The new Minister for Portsmouth, Matthew Hancock, made his first visit to the city today (23 July 2014) and announced a £5 million fund to help companies develop cutting-edge technology for unmanned boats and submarines.
There is increasing global demand for these products, with one estimate valuing the overall market at about $136 billion over the next 15 years. The government believes that Portsmouth - with its skills base and marine strengths - is perfectly placed to become a hub for this growing sector.
Matthew Hancock announced the funding during a visit to Autonomous Surface Vehicles Ltd - a successful company in Portchester that designs and builds a range of unmanned vessels for use by offshore energy companies, scientists and the military.
Matthew Hancock said:
Unmanned boats are part of a growing £100 billion global industry and are a great opportunity for Portsmouth. This £5 million funding for research and development can help keep Portsmouth, and local Portsmouth companies like Autonomous Surface Vehicles, Qinetiq and BAE systems at the cutting edge of technology.
It is another step in the right direction for Portsmouth, building on recent developments like the £125 million Solent Growth deal and Sir Ben Ainslie’s decision to base his America’s Cup team here. I am delighted to visit Portsmouth in the first week in the job to meet with local leaders and discuss how we can continue to build on the strong momentum built by Michael Fallon and local leaders.
The minister will also visit the historic waterfront in Portsmouth and meet with Portsmouth City Council and the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). Matthew Hancock is also responsible for ensuring that the UK is a good place for small firms to start and grow; he met with Southsea Coffee – a family run coffee shop set up in 2013 – to hear how the business is going from strength to strength. Southsea Coffee has received £20,000 from the Solent LEP’S Bridging the Gap fund. The fund allocates money given to the LEP by the government’s Regional Growth Fund.
Today’s £5 million funding builds on last week’s announcement by the Prime Minister that Portsdown Technology Park will become home to a new UK Centre for Maritime Intelligent Systems. Thanks to £4 million from government and industry, academics, scientists, engineers and naval specialists will come together at this centre to develop Britain’s nautical future, including cutting-edge unmanned submarines.
The £5 million fund will be run by the Technology Strategy Board and will open for bids from across the country from October. Companies wanting to develop cutting-edge technology for unmanned maritime vehicles will be able to apply for funding. This could include ways to make the vessels safer, improve their performance at higher speed and improve the technology for launching and recovering them. £3 million of the funding is being contributed by the Technology Strategy Board, with £2 million being contributed by the Defence, Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl). Dstl is an executive agency of the Ministry of Defence.
Last week the Solent LEP also announced that it would be making a £1 million fund available for Solent small and medium-sized businesses developing unmanned marine systems such as autonomous boats and submarines.
Notes to editors
The government’s long-term plan is to build a strong, more competitive economy and a fairer society.
Industrial Strategy gives impetus to the plan for growth by providing businesses, investors and the public with clarity about the long-term direction in which the government wants the economy to travel.
The first achievements and future priorities of the industrial strategy have been published.