The UK government has announced a £20m (US$27.7m) fund competition to support the development of prototype vessels and port infrastructure, and is encouraging scientists and academics to collaborate with UK shipping, ports and shipbuilders to submit ambitious proposals. The fund forms part of the government’s campaign to encourage maritime investment to drive economic growth and ensure the country ‘builds back greener’ following the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We have a proud shipbuilding history and, together with industry, I am determined to build on that as we look to develop the innovations of the future and meet our net zero target,” said UK Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps. “We are revolutionizing maritime technology and, from electric boats to hydrogen ports, we will change the way this country sails forever, and bring jobs and prosperity to the UK.”
The competition launch comes as the government prepares to publish its Transport Decarbonisation Plan, which sets out how all modes of transport in the UK – sea, rail, road and aviation – can make the switch to net zero.
“This is a turning point for the UK’s maritime sector,” added Minister for Aviation, Maritime & Security, Robert Courts. “It’s an opportunity for businesses to develop the technologies of the future, not only protecting our environment but also driving economic growth.
“I urge this country’s best thinkers to put their green ideas forward and help us deliver a better, cleaner maritime sector.”
Courts confirmed the news ahead of the launch of two government-funded studies focused on achieving net zero in the recreational craft and offshore wind sectors.
Developed in partnership with the Carbon Trust, the new study on recreational craft, which will be published in late spring, will set out ways to overcome the barriers to the supply of, and demand for, zero-carbon recreational craft. It will make a series of recommendations to governments and industry, including the use of alternative fuels.
“The maritime sector must decarbonize by 2050,” explained Tom Delay, chief executive of the Carbon Trust. “Large numbers of people both enjoy and are employed by the recreational craft industry, and there are opportunities for leadership in decarbonization technologies. The recreational craft sector encompasses a wide range of vessel types, and there are unique challenges that need to be overcome. A combination of targeted innovation support, cross-industry collaboration and regulatory and financial intervention will be needed to accelerate the development and uptake of low-carbon technologies.”
A separate government study of the offshore wind sector is also being developed in partnership with the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult and the Workboat Association. It will coordinate a coalition of industry partners in a bid to break down the barriers to making all operational and maintenance vessels in the North Sea offshore wind sector zero emissions by 2025.
“This report will make clear that the North Sea’s offshore wind and maritime industries, made up of wind farm, vessel and port operators, are united in their determination to decarbonize their operations,” said Andrew Jamieson, ORE Catapult chief executive.
“We are confident that the UK supply chain has the knowledge, endeavor and innovation to support this ambition while creating jobs and growth in coastal communities and providing a springboard for the UK to lead the clean maritime industry of the future.”