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Politicians agree in Almedalen – more money for maritime research

10 July 2022

Politicians were questioned and the promise a greener shipping was liked. It was business as usual when the shipping industry gathered at the Maritime meeting place in Almedalen for three well-fed days. Lighthouse was first out with a seminar on Monday morning that explained why everything starts with research and innovation.

“Give shipping at least doubled funding for research and innovation”, said Lighthouse director Åsa Burman when she gave the opening speech at the Lighthouse seminar.

“Without more investment in shipping research and innovation, no climate goals will be reached.”

The funding should go from SEK 100 million to SEK 200 million a year. A rather modest demand, former Minister of Industry Ibrahim Baylan thought, when the National Agenda for Maritime Research and Innovation, NRIA Maritime 2021, was handed over to him in the middle of the pandemic. His reaction is understandable – the Swedish state annually invests 34 billion in research.

“It's not that much money, but it would make a big difference. The industry is already involved, both on the shipping side and in the marine engineering companies, but long-term co-financing is needed to strengthen the competitiveness of Swedish shipping and for the climate goals to be reached”, said Åsa Burman.

The Oceanbird project, which is developing a "sailing" car freighter that will cross the Atlantic, is an example of a project made possible thanks to government research funds and which has had a great impact, not least in the media. CNN, Forbes, the World Economic Forum and all major Swedish newspapers have written about Oceanbird. But perhaps even more important is that Wallenius Marine, which is leading the project, has received a lot of inquiries from cargo owners worldwide who wonder when the concept can become available from their type of transport. Right now, the project is facing the next big step – a demonstration project is to be carried out where the 50 meter high "sails" are tested. However, getting funds for demonstration projects in Sweden is not easy.

“I am convinced that we will launch Oceanbird, but if you want to accelerate development, support for demonstration projects is a very important piece of the puzzle”, said Per Tunell from Soya Group and Wallenius Marine.

“This applies not only to this project but to all new big ideas in shipping; electrification, conversion to biogas, hydrogen. You need support to move forward”.

As early as 2030, Swedish shipping will have reduced its climate emissions by 70 percent compared to 2010 levels. Will shipping make it? Lars Nicklason, communications manager at Lighthouse, asked questions on the topic to politicians and the industry during Tuesday's lunch seminar When will we speed up the transformation of shipping?

“Everything will depend on whether the will is there. It will require very large efforts and a collaboration between many different actors”, said Fredrik Larsson, responsible for environmental and climate issues at Swedish Shipowners association.

“Where is the politics to support us? Together with our partners, we have invested five billion in ten ships that can run on biogas and have not received any money from the state. This development would have gone much faster if you helped”, said Lars Höglund, CEO, Furetank.

Isn't shipping a priority? We may have a system error in Swedish politics, said member of Parliament Magnus Ek (C). The focus has been on moving goods over to rail and shipping, while shipping's actual transition to becoming sustainable has fallen into the background.

“It is now important that there are new proposals coming all the time that will take us a little further along the way”, he continued.

“We have to work hard the coming mandate periods. We will not be able to convert the entire fleet in the next mandate. This is more of a long-term effort.

So, will shipping then get its 200 million for research?

“I am happy to say yes”, said Magnus EK.

“Yes, said Elin Segerlind”, Member of Parliament (V).

“I firmly believe in research, so the answer is yes. But I don't want to control the details and prevent the next finance minister”, said Magnus Selin, Member of Parliament (S).

Footnote. Lighthouse streamed the following five seminars from the maritime venue (in Swedish):
Utan mer satsningar på sjöfarts forskning och innovation nås inga klimatmål.
När får vi fart på sjöfartens omställning?
Vätgasens roll för Sveriges omställning – hur snabbar vi på processerna?
Vad blir sjöfartens trafikuppgift i framtiden?
Hur ska vi stärka dagens och framtidens maritima näringars kompetenser?

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