The Great South West, which covers Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Devon, Dorset, and Somerset, has been chosen as the country’s Marine and Maritime Launchpad, recognising its leadership in the sector.
As part of the programme, the region is set to receive up to £7.5m of investment to drive innovation and business growth, building on its strengths in marine and maritime.
Karl Tucker, Chair of the Great South West, said: “It’s fantastic to see the region recognised for its leadership in maritime innovation.
“The Great South West is the blue capital of the UK, where 21st century innovation meets a legacy of maritime expertise.
“From marine manufacturing and ocean science to maritime transport and defence, we are leading the way, with a robust infrastructure and supply chain network, world-class research institutions, test sites for cutting-edge technologies, and a unique coastal environment.
“We look forward to continuing to support key players in our maritime sector to seize new opportunities, create jobs and support economic growth.”
Innovate UK’s Launchpads programme recognises industry clusters with the potential to deliver jobs, growth, and productivity, and unlocks funding from £25,000 to £1m, to support SMEs driving innovation in their area.
The Marine and Maritime Launchpad has been developed by the Heart of the South West LEP and Innovate UK in partnership with Maritime UK South West, the Universities of Exeter, Plymouth and Bournemouth, the Dorset and Cornwall LEPs, and the Plymouth and South Devon Freeport.
The Launchpad builds on work undertaken by the Ocean Futures Partnership to establish the Great South West as a global centre of excellence and supercluster in the testing, development and manufacture of autonomy, digital and clean ocean technologies.
David Ralph, CEO of the Heart of the South West LEP, said: “We are delighted to have led this successful bid, which will help boost innovation and funding for local maritime businesses.
“The South West is home to world-class facilities and research institutions, and this recognition will help to build upon our supply chain capability, drive investment, and deliver jobs and economic growth.”
Kevin Forshaw, Chair of Maritime UK South West, Chair of the Plymouth and South Devon Freeport’s Innovation Advisory Board, and Director of Industrial and Strategic Partnerships at University of Plymouth, said: “The Marine and Maritime Launchpad represents a fantastic opportunity to boost levels of innovation across the Great South West.
“It will enable us to expand on what is already a world-class ocean economy cluster, creating commercial solutions to the challenges facing our marine and maritime sector.
“This funding will also unite government, industry and academia in the development of the regional economy, creating a cleaner, high growth and digitally enabled sector right here in the South West.”
Indro Mukerjee, CEO of Innovate UK, said: “Innovate UK is building strong regional partnerships across the UK to support local innovation and commercialisation.
“Our new Launchpads will help to attract further private sector R&D investment into innovation clusters, growing local economies and delivering societal and economic benefits to local communities.”
Richard May, CEO of Plymouth and South Devon Freeport, said: “It is great that we have new innovation funding to support our strong marine sector capability and sub-sector specialisms that have significant global market opportunity.
“Establishing hotbeds of innovation is a primary objective for the UK Government Freeport policy.
“The Freeport and the Ocean Futures strategic investment framework will foster a global centre of excellence for the testing, development and manufacture of autonomy, digital and clean ocean technologies for the rapidly growing global ocean economy.
“These grants for collaborative SME-led projects will help us achieve this goal.
“We are keen to support businesses to export their new products globally and make use of Freeport policy levers.”
Stuart Brocklehurst, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Business Engagement and Innovation at the University of Exeter, said: “We are committed to working with our partners in the South West to increase the productivity of regional businesses, create new jobs and support sustainable growth.
“We are delighted the region has been chosen as the country’s Marine and Maritime Launchpad.
“We have a wealth of relevant expertise, including our Exeter Marine network.”
SMEs working in the region’s marine and maritime sectors are invited to enter a competition to secure funding from the programme.
The competition opens on 23 October and closes 6 December.
In addition to funding, successful applicants can benefit from access to innovation specialist support, and opportunities to network and collaborate.
Innovate UK is holding an online Marine and Maritime Launchpad briefing session on 30 October to share information on the priority areas for this funding and how to apply.
More information and how to join will be shared on the Innovate UK website.
Maritime UK South West is also organising a free briefing and networking event at Plymouth Marine Laboratory on 3 November.
The event will provide briefings on how to apply, and opportunities to ask questions about the competition. There will also be an option to join online.
On 2, 7 and 13 November, there will be three further online briefing sessions organised by Ocean Futures and the Plymouth and South Devon Freeport.
Find out more about the Launchpads programme and the Innovate UK briefing event: https://iuk.ktn-uk.org/programme/launchpads/
Sign up to the Ocean Futures/Plymouth and South Devon Freeport online briefing sessions: https://oceanfutures.co.uk/marine-and-maritime-launchpad
Sign up to the Maritime UK South West briefing event: https://maritimeuksw.org/maritime-uk-sw-innovation-people-decarbonisation-summits-bournemouth-1st-nov-plymouth-3rd-nov/