Fostering an innovation nation
Many of the world’s leading maritime industry research and training institutions, manufacturers and service providers are located in the UK. The sector features globally recognised and industry-leading brands that drive forward key developments in equipment, product design and technical innovation.
Research and Development in the maritime sector is extensive, supported by the world-class capabilities of UK universities and research institutes. The UK’s maritime research landscape is further enriched as a result of the large numbers of small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) at the forefront of R&D and innovation.
The UK has the potential to be a leading player in maritime autonomy and therefore the challenge area of robotics and artificial intelligence in the Industrial Challenge Strategy Fund is welcome. Indeed, maritime autonomy is an area where we are considering a sector deal bid. Skills implications will be a key part of this discussion.
Industry and academia have developed proposals for the creation of a ‘national maritime research centre’, which brings together the UK’s excellent academic and research institutions, with industry, to address the demands for applied R&D spanning technology readiness levels (TRL) 3 to 7. In recognition of the existence of a number of highly valued bodies around the country, the Centre should be based on a hub and spoke model, similar to that of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult or the Composites Catapult in Bristol, to fully utilise the substantial infrastructure which currently exists in the UK.
Businesses will invest more in R&D with support from government, but require clear guidance on what grants are available, followed by a simple and quick process to apply and access the funding.