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UK Maritime Industries: Looking to the Future

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On 18th November, ourselves and the KTN ran the UK Maritime Industries: Looking to the Future event in London and it was immediately apparent that there is a buzz of excitement and anticipation within the industry.

KTN speaker Ian Stock - Marine & Maritime KTN Manager.

Lots of positives to celebrate in maritime industries

There are major advanced shipbuilding projects underway, increased recognition of the sector by Government, and exciting investments in the future.

Speaker Chris McQuire, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

We have some very technologically advanced shipbuilding projects here in the UK. The Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers under construction for the Royal Navy demonstrate the incredible capabilities of UK companies, collaborating under the Carrier Vessel Future (CVF) Integrated Project Team. There is also the excellent news that Cammell Laird will soon start work on the new £200m polar research ship, securing the contract against stiff competition from Europe and Asia.

Maritime Growth Strategy

In September, the Department for Transport published the Maritime Growth Study. The report recognises the importance of the sector, which not only includes shipping and ports, but also encompasses a wide range of other activities such as:

  • training
  • business services
  • engineering
  • manufacturing
  • research and development

It identifies that the UK is ideally positioned to drive growth but this potential growth and international standing cannot be taken for granted. Recommendations are aimed at both the industry and Government to secure future growth by addressing specific areas of:

  • leadership
  • skills
  • marketing

Revising the maritime technology roadmap

In support of this Study we commissioned the revision of the technology roadmap. Input from 80 organisations provided the framework to identify:

  • global trends
  • UK’s competitive position
  • priority opportunities
  • supporting technology requirements

The UK industry is well-placed to exploit global market opportunities in specific areas such as:

  • marine systems integration
  • autonomous vessels
  • manufacture of specialist vessels

Marine Robotics Innovation Centre

The UK unmanned or autonomous vessels industry continues to go from strength to strength and we have a great opportunity to take a world leading position. This month saw the opening of the Marine Robotics Innovation Centre at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, providing a state of the art facility for collaborative engagement and technological development. This capability, along with existing centres of excellence such as the Centre for Maritime Intelligent Systems, will place the UK at the forefront of this rapidly growing market.

Innovation in the maritime industry is key

The past successes, studies and investments are all important building blocks but the sector must continue to innovate to maintain and grow its global position.

Independent reports conclude that firms that persistently innovate have 13% higher productivity and grow twice as fast as those that don’t. That is why we have invested over £22m since 2013 in R&D specifically in this sector, comprising a portfolio of 36 projects involving 160 organisations.

The London event saw presentations from three of these projects and the extensive opportunities were exciting to see.

A vibrant industry

In the past the industry has not promoted itself as effectively as other sectors and we often hear the comment “we don’t build ships any more”. It’s true that we don’t build the largest tankers or container ships but we should be proud of a vibrant industry building:

  • naval vessels
  • ferries
  • yachts
  • specialist vessels

Coupled with the extensive capability across the whole supply chain, intensive R&D, and world leading maritime services, this £11 billion GVA sector is driving strongly forward.

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