Marine innovation centre opened by Jo Johnson MP for universities and science 23 Nov 2015



Jo Johnson MP opened the centre formally


MONDAY 23rd NOV 2015 - Science and Universities minister Jo Johnson MP opened the sparkling new robotics innovation centre today with much applause from the gathered crowd.


Joseph (Edmund) Johnson is a Conservative Party politician born 23-12-71. He has been the member of parliament (MP) for Orpington since the general election in May 2010. From April 2013 to May 2015, he was the Head of the Number 10 Policy Unit, and became Minister of State for the Cabinet Office in July 2014. Following the May 2015 general election, he became the Minister for Universities and Science.

Johnson is the youngest of four children born to former Conservative MEP Stanley Johnson and artist Charlotte Johnson Wahl (née Fawcett), the daughter of Sir James Fawcett, a prominent barrister and president of the European Commission of Human Rights. He is the younger brother of Boris, the Mayor of London; Rachel, a writer and journalist; and Leo, an entrepreneur and film-maker.





There was a full line up of speakers with several much needed breaks for comestibles and networking ...... more to come ......




UUVs - These small underwater survey submarines are the bread and butter of the oceanography departments. They are loaded with as many instruments as they can carry but have limited range. The more instruments you run the lower the range.




C-ENDURO - This is ASVs coastal survey and support vessel. It is used to extend the range of UUVs to save their battery life. This catamaran is roughly 12 x 7 feet and uses a small diesel engine, apart from the solar cells and windgen. Managing director, Dan Hook (sporting a very nautical beard for 2015) gave an uplifting talk on his company expansion over 10 years, telling the audience a little of some of the projects that they are involved in. ASV provide platforms for other groups.



Gwyn Griffiths and Dr Russell Wynn with the AutoNaut


AUTONAUT - Gwyn Griffiths and Dr Russell Wynn with the AutoNaut at another event at the NOC. We love the simplicity and ruggedness of this design, that is reminiscent of the Scout Transatlantic boat that attempted to cross the Atlantic Ocean autonomously on solar power. The big difference is that the AutoNaut from MOST uses wave power for propulsion and solar energy to operate the sensors and communications onboard. If the Scout team had used the navigation from the Autonaut, they just might have set the first long distance ocean crossing without a man on board.




SLOCUM GLIDER - MP Jo Johnson is show one of the survey torpedoes that do much of the data gathering of the oceans at present.





Universities & Science Minister Jo Johnson yesterday officially opened a £3m centre to develop new technology for the emerging marine robotics sector.


Based at NERC's National Oceanography Centre (NOC) in Southampton, the new Marine Robotics Innovation Centre (MRIC) will be a hub for businesses developing autonomous platforms, with novel sensors that will be used to cost-effectively capture data from the world's oceans.

The minister of state for universities & science, Jo Johnson is quoted as saying:

"I was honored to open the new Marine Robotics Innovation Centre at the UK's world class National Oceanography Centre in Southampton. The UK is leading the way in marine science and this new facility will help to put wind in the sales of our marine industry."

NERC's chief executive, Professor Duncan Wingham is quoted as saying:

"NERC's National Oceanography Centre is not only one of world's leading institutes for the study of our oceans, but has also led the world in the development of marine autonomous systems to explore this most hostile environment. This investment promises to redefine our approach to sustained observations of the oceans and their living systems. The new Marine Robotics Innovation Centre has been created to further develop emerging marine robot technologies and to maintain our world-class status. It brings together NOC engineers and their industry colleagues to foster innovation and build this sector, translating science into technological solutions."

NOC's executive director, Professor Ed Hill is quoted as saying:

"The launch of the Marine Robotics Innovation Centre is a very important development, because it is all about turning great science into great innovation for the benefit of the UK economy.

Autonomous measurement systems for the ocean have grown out of demands for frontier science in extreme environments. Much like space science, oceanography too creates spin-offs which bring technologies back into more everyday use for a wide range of applications.

Marine autonomous systems offer to transform the work of many sectors, including environmental monitoring. For example, they will improve data collection for weather and climate prediction, for defence, and for the emerging needs of offshore energy and other industries.

Not only are there multiple applications, but the UK also has a diverse, vibrant sector of small technology companies able to take the innovations to wider markets. We will be working alongside several of these companies in the centre and engaging with the associate members, who are likely to be major users of the technology developed there."


WATERCOLOUR - Jo Johnson is presented with a painting of the NOC building at Southampton, with Kevin Forshaw and other NOC personnel in the background.





The Marine Robotics Innovation Centre has been operational since the summer of 2015. Planet Ocean Ltd, ASV and SeeByte Ltd have already moved into the centre, which provides office and testing facilities along with access to specialist instrumentation

In addition, NERC, Innovate UK and DSTL are investing over £13m in Small Business Research Initiative projects, the first of which has led to the development of two highly innovative autonomous surface vehicles that are now competing on the global stage. The two small and medium-size enterprises involved in this project have already received orders in excess of £1·1m, accompanied by steadily growing workforces, and are selling into oil and gas, defence and other offshore sectors, where reducing costly ship time, improving safety and long-term monitoring are driving adoption of robotic technologies that can stay at sea for weeks, or even months, unmanned.

The Marine Robotics Innovation Centre was born out of the government's 'eight great technologies' funding initiative. The funding has built the innovation centre and provided capital investment for a range of underwater robotic equipment that can go further and deeper than most systems in commercial use.



