The Ocean Futures programme aims to create a blueprint for the South West’s future blue economy (Credit University of Plymouth)

A consortium of industry, research and local government bodies has submitted a plan to Government that would confirm the South West’s position at the global forefront of ocean technology research and innovation.

The Ocean Futures programme creates a blueprint for the region’s future blue economy and identifies the South West’s key strengths in fields including marine autonomy, digital innovation and the development of clean maritime technologies.

In a detailed prospectus, partners from across the region have set out how they will work together to ensure the South West builds on its impressive maritime heritage, extensive research assets and industrial capability to continue leading the world in the sustainable exploitation of the ocean.

It outlines a programme of investment that, if approved, would provide continued support to develop a highly-skilled workforce, increase innovation in marine technology businesses, and further expand the region’s R&D infrastructure.

It would also introduce activity to stimulate exports and generate opportunities for inward investment, all co-designed by industry, research and public sector partners.

Ocean Futures is designed to form a key pillar of the country’s ambition to be a global marine and maritime science and innovation superpower, at the heart of a sector projected to be worth $3trillion globally by 2030.

The consortium is being spearheaded by the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, the University of Plymouth, Plymouth City Council, Maritime UK South West, Plymouth Marine Laboratory and the Thales Group.

In total, it involves almost 40 businesses, universities, government bodies and existing partnership from across Devon and Somerset and the wider South West.

The partners envisage that an initial investment of £20 million – requested from the Government as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review – could generate additional private investment and new jobs, helping to deliver several of the Government’s priorities including clean maritime, floating offshore wind, global trade and levelling up.

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

“The South West region is already setting the global agenda in many aspects of marine and sustainability research. The Ocean Futures programme will galvanise the economic benefits of marine innovation, creating vital clean technologies through partnership working and access to world-leading facilities.
"Our shared goal is that it will enable sustainable use and exploitation of ocean resources benefitting communities and the economy while reducing our impact on the planet.”

Professor Judith Petts CBE
Professor Judith Petts CBE

Karl Tucker, chair of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, said:

“Ocean Futures is a strong and ambitious partnership that brings together the talent and expertise we have in our maritime sector to lead the shift to an increasingly digitised low carbon maritime environment. We are pleased to be a partner and look forward to building on our past investments to create a visible anchor for high productivity and regional employment, and to accelerate innovation that will enable us to achieve net zero.”

Leader of Plymouth City Council, Councillor Nick Kelly, said:

“We are really excited about the amount of industry interest this is receiving and the support it has gathered from across the region. This area is renowned for its maritime expertise and is home to some extraordinary companies and institutes at the cutting edge of ocean technology. I am particularly keen to see the part Ocean Futures can play in developing clean maritime technology – with the threat of climate change we need to be thinking how this sector can become more sustainable.”

Ben Murray, Chief Executive of Maritime UK, said:

“The Ocean Futures programme is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for government, industry and academia to work together to develop the South West regional economy. It will build on existing unique assets to create a world-class centre of excellence, whilst delivering the Government’s Maritime 2050 ambition to create a cleaner, digitally enabled sector. It will also underpin the country’s maritime industry and economic growth by stimulating exports and investment in support of a globally engaged UK.”

Sam McBriar, Director of Strategic Marketing – Maritime at Thales UK, and DfT Maritime Skills Commissioner, said:

“As a leading investor and developer in the UK maritime advanced technology sector Thales is delighted to be supporting the Ocean Futures programme. This partnership between the South West region, industry, academia and the public sector is a landmark moment in developing the UK as a maritime technology and science superpower. It is a great opportunity to be able to inspire and equip the next generation of designers, engineers and operators of technology such as autonomous systems with the skills they need for the future.”

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