A vision that stretches from the ocean floor to outer space
By Prof Lars Johanning, Programme Director for Marine-i
Part funded by the European Regional Development Fund, Marine-i aims to help the marine technology sector in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly grow, by harnessing the full potential of research and innovation. It is a collaboration between the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth, The Cornwall College Group, Cornwall Marine Network, Cornwall Development Company and the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult.
Meanwhile, AeroSpace Cornwall offer technical and commercial support that enables businesses to take their idea and turn it into a viable product ready for market in the space and aerospace sectors. AeroSpace Cornwall is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and Cornwall Council and delivered by Cornwall Development Company.
At Marine-i, we find that some of the pioneering marine companies we are working with are also exploring innovation in aerospace and space. There are particular parallels between marine and aerospace as both are harsh environments and both are being revolutionised by the latest advances in autonomous vehicles and satellite communications, amongst others.
Mike King, MD of Cornwall Development Company says: “Cornwall has a long tradition of innovation and we are excited to see so many Cornish businesses demonstrating this pioneering spirit in these fast growing tech industries. The RD&I support that is available in Cornwall through programmes such as Marine-i and AeroSpace Cornwall is unique, offering access to leading academic research, world class test facilities and funding support. We believe Cornwall currently offers some of the most comprehensive innovation support for SMEs anywhere in the world.”
One example of a Cornish business that receives support from both programmes is BILDr, a company that provides data processing systems for marine surveys, using information collected from submersibles. This includes seismic data used to identify safe sites for the deployment of wind farms.
The data currently requires substantial ‘human intervention’ in its interpretation. BILDr want to develop an AI solution that would greatly speed up marine surveys while also reducing costs. It could also lead to the creation of an on-board system to carry out fast data analysis while at sea. They are being supported through Marine-i, accessing specialist support from the ORE Catapult.
BILDr will also be working with AeroSpace Cornwall to build out their AI solution. They are in the process of receiving a match funded grant through Aerospace Cornwall which will support BILDr to work with partners, aiming to deploy a low-cost unit to sit on vessels and use satellite technology to stream data to and from vessels.
A further example is Windracers.
Marine-i has provided RD&I support to identify the needs in current and emerging marine sectors that could potentially be met by Windracers UAV technology. Equipment and sensor requirements including payloads were specified that could perform functions from coastal monitoring to pollution identification. The vision is to create new products and solutions that can be applied to marine markets utilising this emerging UAV technology in new, potentially hazardous, offshore environments. Meanwhile, Aerospace Cornwall have awarded Windracers a £100,000 match funding grant allowing them to develop a second-generation ULTRA UAV with significant enhancements.
[Image: AeroSpace Cornwall team with Charles Scales, CEO of Windracers]
The support supplied by both programmes is entirely complementary, enabling ambitious innovative companies to explore innovation across both of these fast growing sectors.
Yet another example of an ambitious Cornish business is Feritech Global.
Feritech is being supported by Marine-i to develop the world’s first autonomous subsea geotechnical vessel. Meanwhile, AeroSpace Cornwall is also supporting Feritech with the development of wireless communications, for situations where a cable is not reliable enough and radio cannot transmit. In addition, AeroSpace Cornwall is supporting Feritech to achieve the AS9100 accreditation, the widely adopted and standardized quality management system for the aerospace industry. This will enable the company to expand its business further within the aerospace sector.
Rob Ferris, MD of Feritech Global, says; “The range and quality of business support for innovation in Cornwall is quite amazing. It really helps accelerate business growth plans.”
It is fantastic to see Cornwall’s ingenuity in aerospace and marine technology coming together to help create pioneering new solutions like these. Cornwall’s outstanding reputation for innovation in engineering and technology continues to grow in the 21st century – with a vision that stretches from the ocean floor to outer space.
[Image credit: Aaron Jenkin - Wheal Prosper under the Milky Way]