Innovation for Innovate 2015, our display stand


SEAVAX SHOWCASE -  This is a photo of the display on November 10th 2015 at the Innovate 2015 event. The vehicle and project were not featured at the Robotic Centre opening, though several of those in attendance are potential partners to the project. A road show may be on the cards for 2016, if sponsors are found that are interested in cleaning up our oceans and rivers - maybe as part of their corporate responsibility drive. This vessel may also clean up oil spills, apart from the toxic plastic that is presently choking blue growth. As a company without a trading track record, Bluebird Marine Systems do not qualify for funding under any of the schemes presently run by the Dti and European Commission (Horizon 2020).


The SeaVax is a social project with no end users, because there are no customers for a ship that cleans the oceans - where nobody is prosecuted under MARPOL law and just about every country in the world dumps their waste at sea. In other words there is no accountability in international waters, despite the UN and IMO waxing loud from their soap boxes as to clean up. How about some government incentives for corporations that support projects that are outside the scope of the existing funding framework!




NOC OPENING PLAQUE - Jo Johnson gave a talk to the crowd and then this commemorative plaque was ceremoniously unveiled from a blue drape.





The new centre offers an already significant establishment, far greater scope, though the workshop is still limited in size - if it were to be used for the build of a small ship the size of SeaVax, for example.


There is a strong Royal Navy contingent when it comes to robotics, including events such as "Unmanned Warrior" that are designed to elicit ideas from SMEs along with those already in the warmongering business, such as ASV, Thales and BAE Systems. Much as we applaud the introduction of robotics to marine issues such as cargo shipping, Bluebird Marine is opposed to all but passive defence to ward off terrorism, smuggling and piracy, and so will not seek MOD contracts in any guise, preferring to concentrate on the more important issues of food supply for the world as a whole.


The SeaVax is laying the foundations for zero carbon cruise liners and cargo ships of the future, using a combination of solar and wind power in a unique configuration, that we cannot share the details of here because of possible patent improvement applications.




AUTOSUB 3 - This is one of the early NOC designs for an underwater survey vessel. The construction is very simple, an aluminium space frame for a chassis and composite fairings that screw together around the workings of the craft. These vessels are basically small low speed submarines that do not need a crew to carry out ocean monitoring. Like many torpedoes they use electric motors and batteries.




PCBs - Where would unmanned vehicles be without printed circuit boards and microchips. Click on the picture above for free software to design your boards.




ROVs - Tethered remotely controlled mini subs are very useful for carrying out inspection work and minor maintenance jobs.




ARSENAL - Looking more like an armoury room for a submarine, this is where some of the NOC's range of survey vessels are kept in store. 





Southampton is leading the way in undersea robot technology – a lucrative sector of the “blue economy”.

A £3million centre to develop new technology for the growing marine robotics sector was officially opened by universities minister Jo Johnson at the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) this week.

The Marine Robotics Innovation Centre will be a hub for businesses and scientists developing technology to capture data from the depths of the world's oceans.

Kevin Forshaw, associate director at the NOC said: “Globally, this sector is worth some £9billion and is growing with the UK leading the way.

“Innovations in marine robotics are driving down the cost of our marine research and are helping us to make sense of the rapidly changing ocean environment. These opportunities also extend to other sectors that operate in the ocean, for example, asset inspection and marine surveys for oil and gas, defence, marine renewable industries, and emerging sectors such as carbon capture and storage - all of which require a cost-effective way to get sensors to the right place to gather the information that they need."

The centre has been operational since the summer and is already home to a number of companies including Planet Ocean Ltd, ASV Ltd and Seebyte Ltd.

There have also been a number of collaborations with organisations that include Steatite Ltd, OXIS Energy Ltd, MSubs Ltd. Kongsberg Ltd, Fugro GEOS Ltd, Sonardyne International Ltd, , MOST Ltd, Teledyne Technologies, the Royal Navy, Defra, Dstl, Cefas, British Geological Survey, Plymouth Marine Laboratory and the Universities of Southampton and Exeter.

The new centre is funded through the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) using money from the Science Minister's 'Eight Great Technologies' initiative.

Mr Forshaw added: “We have a culture of innovation at NOC and over two decades of experience developing marine sensors and autonomous vehicles for underwater research. The Innovation Centre will build on this and act as an international hub for the marine technology community linking new applications with opportunities in the market place.”

The (NOC) is also partner in a new £2.5m centre for training PHD students in the use of marine robotic systems to monitor everything from erupting volcanoes to algal blooms in the ocean.

NEXUSS (Next Generation Unmanned Systems Science) will focus on robots and sensors, which can be used remotely to monitor climate change, deep-sea exploration, and identification of biodiversity ‘hotspots’.

The fleet of marine robots based at the NOC is now one of the most advanced in the world and it is hoped it will attract top students to the centre.

This project is being led by the University of Southampton, and also involves the British Antarctic Survey, Heriot-Watt University, University of East Anglia, and the Scottish Association for Marine Science. NEXUSS, which will provide training for up to 30 students from September 2016, has been funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).




EXHIBITION STAND No 115 - Side view of the world's largest ocean going vacuum cleaner. The SeaVax team were not allowed to switch on their revolving display stand while visitors were in the halls. Despite this the stand was visited by hundreds of delegates in the two days of the Innovate 2015 event in London. Where this is a workboat with a huge mouth to scoop up debris, more efficient hulls that use the same energy harvesting platform can achieve up to 10 knots continuous cruising speeds, a huge improvement on PlanetSolar that managed almost 5 knots across the Atlantic in ideal conditions.






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