Posted on February 16, 2017

£1.8 million funding announced into north sea research

Funding worth £1.8 million (c2.4 million euros) has been awarded to a group of European scientific institutions as part of a major initiative to improve the understanding of the influence of man-made structures, such as oil and gas platforms, wind farms and shipwrecks, on the marine environment.

Details of the eight successful projects are revealed today (16 February) at the 16th North Sea Decommissioning Conference in Oslo. Seven centres of scientific excellence from Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and United Kingdom are set to benefit from the awards.

The funding is being made available within the Foundation Phase of the INSITE Programme, with recipients selected by an international group of scientists who make up INSITE’s Independent Scientific Advisory Board. Their selection follows a two-stage request for proposals initiated in 2014 and concludedlast year.

INSITE – the INfluence of man-made Structures In the Ecosystem – is an oil and gas industry-sponsored initiative committed to developing the independent scientific evidence-base needed to better understand the influence of man-made structures on the ecosystem of the North Sea.

This is the first tranche of research to be undertaken through INSITE and is to be concluded by the end of 2017, with the outcomes available via peer review journals thereafter. Further phases of research are planned subject to the outcome of the Foundation Phase and confirmation of a future funding model.

The overarching objectives of the research programme are two-fold. The first is to identify the magnitude of the effects of man-made structures on the ecosystem over time and around the structures themselves. The second is to determine the extent to which these structures represent an inter-connected system of hard substrate and the effect that may have on the marine environment. Each of the successful bidders has proposed research which will address these objectives from a different perspective. Taken together, the results will provide the most comprehensive indication of the interrelationship of man-made structures with the marine environment to date.

Speaking ahead of his presentation, INSITE programme director Richard Heard said: “Very little work has been undertaken to date on the relationship between man-made structures and the ecosystem of the North Sea. The research projects to be funded through INSITE will therefore be invaluable in providing the science needed to better understand the interaction with the marine environment and, ultimately, better inform decision making processes.”



  1. Richard Heard, Programme Director, can be contacted for further comment on +44 (0)7817 200801. His presentation from the Oslo conference is accessible in the downloads section at
  2. For additional assistance, contact Carol Barbone on +44 (0) 777 552 3091 or
  3. Further information on the projects to be funded and on the INSITE programme is available online at Project titles and media contacts for these appear below.

Institutions and projects receiving funding, with media contacts, are as follows:

Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI), Germany: “UNDerstanding the Influence of man-made structures on the Ecosystem functions of the North Sea (UNDINE)”.Contact: Dr. Folke Mehrtens, +49 (0) 471 4831–2007

Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), United Kingdom: “Assessing the Ecological Connectivity between man-made structures in the North Sea (EcoConnect)” and “Investigating food web effects due to man-made structures using Coupled Spatial Modelling (COSM)”.

Contact: Helen Egar, or Kyle Briggs, 44 (0) 1502 521318

**Heriot-Watt University Centre for Marine Biodiversity and Biotechnology, United Kingdom:“Appraisal of Network Connectivity between North Sea subsea oil and gas platforms (ANChor)”.Contact: Caroline Dempster, +44 (0) 131 451 3443

IMARES, Netherlands: “Reef effects of structures in the North Sea: Islands or connections? (RECON)”.

Contact: Astrid de Best,

NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (Netherlands): “Measuring the shadow of artificial structures in the North Sea and its effect on the surrounding soft bottom community”.Contact: Jan Boon, +31 (0) 222 369 466 or mobile +31 (0) 620 963 097

Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU),United Kingdom: “Man-made structures and Apex Predators: Spatialinteractions and overlap (MAPS)”. Contact: The University of St Andrews Press Office, +44 (0) 1334 46 2530‬‬

Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science (SAHFOS), United Kingdom: “Influence of Man-Made Structures in the ecosystem: is there a planktonic signal?”.

Contact: Nicola Rickard, +44 (0) 1752 633271