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Marine is an accelerating sector, with 81% of all jobs sitting with large companies (250+ employees). Globally, the key opportunities are in marine autonomy and clean propulsion.

Plymouth is a prime location for marine technology and innovation. Plymouth has the impressive Future Autonomous at Sea Technology (FAST) innovation cluster. This globally recognised cluster leverages the unique Smart Sound Plymouth testing facility which will soon be one of the first 5G connected ‘at sea proving grounds’ for marine technology. The Department for International Trade (DIT) has recently named Plymouth as a High Potential Opportunity (HPO) city for Marine Autonomy.

FTE jobs
(10.3% of PLY employment)
GVA output of
(11.1% of Plymouth GVA)
Productivity 7%
above city average

Other leading areas of focus in the marine sector gives Plymouth unique competitive advantages, with high potential to attract investment if presented as a programme of sector activity.


Our target markets for these solutions are Offshore Renewable Energy, Aquaculture, Marine Science and Smart Shipping.

These are key markets for new technologies and present high potential to drive innovation; high-value supply chain in digital technologies, specifically around satellite technologies, robotics/ autonomous systems, cybersecurity, and advanced manufacturing.


This sector builds on our natural assets and bedrock defence activity, and has the potential to grow and compete in global markets.

Anchor 1
Opportunities/Challenges to address
  • Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development predicts the Ocean Economy will double by 2030 to $3 trillion

  • Marine Autonomy is growing at 12% per year and global market worth $160 billion – UK and Plymouth can have a significant market share

  • Clean propulsion and maritime decarbonisation 2050 targets  

  • Mapping Ocean floor in partnership with UK Hydrographic Office

  • Celtic Sea floating offshore wind farm poses a real opportunity for Plymouth and SW

  • Oceansgate Phase 3 funding gap challenge 

  • Need to assess skills and employment demand and align to skills/talent provision

  • Progression and evolution of key assets/projects such as the Smart Sound proving ground and National Marine Park

Identified courses of action
Anchor 2

Further develop local and regional marine innovation and investment initiatives and network 

Outcome: Take the Future Ocean Institute (FOI) collective SW marine innovation concept with Plymouth as key hub to next stage with co-design involving central government officials.

To raise funds for 2021 capital and revenue projects. Internationally, it will boost collaboration with other leading Marine and Maritime Clusters around the world, allowing the UK to more effectively attract inward investment and economic growth.

Leverage the High Potential Opportunity for marine autonomy

Outcome: Global exposure to Sector to attract inward investment.

Leverage the success of Marine Business Technology Centre (MBTC) programme. MBTC ERDF funding comes to end in Q3 2021. Building on the marine innovation programme, its partners are in full flow with new R&D test facilities in place and well-honed knowledge transfer processes.  

Outcome: Marine sector has a prime opportunity to leverage this R&D platform during (prepping trials) and post COVID (performing trials). There are also some innovation grant funds still available for SMEs in Devon.

Design, obtain funding, and initiate new marine innovation programme (to extend/replace MBTC in Q3 2021)

Outcome: Create £5m innovation and skills programme. Specifically focused Marine Autonomy and Clean Propulsion and developing skills thereof. Leverage MBTC partners but add in others. City College Plymouth and Industry. It’s hoped these programmes will provide grant funding.

Deliver a larger Marine Tech Expo in Plymouth in July 2021

Outcome: Host in similar timeframe to British 2021 Sail GP to bring international focus on the Plymouth marine sector. Global exposure to Sector, ultimately to attract inward investment. Tie in Future Ocean Institute, High Potential Opportunity and Innovation Hub initiatives. 

Analyse realistic new job pipeline and feed into Skills4Plymouth activity through supporting relevant skills delivery, upskilling residents and matching local people to local jobs.  Supporting curriculum development and PhD research programmes in key sector focus areas 

Outcome: Support development of jobs and careers within the marine sector for local people 

Deliver Smart Sound Connect project 

Outcome: Marine 5G connected R&D testing area installed Q1 2021. Use case projects in play Q2 2021 onwards. Increase Sector asset base, support innovation, new skills and inward investment. Look at further phases on long range ocean connectivity. Look at deliberate collaboration with land based fibre and 5G installations.

Design, Win Funding and Initiate Smart Sound Digital Simulation project 

Outcome: Submit bid or FOI plan for funding

Design, Win Funding and Initiate Smart Sound EV charge point project 

Outcome: Submit bid or FOI plan for funding

Create long term development plan for Oceansgate Phase 3 and address funding gap. Revisit masterplan, create high quality physical employment and innovation assets. Co-design funding solution with government and industry. 

Outcome: Attract new inward investment to continue to grow the Sector and jobs.  

Obtain funding and develop detail plans for Oceansgate Phase 3.1 (the next stage) identifying early funding and opportunities 

Outcome: Leverage the detail designs and cost from 2020 feasibility plan.

Successes/Results to date
Anchor 3


Smart Sound Connect – a secure, military grade, high-speed mobile network for autonomy trials and meeting requirements from the FAST cluster and MBTC. £1.8m won from LEP. 

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