COLUMBUS – Navigating towards impactful Knowledge Transfer - March 2016

On 2 March 2016, 57 participants from 36 organisations and 11 countries converged in Brussels, Belgium, for the European Commission (EC) Horizon 2020 funded COLUMBUS project’s first annual Blue Society Knowledge Transfer Conference.

Representing the EC’s most substantial investment in Knowledge Transfer to date, COLUMBUS aims to measurably increase uptake and application of outputs arising from publicly-funded marine research projects by different end-users, such as industry, policy makers, and society in general.

This event was the first of three annual international conferences to be hosted by COLUMBUS with the common objective of bringing together project partners, knowledge generators and end users, as well as Knowledge Transfer specialists, to discuss on-going COLUMBUS Knowledge Transfer. Bringing these specialists together and highlighting success stories in this way will allow the Knowledge Transfer process that is implemented within COLUMBUS to be fine-tuned and ensure that COLUMBUS best practices in marine Knowledge Transfer become well-known by relevant stakeholders.

Opened by Dr Ricardo Serrão Santos MEP and Ms Sigi Gruber (Head of Marine Unit for DG Research and Innovation), the conference stimulated lively discussion. The attendees, including representatives from all 26 COLUMBUS partner organisations, explored external Knowledge Transfer initiatives to draw lessons from within the marine and maritime sector which could inform and improve COLUMBUS’ existing five-step Knowledge Transfer methodology.

Georgia Bayliss-Brown, Senior Knowledge Transfer Officer at AquaTT (Dublin, Ireland) who manages the application of the COLUMBUS Knowledge Transfer methodology, said, “We really are sitting on the crest of a wave and exploring new horizons under the COLUMBUS project. As public spending on research and development continues to grow; funding providers need to see a return on their investment. In COLUMBUS, we use a tried-and-tested methodology to maximise the potential of knowledge to have real, quantifiable impacts on policy, industry, science and society.”

Hosted by some of COLUMBUS’ External Advisory Board members – invited from AZTI Tecnalia, the German Marine Research Consortium (KDM), Marcom Defence, Nord University, Researchfish, the Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) - the afternoon’s enthusiastic and participatory expert panel discussions looked at the definition of impact and the associated barriers to achieving it, e.g. organisational, linguistic, educational and cross-cultural obstacles.

“The sheer extent of interest that the European Commission and high-level experts have displayed by continuously engaging with COLUMBUS and participating so actively in the conference is not only gratifying, and a proud moment for the project, but it signifies the importance of Knowledge Transfer, Blue Growth and achieving impact across a vast range of sectors,” said Cliona Ní Cheallacháin, COLUMBUS Project Manager, “Not only is it exciting to imagine the potential reach and impact that COLUMBUS’ work is likely to have in the next two years, but the capacity that we are building, in transferring knowledge successfully, will also be an invaluable contribution to research culture and future methodologies.”

In its first year, COLUMBUS has already established a “Knowledge Fellowship”, a network of nine full-time Knowledge Transfer Fellows whose role it is to carry out Knowledge Transfer, each with a specific focus area. Trained in the COLUMBUS Knowledge Transfer methodology, developed by AquaTT, this remote team has identified knowledge gaps relating to Blue Growth within their nodal areas and is proactively collecting knowledge from EU-funded research projects which have the potential to fulfil, or contribute towards filling, these gaps.

With more than 600 Knowledge Outputs collected to date, the scale of COLUMBUS can be easily recognised. All Knowledge Outputs, defined as units of knowledge generated by or through research, will be made publicly available through the Marine Knowledge Gate and the soon to be launched EU Marine Information Sharing Platform.

If you would like to know more about the COLUMBUS project or would like to receive regular updates on its progress, please visit or contact its Project Manager, Cliona Ní Cheallacháin (email: or tel: 0035316449008). Presentations from the conference are available on the project website.

COLUMBUS Strategic and Operational Leader David Murphy presenting at the projects first annual Blue Society Knowledge Transfer Conference

COLUMBUS Strategic and Operational Leader, David Murphy, presenting at the project's first annual Blue Society Knowledge Transfer Conference


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