porting refinement and validation of prototype technologies, building user awareness, and promoting early opportunities for commercial exploitation (e.g., through efforts like the Small Business Innovation Research Program, the Alliance for Coastal Technologies, or the Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Technology Verification program [also see Chapter 3]).
Although it is impossible to predict which technologies and capabilities will attract capital in the global marketplace of 2030, it is likely that many ocean science infrastructure components will appeal to only small markets. In these cases, incentives could be provided to develop assets that have potential to address societal needs (e.g., by reducing the cost of capital through government guarantees). In order to ensure that optimal investments transition from research to operation and commercialization, such considerations could be part of the 5 to 10 year formal infrastructure review.
In addition, encouraging “high-risk/high-reward” activities makes certain that novel approaches remain part of the technology portfolio, as does funding alternative, competitive development approaches as a means to mitigate risk while maximizing opportunity. Another method is to incentivize collaboration, which encourages communication and lowers barriers between oceanography and allied disciplines (e.g., medicine, engineering, computer science). A final but essential step is educating and training the next generation of engineers, technologists, and scientific users to create new capabilities in research infrastructure and continue the use of data generated.
Ensuring the next generation of ocean science research requires a competitive and innovative ocean research enterprise. This includes sustaining long-term efforts, encouraging high-risk activities, supporting technology maturation and validation, ensuring adequate resources, incentivizing collaboration, and promoting education and training for future scientists and engineers.
The major science questions expected to be at the forefront of ocean science in 2030 will encompass a broad range of issues from fundamental inquiry to issues with great societal relevance. While it is likely that, due to unanticipated advances in technology, some of the questions in this report will be answered in the next two decades, others will continue to be of importance for decades beyond 2030. The categories of infrastructure, framework for investment prioritization, and ways to maximize research investments outlined in this report provide guidance that will enable the federal agencies and their partners (local and state governments, academia, ocean industries) to make wise choices when planning for the future ocean infrastructure investments. Addressing the most significant oceanographic research and societal issues in 2030 will require a comprehensive range of infrastructure. As ocean science continues to evolve toward more interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research, a growing suite of infrastructure is needed.