SUMES project receives go-ahead: developing an impact assessment tool for sustainable ecosystem services | Marine@Ugent

SUMES project receives go-ahead: developing an impact assessment tool for sustainable ecosystem services

Currently, there is no scientific method available to measure and quantify the impact of human activities on the marine environment in a comprehensive way. Therefore, an innovative and integrated model is needed. This requires a thorough scientific understanding of marine ecosystems, the ecosystem services they can provide, and the potential (adverse) effects of human activities on the local, regional and global environment.

For the next three years (October 2020-2023), Ghent University, University of Antwerp and VLIZ – together with The Blue Cluster, 8 companies and 2 governmental bodies – are joining forces to map and quantify the impact of human activities on the Belgian Continental Shelf. Understanding the multidisciplinary and intensive use of this zone will make it possible to develop specific measures in the areas of climate change, food and energy security and human health. In addition to the development of a sustainability model, a database containing quantitative and qualitative data will be set up, which is of high value for businesses and research institute active in the blue economy.

SUMES will be scoping out the economic and social valorisation. The results and the newly acquired knowledge must lead to innovation projects for Flemish companies and knowledge institutions active in shipping, offshore energy, seafood, tourism, coastal protection and consultancy. The strategy of the Blue Cluster is to apply a sustainable ecosystem approach in the development of economic activities offshore.

The project partners are assisted by an extensive (international) scientific advisory board, government agencies and civil society organizations. In this way, this project can be seen as a platform where knowledge institutions, companies, external scientists, policymakers and citizens enter into dialogue with each other to discuss and analyse future developments in the context of blue innovation in Flanders.

Ghent University is the project coordinator and will support the project partners in the development of a holistic sustainability impact assessment model for the Belgian Continental Shelf. Ghent University is also responsible for the work package on the valorisation of the research results in order to develop ground-breaking commercial initiatives for the implementation of the tool as a decision support tool in business models worldwide.

SUMES partners:

  • UGent -  Sustainable Systems Engineering (STEN) – project leader
  • UGent - Laboratory for Environmental Toxicology and Aquatic Ecology (Ghentoxlab),
  • Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ),
  • UAntwerp - Ecosystem Management Research Group (UA-ECOBE),
  • The Blue Cluster; 8 industrial partners (DEME, Colruyt, IMDC, Port of Zeebrugge, eBO-Enterprises; Flemish Fish Auction; Harsonic; Maritech) and 2 governmental bodies (POM West-Flanders; FPS Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment)


With the support of the Flemish government - Agency for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (VLAIO)

Contact persons at UGent: Prof. Jo Dewulf


SUMES is also hiring a PhD student: Link to the vacancy

Link to The Blue Cluster


©picture: Hans Hillewaert: Fishing through C-Power wind park