Success for Global innovation project in the heart of Appledore with award of £15.6 million in Government Funding

Torridge District Council’s proposed Appledore Clean Maritime Innovation Centre at Middle Dock was given a massive boost this week with £15.6m of funding from the Levelling Up Fund issued by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. The centre, which has received backing from a range of globally innovative partners as well as government agencies such as the National Shipbuilding Office, will establish Torridge and wider northern Devon as a global-leading research and development destination for innovation in clean maritime technology and support industries.

Expected to open in 2025, the centre will feature cutting-edge research and industry partnerships from the Centre for Future Clean Mobility (CFCM, University of Exeter) and the University of Plymouth. Designs include flexibly-designed innovation workshops and offices to enable businesses to undertake sector-leading R&D in a collaborative, engaging atmosphere and interest has already been high.

CFCM’s global-leading research into clean maritime propulsion will support the re-positioning of Appledore as a centre of excellence for clean-propulsion shipbuilding as the movement away from diesel intensifies over the next few years. The project will also capitalise on the Crown Estate’s plans to develop an initial 4GW of Floating Offshore Wind (FLOW) energy generation in the Celtic Sea, enough to power around 3 million homes, and the Innovation Centre’s waterfront location next to the Harland & Wolff shipyard. The complex will create a unique mix of research, education, commercialisation and business development opportunities. 

Alongside this, and following the recent installation of northern Devon’s first seaweed farm, there has been significant interest to support the growing local seaweed sector- an industry predicted to be worth around €9bn annually by 2030 across Europe. This includes the development of seaweed bi-products such as plastic replacements and pharmaceuticals, efforts which the University of Plymouth are ready to support. 

A key role of the centre is to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers with dedicated space set aside for education and engagement activities. Working together with the two university research partners, Petroc and the staff within their University Centre, will be driving a pipeline of courses to develop skills locally for roles in clean maritime, environmental management and preparing for the future green hydrogen deployment. Local educational initiatives will work in tandem with regional partners under the banner of the South West Institute of Technology (SWIoT). 

The development team is keen to hear from businesses across the clean maritime field who would like to know more and help shape the detailed designs over the next few months and years. To get in touch please contact Chris Fuller, Economic Development Officer at Torridge District Council on

For more details and to sign up to the Council’s mailing list for updates go to the Appledore Clean Maritime Innovation Centre page at Torridge District Council. 

Councillor Ken James - Leader of Torridge District Council said:

"This is fantastic news for Torridge and the wider area of northern Devon and a testimony to the hard work of everyone involved in submitting the ultimately successful bid to government. We are grateful for the funding that will now allow the proposals to be taken forward on what promises to be a truly cutting edge project to capitalise on the future direction of maritime engineering in what is already a fast moving sector. The benefit to jobs and income for the area will be a huge boost for both Torridge and the wider Devon economy."

Professor Lisa Roberts, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Exeter said:

"This multi-million pound funding boost is pivotal to ensuring the South-West region is at the forefront of leading meaningful action against the climate emergency and ecological crisis that affects us all.  

"This development in Appledore will bring about significantly increased economic activity, create numbers of high value jobs and generate wider prosperity not just in the region, but for the UK as a whole. It will extend our capabilities across the region and allow us to engage more with major industrial partners and their supply chains. 

"I am delighted that the University of Exeter's Centre for Future Clean Mobility will play such an integral role in this ground-breaking partnership to create real solutions to help the maritime sector become truly zero carbon. 

"This partnership reaffirms the Centre's commitment to be at the heart of both clean shipbuilding and global Floating Offshore Wind technology innovation, while also underpinning the University's commitment to providing a greener and fairer future for all, while also fuelling economic growth across the region." 

Professor Judith Petts CBE, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Plymouth, said:

"The Government's investment in these exciting and innovative plans is a further endorsement of the South West's role as the UK's clean energy powerhouse. The University of Plymouth is delighted to provide project leadership around offshore renewables and clean maritime innovation and the Appledore Innovation Centre provides further opportunity to lead in the development of emerging but critically important technologies combined with skills development. At the same time, we will be transforming a site with a proud maritime heritage into a cutting edge facility that ignites its clean maritime future."

Rear Admiral Rex Cox - Chief Executive Officer of the National Shipbuilding Office said:

"This is excellent news for the people of Torridge and northern Devon and our shipbuilding enterprise, building on the local area's recent success in winning work through the Fleet Solid Support Ship procurement. As we work across Government to implement the National Shipbuilding Strategy, I am delighted to see the Levelling Up Fund supporting a historic maritime community to become a leader for the clean maritime technologies and innovations that will drive this exciting sector. I look forward to continue working with the District Council and the local shipbuilding community."