The University of Plymouth is leading a £1.2million project to upgrade the offshore infrastructure of Smart Sound Plymouth.
The initiative, supported by funding from the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, will further enhance the unique proving ground for businesses to test, trial, prototype and commercialise new products and services.
The Smart Sound Connect Subsurface project builds on the Smart Sound Connect infrastructure launched in March 2022.
Working with Plymouth Marine Laboratory, it will install an underwater acoustic communications network that will be integrated with the existing private 4G/5G and wave relay mesh networks that provide connectivity more than 20 nautical miles offshore.
Combined, this upgraded network will reinforce Smart Sound Plymouth as a unique fully connected proving ground for businesses to develop advanced marine technologies across all domains; above, on and below the water.
In addition, the Smart Sound Connect Subsurface project will be enhanced by new specialist lab facilities at City College Plymouth’s Centre for Higher Technical and Maritime Skills at Oceansgate.
That connection will support training and development opportunities that will create a pipeline of future professionals via a range of full-time, part-time, apprenticeship and T-Level based study routes.
The University and City College Plymouth will also develop a skills escalator, to ensure that businesses and individuals can access the skills needed for the rapidly growing autonomy and marine technology markets.
The upgraded Smart Sound infrastructure is a priority in the Ocean Futures 10-year investment plan, developed by a private-public-research partnership across the Great South West, and will deliver new growth opportunities across multiple sectors including offshore renewable energy, aquaculture, defence, and advanced engineering.
It will also be integral to the success of the National Centre for Coastal Automony, the UK’s first autonomous fully integrated coastal observing and monitoring network, which will employ the latest autonomous technologies to deliver world-leading and cutting edge science.
“If we are to fully unleash the potential of advanced marine technologies, state of the art communications will be essential. This support from the Heart of the South West LEP, and our partnerships with Plymouth Marine Laboratory and City College Plymouth, will deliver a unique subsea communications network within Smart Sound Plymouth. It will also help to train the next generation of engineers and innovators, who will be crucial to maintaining the city’s place at the forefront of this industry.”
Dr Alex Nimmo-Smith
Karl Tucker, Chair of the Heart of the South West LEP, said:
“We are delighted to be supporting the University of Plymouth in advancing the capabilities of Smart Sound, offering even more opportunities for the development of new products and services across a range of sectors. The South West has a prominent marine and maritime industry together with a world class research base, and this investment will help to deliver our ambition to be a global centre of excellence in the testing, development, and manufacture of autonomy, digital and clean ocean technologies.”
Dr James Fishwick, Head of Smart Sound Plymouth at Plymouth Marine Laboratory, said:
“The Smart Sound Connect Subsurface network will integrate into the existing advanced surface networks to deliver a fully connected environment; combining underwater, surface, and aerial platforms to deliver a world leading testbed for marine autonomy.
"The support of the Heart of the South West LEP has been fundamental to the development of Smart Sound, and I look forward to working with our partners to deliver this fantastic platform for innovation and training of the future workforce.”
Lance Chatfield, Executive of Technical Innovation at City College Plymouth, said:
"Being able to advance the innovative technologies that are available for our higher and further education students is a priority for the city's learning destination of choice. City College Plymouth is fast becoming known for its drive to collaborate with key partners such as the University of Plymouth, Plymouth Marine Laboratory and the wider maritime network, and this Heart of the South West LEP funding will allow us to enhance the skills of the city's workforce for many years to come."
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The University of Plymouth, the Marine Biological Association and Plymouth Marine Laboratory have joined forces to launch Marine Research Plymouth.
Collectively hosting the largest number of marine scientists in any UK city – and the greatest number of undergraduate and postgraduate marine students anywhere in the country – the partnership aims to cement the city's place as the UK's go-to location for marine and ocean science.
Marine Research Plymouth will encourage joint investment in research appointments and support the sharing of capabilities, equipment and facilities. It will also ensure Plymouth is even better-placed to attract further funding for initiatives that can advance knowledge and understanding of the oceans.