Voyage of Discovery

I’ve been lucky enough to experience some real high points in my communications career, learning something new from each one – from developing the communications plan for the launch of the UN International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour in 1992, to whisking a dozen influential European aerospace journalists on their first impressive week-long tour around Ontario, Canada in 1998 (the province now earns around 70% of all Canadian aerospace revenues), to more recently helping to attract £290 million in European investment to Edinburgh (of particular pride as a Scot!) Not bad for someone who ‘just writes press releases’ for a living!

Today, I’m adding another project to my portfolio that I know I will look back on equally with pride, all the more so as I’m also supporting an old colleague and close friend in doing so.

Drawing on our earliest spirit of exploration, this summer nine teams of Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) researchers and their international peers will forge new ideas together on the sailing ship ‘Thor Heyerdahl’ (pictured). After months of preparation, FAU today launches Science Sets Sail which is designed to explore new research horizons during a ‘voyage of scientific discovery’ on the Baltic Sea. Over three separate legs, the voyage begins in Kiel on 15 July and ends in Rostock on 11 August, taking in Malmö, Riga, Helsinki, Tallinn and Danzig on the way.

Recognised as a centre of excellence for innovation and international research (for example, Reuters ranks it 6th in Europe), FAU has designed Science Sets Sail around its eight major research topics, each with poignant relevance today such as: New Processes and Materials; Electronics, Analytics and Digital Transformation; and Cultural Values, Religion and Human Rights. Through moderated discussions, presentations, interdisciplinary research, teamwork, and every-day on-board life – swabbing the decks, cooking in the galley, keeping watch, and so forth – FAU’s goal is to grow together with its research partners from Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Poland, Sweden and further afield. Meanwhile, ‘Open Ship Days’ at the five ports of call will broaden the initiative’s audience and appeal.

Launching Science Sets Sail and a new website

The initiative is the brainchild of my old colleague, friend, and now client, Blandina Mangelkramer, FAU’s Head of Communication and Marketing, who said: “With Science Sets Sail, we’ve created a dynamic environment for international collaboration. To widen our net beyond the direct participants, we’re taking every opportunity to share information and exciting stories from the ship and ports of call, including a growing list of events, and a ship’s log book which will be updated in the run up to and during the voyage.”

In fact, that’s where Justa Public Relations comes in as we’ve been developing all the English content for the project, including brochures, a separate website, press and other materials, and now social media content. Blandina adds: “Justa Public Relations is a joy to work with – smart, dedicated, and quick to come up with a pragmatic solution to each new challenge. I’ve valued Ronna Porter’s judgement and support across multiple complex topics for many years.”

I look forward to seeing what kind of impact the project will have on innovative international collaboration, trying to put this into words, and learning lots in the process!

Find out more about Science Sets Sail at