New technology centre offering smart solutions for marine industry


Marine Business Technology Centre Director Rob Watson with Council leader Tudor Evans 

The official launch of the new Marine Business Technology Centre (MBTC), based at Oceansgate in Plymouth, was held last night attracting more than 100 representatives from key marine organisations from across the region.

The launch revealed more information about the centre’s offering, including the development of the Plymouth Smart Sound ‘proving area’, where organisations can ensure new technology works for a specific purpose.

MBTC Director Rob Watson gave an overview of the services to be offered, which have been developed following consultation with marine businesses. The emphasis will be on cutting edge technologies including marine autonomy, alternative propulsion, advanced manufacturing, environmental monitoring and modelling, cyber security and the internet of things.

Central to the offering is the development of Plymouth Smart Sound, a 350 square mile area of water in and around Plymouth Sound where businesses can conduct trials to prove new marine technology.

With support from leading marine businesses, the MBTC will be investing in new equipment and test kit to use in the Smart Sound, building on the existing Western Channel Observatory run by Plymouth Marine Laboratory.

Councillor Tudor Evans, Leader of Plymouth City Council, said: “The centre offers up some spectacularly exciting opportunities, particularly with Plymouth Smart Sound which will provide access to an amazing array of natural environments. This unique new facility is going to give businesses in the region a huge advantage and put Plymouth on the map, not only nationally but internationally too.

“All of this is absolutely critical to our ambitious plans to grow the marine sector in Plymouth, allowing us to support high-tech marine businesses to develop new products.”

The MBTC is a partnership led by Plymouth City Council with the University of Plymouth, the University of Exeter, Plymouth Marine Laboratory and the Marine Biological Association.

The centre has received funding enabling it to run for the next two years, with £2.6 million from the European Regional Development Fund and contributions from all the partners, bringing the total investment to £4.5 million. The MBTC’s headquarters are located in Phase 1 of Oceansgate in Devonport, putting it at the heart of Plymouth’s marine business community.

Steve Hindley CBE DL, Chair of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “I welcome the Marine Business Technology Centre at Oceansgate, the new venture will provide essential services to the marine sector, which is one of our area’s transformational economic opportunities – bringing the most potential to raise productivity and prosperity.

“Oceansgate is a world class marine enterprise zone, and is part of the wider Heart of the South West Enterprise Zone package which provides prime sites for businesses in the area’s most valuable sectors.

“The LEP is proud to have supported the development of phase 1 of Oceansgate through a its Growth Deal funding of £1.5 million and a Growing Places loan of £5 million. It’s an excellent example of partnership working with the council, the LEP, national and European government funding and the private sector.”

The project has received £2.6 million of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.  The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund.

Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations.  For more information visit www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding.

The Heart of the South West LEP Growth Fund allocated £1.5m towards Oceansgate. The Heart of the South West LEP’s total Growth Deal is worth £590m; including £239.1m from Government and £351.1m match funding. Over the lifetime of the Growth Deal: 2015 – 2021; HotSW LEP estimates the investment will create up to 26,930 new jobs and 18,242 new homes.