This newsletter is dedicated to the Work Package 7 of the project - TASCMAR impact assessment: Challenges and opportunities for the assessment of a highly innovative, science-based, business-driven and environmentally friendly research project.
TASCMAR is an international collaborative research project funde under the EU's Horizon 2020 programme for research and innovation. Through a collaboration between 13 academic and commercial project partners in eight countries, TASCMAR seeks to discover novel marine-derived biomolecules with industrial applications, looking to the ocean's under explored mesophotic zone.
European citizens are increasingly asking science to solve global challenges that society, environment, and economy are confronting. They also want to be informed about the recent scientific discoveries and innovations. Therefore, science should not only achieve significant discoveries and scientific outcomes, but also better communicate to a large audience. TASCMAR project shares this view. Indeed, its identity relies on being useful for the society and also filling the gap between science and citizens.
Impact assessment activities are based on a highly participatory approach which allowed project’s partners to contribute to the creation of an impact assessment methodological framework which is consistent with their activities and goals. Therefore, our approach is undertaken together with both a literature review on the areas of impact by TASCMAR and the adaptation of pre-existing and tested impact assessment methodologies.
Actually, the TASCMAR socio-economic impact assessment methodology follow the Impact Value Chain approach. This approach considers project’s impacts as resulting from the interaction of its outputs and outcomes with society and economy. In this way, impacts are the final step of the project workflow as presented in the figure below.
Due to the complexity of a large project like TASCMAR, assessing its impacts is an essential asset. Impact assessment activities continuously evaluates the project and its social, economic and environmental expected impacts. In a way, impact assessment activities answer to the crucial question: what are the values generated by the project?
The impact assessment methodological framework can hence be adopted in a very modular way, according to goals, expectations and targets by each partner. In the figure below, there are the three main areas of impact under analysis and the principal sub-dimensions.
The environmental sustainability strategy of TASCMAR includes a set of selected and developed technologies and policies for the investigation of the Mesophotic zone, the collection of its resources, cultivation methods, active compound recovery and production of products based on natural bio-active compounds. The strategy also includes environmental guidelines for each interlinked, continuous phase of the project. The core of the strategy is the use of non-destructive and selective methods for invertebrates collection (ROV and technical diving) and development of innovative cultivation technologies, so the application of minimal collection in the wild will be needed.
Three years after the TASCMAR project started, the second impact assessment cycle has been performed. TASCMAR activities have quickly moved forward in the last year and have recently delivered breakthrough outputs in comparison with the expected ones. Indeed, TASCMAR partners have discovered six new species previously unknown. In particularly, a new octocoral, called Altumia delicata, was identified as both a new genus and new species of the octocoral family Clavulariidae. Additionally, a new species of the tropical genus Sinularia, called Sinularia mesophotica, was discovered. Very promising is also the large collection of invertebrates in the Mesophotic zone. Studies of their characteristics and related potential for applications are still ongoing.
Successful outputs have been obtained also in the field of technological innovations. Two technologies produced by TASCMAR partners have indeed been patented: the first for optimizing the production of microbial metabolites and the second for trapping invertebrate metabolites in their natural habitat. The first one, UNIFERTEX (UNIversal FERmenTor EXpert), offers a unique opportunity for microbiologists to use solid and liquid state fermentations of cultivated microorganisms in parallel. UNIFERTEX monitors the environment where these microorganisms are cultivated by remote and through dedicated software. The second technology, SOMARTEX (Self Operating MARine Trapping EXtractor), allows trapping invertebrate molecules in their natural habitat at any location and depth, without harvesting the organism. This technology will make more environmental-friendly exploration in shallow and deep waters. Finally, new categories of nitrilase enzymes are under investigation to be potentially utilized for environmental bioremediation.
While previous assessments have been focused on activities and outputs, the next and final one will address more in-depth outcomes and expected impacts by TASCMAR. The last year will be indeed decisive for TASCMAR in translating scientific outputs and outcomes made so far into products potentially exploitable at market level and therefore able to reach the overall society. The whole TASCMAR consortium is therefore convincingly looking for an economic exploitation of the project outcomes. Eventually, TASCMAR impacts would participate in finding innovative solutions for the wellbeing and health of the society and for living in a cleaner environment with a sustainable economy.
Watch our new video about UNIFERTEX (UNIversal FERmenTor EXpert)!