEIIA and the Spanish Tecnália and has already managed to move on to the second phase of the European programme, a line of financing directly managed by the European Commission, which aims to boost large innovation and technology development projects.

The new prototype is being built «with the know-how gain in the SCORE project», which the team led by André Pacheco has been developing for two years, told the Sul Informação the CIMA investigator. In SCORE - Sustainability of using Ria Formosa Currents On Renewable Energy production, innovative technology was tested in the Ria Formosa, opening the door to higher flights.

“We are currently preparing another test at the Ria Formosa, with an improved prototype compared to the one we tested now. We applied for Horizon 2020, we went to the second phase and we are waiting for an answer to find out if we have funding», summarized André Pacheco.

The application will be made in partnership with CEIIA, from Porto, and with Tecnália, from Spain, which are two of the largest engineering and innovation companies in the Iberian Peninsula.

In other words, CIMA is well accompanied for this adventure, with the advantage of being agreed, from the outset, «that all patents that are created will stay at the University of the Algarve».

To get to the restricted batch of projects that passed the second phase of Horizon 2020, it was necessary to go through "a very competitive evaluation process".

«We are finishing the application, something we have to complete by the 22nd of August. If we manage to obtain this funding, we will take another step in promoting the Ria Formosa as a privileged place for testing prototypes that demonstrate technology linked to blue energy», believes André Pacheco.

The UAlg investigator spoke with the Sul Informação on the sidelines of the conference “Blue Hub – Services and technologies for Blue Growth”, promoted by CRIA – UAlg's Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer Division on the 20th of July, within the scope of the European projects “PROteuS”, “Pelagos” and “Maestrale”.

The initiative aimed to kick-start the creation of a cluster blue in the Algarve, where blue energy belongs, but also marine safety, thinking not only about business dynamics, but also about technology transfer.

And, in the case of the partnership between CIMA and the two Iberian technological giants, what is intended is, precisely, to «transfer technology».

For André Pacheco, «there is enormous potential here at the University of Algarve and in the research centers of our academy to support the development of new demonstrator prototype tests. The Algarve region, in particular the Ria Formosa, is a fantastic natural laboratory».

«Here in the Algarve, we have more and more companies and research centers working in the area of ​​the sea and collaborating with each other. This gives us a very important capital and it is something that we have to explore with more dynamism, which, fortunately, is happening», he added.

More than potential in terms of knowledge creation, there is also «a huge business in this area, «especially now that Brexit has taken place». Is that, currently, the European test center, the European Marine Energy Center, is headquartered in Scotland. In other words, it is a place to which it is still unclear how accessibility will be in the coming years.

However, the European Union has a project for the creation of an infrastructure for real tests and demonstrators, the Marinerg-i, in which the Wavec – Wave Energy Center is the Portuguese representative. "We have been at the meetings to cement the Ria Formosa proposal as a test site," he told the Sul Informação the Algarve researcher.

The approval of the candidacy that CIMA and its two business partners are making to Horizon 2020 could give "a great help" to this goal, but the main asset was "the fact that we were pioneers in doing this here in Ria Formosa, with the SCORE project».

André Pacheco took the opportunity to emphasize that the attraction of this center for the region «must be a university investment, it cannot be just a research center».

«We have to think about what a career as a researcher at the University of Algarve is. We have to have resources, we cannot, suddenly, lose the marine renewable energy team that we have been building for the last five years, because we are not able to secure the financing of the members of that group”, he illustrated.