The Marine Sector across the UK comprises over 5,000 companies, employing nearly 90,000 people, generating over £10bn turnover and contributing nearly £3.5bn Gross Value Added (GVA) to the nation’s GDP per annum. (1) Together with the maritime services sector (shipping, ports and business services), the Marine Industries directly contribute a GVA pa of over £17bn. The South West accounts for 18% of firms and is the largest employer with 27% of all GB shipbuilding and ship repair workers; it also has 19% of firms and 33% of employees in boatbuilding (2).

“Results are expected to include the creation of 93 new jobs, 41 additional firms involved in business clusters or networks, 37 SMEs launching new or improved products, and 26 gross jobs created in environmental sectors.”

As a university anchored in its local region, Plymouth University’s research strengths reflect the South West’s modern and historical industrial focus on marine and maritime industries and is among the leading institutions in the country for marine research and training.

The University’s Marine Institute uniquely brings together scientists and engineers, business professionals, artists, leading edge analytical facilities and collaborative research opportunities from across the University. Supported by over 400 academics, research specialists and technical support staff, the Institute has the broadest portfolio of marine expertise in Europe and, alongside Southampton, Cambridge and Oxford, has been the most successful University in terms of the number of peer-reviewed marine research papers produced.

The Marine Institute has expertise in supporting emerging and existing technologies through its experience in a broad range of Marine Renewable Energy (MRE) activities as well as conducting engagements with local, regional, national and international businesses and other stakeholder groups. The Institute is based in a new £19 million state-of-the-art Marine Building, opened in October 2012, on Plymouth University’s main campus. At its heart is a major new hydrodynamic test facility (COAST – the Coastal Ocean and Sediment Transport Lab) which incorporates two wave and tidal test basins that replicate shoreline and deep ocean environments and is available for university research and private sector device developers.

One of the best examples of how Plymouth is harnessing its marine expertise for economic growth is through its new Marine Innovation Centre (MarIC) – based in the University’s Marine Building together with an Outreach Office at the Bristol and Bath Science Park.

Nested within the Marine Institute, MarIC has been established to optimise the interface between the University and Marine Sector SMEs. The Centre promotes the industrial uptake and commercialisation of the University’s research and world-class facilities, links businesses to the Growth Acceleration and Investment Network (GAIN) and improves their performance by stimulating innovation and the successful exploitation of new ideas.

The project has a total cost of £1.97m, of which £880K is provided by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) – match-funded by the University – and £200K from industry. The funded period runs from October 2012 to June 2015 by which point the Centre aims to become fully sustainable.

MarIC aims to provide 190 business assists over the lifetime of the project. Results are expected to include the creation of 93 new jobs, 41 additional firms involved in business clusters or networks, 37 SMEs launching new or improved products, and 26 gross jobs created in environmental sectors. The project is expected to deliver a gross increase in GVA of £3.726m and a gross safeguarded GVA of £1.674m.

MarIC builds upon the successful partnerships developed through the Partnership for Research in Marine Renewable Energy (PRIMaRE), which was established in July 2007 and initially supported by £12M in funding from both ERDF Competitiveness and Convergence programmes.  PRIMaRE has supported 153 SMEs, resulting in 34 collaborative research and development projects within the ERDF Programme Area.

Over 30 funded research projects – 15 directly to Plymouth, totalling around £1.5m – have been generated, attracting funding from: individual companies, research councils, the EU, Carbon Trust and Technology Strategy Board. Plymouth University, through the PRIMaRE vehicle, has also worked closely with stakeholders including Wave Hub, RegenSW, Cornwall Council and Plymouth City Council and with these organisations has played a crucial role in securing the UK’s first Marine Energy Park in the South West – the South West Marine Energy Park3 (SWMEP).

Marine Technologies are also at the heart of the Plymouth City Deal signed on 17th January 2014. The Deal proposes to support further growth in the marine sector by providing a critical employment site and premises for growing marine companies and providing facilities that enable deep water testing of marine products, thereby enhancing marine research and development and commercialisation activities. This marine employment site proposal will be complemented by business support and labour market programmes, which will enable growth in small and medium enterprises and tackle youth unemployment (4).

1. Sector Skills Agreement for the UK Marine Sector’ Sector Skills Council for Science, Engineering & Manufacturing Technologies 200
2. A Strategy for Growth for the UK Marine Industries’ Marine Industries Alliance 2011
3. For further information see http://www.plymouth.gov.uk/citydeal

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