The future of subsea technology - building for the wider 'Blue Economy'

The future of subsea technology - building for the wider 'Blue Economy'

As we enter 2019, it’s a good time to look back and plan ahead. The National Subsea Research Initiative (NSRI) as an organisation, has come a long way since our launch in 2007 and our role within industry has evolved significantly, including partnering with Subsea UK in 2013. At the end of 2018, we celebrate tremendous success, delivering R&D industry initiatives with the Nippon Foundation, Wave & Tidal sectors and the Defence Solution Centre; working in partnership with trade bodies, government agencies, industry and research organisations.  Building upon deep domain knowledge of the subsea sector, focusing on the identification and acceleration of research and industry technology development to ensure a strong and sustainable economy. 2019 offers exciting times ahead, building on 2018 addressing the stakeholders' needs and UK Government industrial strategy.

NSRI, as a not-for-profit, impartial, industry-led research and development organisation, we identify industry challenges and opportunities.  This is achieved through direct engagement with the end user, suppliers and academic communities, facilitated by applied knowledge transfer supporting innovation, both technically and commercially to drive growth in the ‘Blue Economy’; from oil and gas, renewables to defence and aquaculture. This is delivered by focussed programmes, the NSRI MatchmakingTM facility and direct engagement – our door is always open.

NSRI is not a funding organisation, however with our strong domain knowledge we offer insight to help clearly frame the opportunities, sign-post to wide range of funding sources along with introductions and offer peer technical and business reviews to assist with the development of robust propositions.

The Blue Economy offers significant growth potential for the UK and internationally, creating opportunities to enable companies to grow and transition into new markets. The global Blue Economy market is predicted to be worth £140billion by 2035. In order to unlock the full market potential, our focus must be on transfer of experience and knowledge between the mature and developing industries for mutual benefit.

In 2018 NSRI worked closely with industry, academia, government and research organisations, to drive forward a number of initiatives focused on both the established subsea oil and gas arena, and other industrial sectors within the ‘Blue Economy’.  There is much to gain by recognising and addressing the common challenges in order to accelerate market development and adoption across a range of sectors;

An example of this, is the triad initiative with the Defence Solution Centre, NSRI and Subsea UK, formed to establish common research needs for subsea autonomy.  This was formed to build upon the in-depth knowledge that can be transferred across the sectors initially with Defence and Oil & Gas, building a platform for common needs for research. This offers significant potential across the UK subsea supply chain and research to build upon both UK and international market opportunity.  This initiative plays an important part of towards the 2019 strategy for NSRI and its fellow stakeholders.

Late summer, NSRI in partnership with Offshore Renewable Catapult, launched a new industry report outlining the steps which need to be taken to ensure the UK remains at the forefront of wave and tidal energy sector. This report was supported by Scottish Enterprise, acknowledged by Scottish Government and recognised as a direction for the sector by UK Government at the International Tidal Energy Summit; NSRI presented the recommendations and findings to government and stakeholders. The report highlighted the opportunities for sector cost efficiency, along with opportunities for the developers and supply chain companies; the UK wave and tidal global industry is forecast to be worth up to £76bn by 2050. We identified the need for a dedicated taskforce, supported by industry and government to drive forward technology development, knowledge sharing and stewardship for strategic direction. This will continue being a key area of focus for us throughout 2019.

In December 2018, NSRI and Subsea UK launched the second call for companies to drive forward R&D between Scotland and Japan, as part of a partnership between Subsea UK, Scottish Enterprise and the Nippon Foundation. Following the success of the first phase of this 3 year initiative, which saw Scotland and Japan invest a total of £8.8million into five collaborative R&D projects sanctioned in the summer, the latest call invites organisations to step up and demonstrate how their offerings meet the needs of the evolving subsea sector under the theme of the blue economy.

2018 closed with the engagement of Professor Feargal Brannan, Director of Strathclyde University’s Offshore Engineering Institute, as a new NSRI Board member.  Peter Blake, NSRI Chairman said: “This appointment will continue to bring a wider dimension to the Board, Tony and I look forward to working with him over the coming years”.  

Looking ahead, our attention remains firmly working with our partners within the wider ‘Blue Economy’ stimulating focussed research and development to accelerate economic growth.