The aim of this project is to investigate options for reforming the existing regulatory framework for marine bioprospecting in order to promote increased sustainable innovation based on marine genetic resources. Bioprospecting can be understood as the search for and collection of biological resources; marine indicates that the resources are found in biotopes in the ocean.

The following three types of regulations are reflected in the three research areas in this project:

  • The first research area is international regulation of bioprospecting: What are the options for regulating rights and access to genetic material from the high seas, which is the area beyond national jurisdiction, the exclusive economic zone and in Antarctica, south of 60 degrees South.
  • The second research area for this project is open source for marine-based innovation: the research question is how innovation may be stimulated and balanced in the marine sector by the use of an open source-based legal system for innovation.
  • The third research area is to look at potential regulations of collections of marine genetic resources by discussing the particular situation of Marbank and research projects in bioprospecting: How to regulate access to and use of marine genetic resources from such collections in a manner that stimulates research, innovation and investment in this field? It is an overall goal of this project to contribute with legal research, practical options and solutions to the difficult legal questions related to marine bioprospecting, including legal analysis drawing upon biology, technology and political science. Law relevant for marine bioprospecting evolves in parallel in different global arenas, at national level and among private parties.

Innovation law is linked to marine bioprospecting, since the aim of bioprospecting often is a patentable invention. A common characteristic for sectors that involve marine bioprospecting, research and innovation based on marine genetic material is that public funding is often necessary in the early phases of basic research. At the time of commercialisation, questions connected to rights to genetic resources and related innovations financed by public funds become relevant.

Norway has played a prominent role in several of the international arenas negotiating issues relating to access to and legal protection of genetic material, and has also been in the forefront with a view to developing compatible domestic regulations at a general level. The strategic interests of Norway in the oceans and Antarctic area underscore the need for Norway to contribute to further develop of international law in this area.

Project period: 2011-2015


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  • Research Professor
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  • Research Council of Norway (FUGE Programme)