The Virtual Knowledge Centre (VKC) is a regional networking platform for sharing knowledge and for supporting the development of the blue economy. It can be defined as a “one-stop shop/online web portal allowing for the consolidation and sharing of general, technical and sectoral information related to marine and maritime affairs in the Mediterranean”. The ultimate objective is to contribute to the development of an interactive Blue Economy Community.
The VKC is a web based portal aimed at providing a systemic and coherent framework to improve maritime governance in the Mediterranean by promoting and achieving:
- a more strategic, integrated and coordinated approach to policies and actions impacting on the sea;
- inter-systems co-operation and synergies across sectors and borders at regional, sub regional and national level;
- a common and coherent framework, bearing in mind regional specificities of the Mediterranean, to enhance exchange and dissemination of knowledge, networking and capacity-building.
How it works?
The Virtual Knowledge Centre is a user-friendly system organized in thematic sections and specific sub-sections. Each area can be queried through several parameters of reference including macro-themes, geographical coverage and intended users. Each area presents the same approach and structure for obtaining and providing information:
- a search facility to allow users to reach the needed information by making use of filters, making possible to narrow the search of contents;
- a map representing a user-friendly alternative way for reaching the contents of the related section in the form of a map;
- an upload facility, to allow users to look for, and upload themselves not only News and/or Events but also Knowledge Management Systems (KMS), Projects and register as Stakeholders.
KMS, Projects and Stakeholders are the three “pillars” of the Blue Economy Community. Joining the system enables you to improve, disseminate and widen the impact of activities and to extend your network and partnerships.
The VKC is an operational tool for a service goal developed by the European Commission – DG Maritime Affairs and Fisheries and currently managed by the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM). Bringing together 43 countries to promote dialogue and cooperation in the Euro-Mediterranean region, the UfM structure ensures a fully integrated approach and the needed experience to manage complex governance issues requiring the involvement of large number of initiatives and stakeholders.
The Virtual Knowledge Centre (VKC) was instigated by the European Union, the European Investment Bank and the International Maritime Organization to provide a centralized platform for marine and maritime information and to improve synergies across different initiatives and projects to facilitate coordination and cooperation in the Mediterranean region.
The commitment to and scope of the VKC was presented and confirmed during various events between 2012 and 2013 and culminated with the conclusion of the Council of the European Union on 25th June 2013 which: “WELCOMES the political commitment for supporting the blue economy of the Mediterranean as expressed at the 12th Facility for Euro-Mediterranean Investment and Partnership (FEMIP) Conference held on 18-19 April 2013 in Athens and LOOKS FORWARD to further marine and maritime cooperation across all coastal States on maritime clusters, networking of training institutes, safety and surveillance and the establishment of a Virtual Knowledge Centre in particular”.
The original mandate to develop the framework for the creation of a Virtual Knowledge Centre was provided in the context of the “The Integrated Maritime Policy for the Mediterranean” (IMP-MED) project, funded by the European Commission EuropeAid Cooperation Office (AIDCO), in cooperation with Directorate General of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG MARE), which seeks to provide opportunities to nine southern neighbourhood States in the Mediterranean to engage in and obtain assistance for developing integrated approaches to marine and maritime affairs.
In the context of the Commission Implementing Decision of 18.6.2014, concerning the adoption of the work programme for 2014 in the framework of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund for the use of the operational technical assistance, serving as financing decision, Annex 1, action 18.104.22.168.(Support research work for blue economy development and innovation through a Virtual Knowledge Centre) follows up on the aforementioned initiative developed over 2011-2013 between the European Commission, the International Maritime Organization and the European Investment Bank providing support research work for the development of the content and the sustainability of the VKC, allowing the future structure in charge of its management to continuously collect and update information.
On 17 November 2017, the UfM Ministerial Declaration on Blue Economy stated the need “… to strengthening coordination and cooperation in the area of maritime affairs in order to improve maritime governance and achieve a conducive environment for the blue economy in the Mediterranean Sea basin, in particular by…..stressing the importance of establishing appropriate networking mechanisms for blue economy stakeholders around the Mediterranean and tasking the UfM Secretariat to develop further the Virtual Knowledge Centre on marine and maritime affairs…”
The implementation process: steps and activities
In the context of the “The Integrated Maritime Policy for the Mediterranean” (IMP-MED) project, two feasibility studies were developed for the creation of the Virtual Knowledge Centre (VKC) on marine and maritime affairs in the Mediterranean.
The first VKC Feasibility Study was launched as an inventory of the existing on-line Knowledge Management Systems (KMS), defined as any Information technology system that has compiled information collated from multiple sources in different formats and provided a gateway to search for and have access to this information in an organized and structured manner.
The second VKC Feasibility Study was characterized by the development of a first version of the VKC portal by making the inventory available on-line. As part of the second VKC Feasibility Study it was also undertaken a critical analysis of the governance structure of the VKC aimed to explore role and responsibilities and the hosting organizations willing to take over its management and operational maintenance.
Drawn on the experience and conclusions of the Feasibility Studies and aimed to revamping the actions and outputs developed, the VKC was submitted to a significant revision in term of structure, contents and usability in the context of the Study supporting the development of a Virtual Knowledge Centre (VKC) in the Mediterranean sea-basin.
In addition to the KMS hosted, the VKC system has been enriched by other two components, namely projects and stakeholders related to the Mediterranean sea-basin, with the aim to increase the knowledge base and synergies between different types of actors in a common framework.
With regard to contents, a systematic search was carried out on additional marine and maritime KMS systems and projects across the Mediterranean, accompanied by a review of the descriptive attributes of them, in particular their thematic and geographical coverage, in order to improve the efficiency and the quality of the information provided by the system. This desk research was also supported by a stakeholders consultation, through which a set of improvements have been identified to the VKC.
In this context, the website has been object of technical improvements to enhance the access to information and the user-friendliness. A section dedicated to stakeholder, KMS and projects owners has been designed in order to support and facilitate their auto-registration to the VKC. Within the study mentioned above, also the governance of the system has been outlined, identifying the Secretariat of the UfM ” as the most appropriate management body of the VKC. Since April 2017, the VKC has been managed by the Secretariat of UfM which will gradually upgrade and further develop it.