Six key opportunities for marine technology businesses
by Matt Hodson, Operations Director, Marine Hub Cornwall
23 | Feb | 2018
The way in which we use our oceans is undergoing an unprecedented period of change and development. As the world economy grows, it becomes imperative that we make full use of this powerful resource, but also that we do it efficiently, economically, safely, and in a way that protects our natural environment.
All of this change is creating new opportunities for ambitious marine technology businesses – and many of these are global opportunities. So the rewards for those businesses who can create the best solutions and deliver them effectively can be huge.
Here are just six examples of important current areas of opportunity for marine technology businesses:
Offshore wind energy: While massive progress has been made over recent years, there are still many areas of operation where customers are seeking improvements. These include foundation design and engineering, pre-assembly of towers and turbines, cable protection and inspection services. Zion Market Research estimated the Global Offshore Wind Market as being worth $20.3 billion in 2016 and have forecast this to grow to $57.2 billion by 2022.
Tidal energy: This technology is still at a relatively early stage. So marine technology businesses have a chance to play an important part in the development of this sector. As well as the energy devices themselves, opportunities exist for improved mooring systems, cabling and data gathering.
Communications: The changing nature of ocean-based operations means that there is an increasing demand for more sophisticated and reliable communications. Modern ships now generate a vast amount of operational data that needs to be transferred to shore, as do the new offshore platforms such as wind farms. Alongside this, the need to protect this sensitive commercial data is creating a new market for advanced cybersecurity systems in the maritime industry. The global marine communications market is forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 8.27% from 2017-2021, according to Research and Markets Ltd.
Marine propulsion systems: Commercial shipping needs to operate more economically and with less impact on the environment. We are seeing major developments in hybrid propulsion systems for commercial vessels and also more companies exploring the use of LNG as a fuel. This in turn will drive a demand for improved power control systems, so that the new propulsion technology can be used to its full potential. A tightening of the regulatory framework governing emissions will add further weight to this trend in the maritime industry. Allied Market Research believe that the global marine propulsion market will be worth $12 billion by 2022.
More advanced shipping: The way that ships are built is becoming more sophisticated, with an increased use of automation and robotics in the process and greater emphasis on environmentally-friendly methods. Newer, advanced materials are being investigated, to make ships lighter and more economical to run, while retaining their structural strength. The world’s first autonomous cargo vessel, Yara Birkeland, will launch this year. A crew will man the ship for a trial period, and it is then planned to be fully automated by 2020.
Marine robotics: Unmanned craft are already carrying out certain functions, such as surveying, and are able to work effectively in areas that would be hazardous for manned craft. The field of robotics is set for explosive growth over the coming years. As part of this, we can expect to see fleets of autonomous robot craft being deployed to monitor offshore installations and infrastructure, and even carry out simple maintenance procedures and repairs.
The businesses that have chosen to locate in Cornwall are perfectly placed to take advantage of these and other new trends. With one of the most highly developed marine supply chains in the world, leading-edge design and fabrication work is being carried out in the region. There is a strong concentration of industry expertise which makes powerful collaborations possible, as well as support from leading researchers in the maritime industry. Across a range of marine technologies, Cornwall has access to ideal locations for sea trials, as well as exceptional testing facilities, including Wave Hub, FaBTest and the COAST Laboratory.
So whatever new opportunities emerge in marine technology, the businesses based in the Marine Hub of Cornwall will be playing a vital role in shaping their future.