Norwegian researchers to lead EU technology development for marine monitoring

Jens T. Thielemann of SINTEF ICT is coordinating one of the first projects to receive funding under the Horizon 2020 Blue Growth strategy. (Photo: Kathrine Nitter) The project “Underwater Time Of Flight Image Acquisition system (UTOFIA)” has been allocated EUR 5.7 million under Horizon 2020, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, to develop camera technology that can see through turbid water.

Last year, Horizon 2020 announced funding for projects targeting the grand societal challenges, including those related to the oceans. Monitoring of the marine environment and subsea installations is an important step in establishing a “blue economy”.

Senior Scientist Jens T. Thielemann is head of the UTOFIA project and will coordinate the activities of research and industry partners from the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Denmark and Spain, as well as the Norwegian participants.

“This is a real boost for the Norwegian research community’s impact within Horizon 2020,” says Fridtjof Unander, Executive Director of the Research Council's Division for Energy, Resources and the Environment. “The award of funding to this project confirms that Norway is at the cutting edge of ICT research and is an attractive research partner when it comes to addressing marine issues.”

Contributions from Research Council

“The Research Council has a very important task in helping Norwegian researchers in their quest for EU framework funding,” says Special Adviser Gudrun Langthaler. “Our corps of National Contact Points (NCPs) provides assistance in finding relevant calls for proposals and helps to interpret the requirements and guidelines. The main objectives are to enhance the internationalisation of Norwegian research and increase its share of EU funding.” Ms Langthaler is an NCP for this area of Horizon 2020.

She recommends that Norwegian researchers contact both the Research Council and their institution’s internal EU advisers at an early stage – as soon as they begin to consider applying for EU funding. “Drawing up an EU grant application is a collaborative task, not least within one’s own institution,” she adds.

New camera technology extends underwater visibility, which among other things enables researchers to collect more precise data on schools of marine resources. (Photo: Sverre Jarild)

Potential in multiple sectors

“The UTOFIA project will help scientists gain a better overview of marine life, seabed conditions in different locations, and the scope of visible pollution,” explains project manager Thielemann.

“The project’s camera technology will, for instance, provide better data on populations of fish and other marine animals,” he continues, “including individual size. This is a good start to knowing how much of the various fish species we can harvest and it will promote more sustainable management of European marine resources.”

The new technology will make underwater observation easier, safer and less costly than currently possible. It will also make automated monitoring – which is already carried out on land – possible under water. In addition to improving marine resource management, the technology will have applications such as inspection of subsea installations and harbour surveillance.

The technology will have land-based applications as well. “This technology doesn’t just extend underwater vision, it can also see through rain, fog and snow,” says Mr Thielemann. “Thus the technology will have a wide range of applications and possibilities, both under water and on land.”

Facts about the project


Underwater Time Of Flight Image Acquisition system (UTOFIA)

Project period

1 Feb 2015 – 1 May 2018

Project manager

Senior Scientist Jens T. Thielemann, SINTEF ICT


EUR 5.7 million from Horizon 2020 Blue Growth strategy


SINTEF ICT – overall project and coordination
Odos Imaging (UK) and Fraunhofer IMS (Germany) – camera technology
Bright Solutions (Italy) – laser
Subsea Tech (France) – subsea camera housing and testing for harbour surveillance applications
AZTI (Spain) – environmental monitoring of seabed
DTU Aqua (Denmark) – population studies of crustaceans



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