As an island nation with a long seafaring tradition, the UK has an enviable heritage in technology and innovation in the maritime sector. The sector continues to grow and is now looking for potential benefits from the adoption of Fourth Industrial Revolution Technologies. This is accelerating as we begin to look to recover from and increase our long-term resilience to, the COVID Pandemic.
We, as a founder member of Maritime Research and Innovation UK, have been extensively involved in this ground breaking initiative supported by UK Government Department for Transport, to develop a network of regional, industrial and academic communities to ensure a coherent and collaborative approach to maritime research and innovation in the UK. The initiative was established in July 2019 recognising that other industrial sectors have created centres or hubs to coordinate research that attract significant levels of industry and Government funding. It provides an opportunity for much needed collaboration and synergy nationwide to meet challenges and opportunities in the maritime sector.
The other founding members are BAE Systems, Babcock International, Lloyds Register, QinetiQ and Shell, together with the universities of Newcastle, Southampton, Strathclyde & UCL, Maritime UK and the Society of Maritime Industries, the membership continues to grow.
We are a Tier 1 Company in the initiative and Chief Executive, Sarah Kenny sits on the overall Strategy Board, whilst our Industry Engagement Manager, Richard Westgarth Chairs the Working Group supporting the core team based at the University of Strathclyde. In addition, our UK defence Research and Development Lead, Jake Rigby is leading a workstream looking at developing a Technology Research Roadmap.
In 2019, the UK Government Department for Transport published its first long term strategy for UK maritime sector in a generation: Maritime 2050: Navigating the Future. This sets out the UK ambition to be world-leading on safety, technology, skilled people, and the environment. The strategy contains a wealth of recommendations and provides the UK with a real opportunity to regain a position as a leading innovator in maritime science and technology. MarRI-UK addresses these recommendations and provides a focus for Research and Innovation in the sector bridging academia, industry, and government.
Being a member of MarRI-UK, provides us with a significant opportunity to engage in multidisciplinary research to achieve practical, effective solutions to the sectors technological challenges through strong integration between industry, representative organisations, and academia.
In addition, a core group of UK companies and universities have been working to generate national scale funding for Research and Innovation in the sector, the proposal made to Government proposes the transformation of UK freight distribution reliance on land-based haulage to a new vision of a UK coastal highway through safe, zero-carbon short sea shipping. This will drive economic prosperity and support regional development in coastal areas for a partnership investment of £530M, over 10 years to move 25% of UK’s land haulage tonne km via a zero-carbon autonomous fleet of coastal vessels by 2030. The aim is for a zero-carbon transportation system, reducing road congestion, that is commercially viable, leading to greater UK prosperity and economic opportunity for exports.
With funding from the Department for Transport, MarRI-UK have already administered two research and Innovation calls within mid TRL (TRL 3-7) aligned to the Maritime 2050 Strategy:
£1.5M funding was available to fund technology, process innovations or services that offer significant improvements to systems, timings, processes or technology for clean maritime services and operations, and align with Maritime 2050 Zero Emission sub-theme and/or the Clean Maritime Plan. Following the competition, funding to a total value of £1.4M awarded for 10 projects.
£1.5M funding was available to fund innovative maritime technologies that demonstrate potential applications for innovative technology or for proof of concept of new ideas that offer benefits to maritime services and operations. This call has now been closed and successful projects will be announced shortly.