A Belfast Maritime Consortium led by Artemis Technologies has won a £33 million UK Government innovation grant to develop zero emissions ferries in the city, that will revolutionize the future of maritime transport. With further investment from consortium partners, the total project investment will reach close to £60m over the next four years, creating an initial 125 research and development jobs, and leading to more than 1,000 in the region over the next 10 years.
The goal is to develop technology that could be applied to build the world’s most environmentally friendly high-speed ferries, capable of carrying up to 350 passengers.
The 13-partner syndicate – which is a mix of established and young companies, including Belfast Harbour and Bombardier, academia and local public bodies – is the only Northern Irish or maritime recipient of the UK Research and Innovation flagship Strength in Places Fund.
A spin-off from the America’s Cup sailing team, Artemis Racing, Artemis Technologies is led by double Olympic gold medallist Dr Iain Percy OBE, CEO and has already invested around £5m in Belfast, creating two dozen jobs at the city’s harbour, where it is manufacturing a new prototype boat.
“When we launched Artemis Technologies, we decided to base ourselves in Belfast because of the incredible aerospace and composite engineering talent available, » said Dr. Percy,
“Belfast’s local expertise coupled with the city’s rich shipbuilding heritage, and our own America’s Cup yacht design experience, will ensure Belfast is the global lead in zero emissions maritime technology.
“Our concept for an electric hydrofoil propulsion system is totally unique and will enable vessels of the future to operate with up to 90% less energy, and produce zero emissions during operation.
“This investment from the UKRI Strength in Places Fund is a major endorsement of what we are trying to achieve, which we strongly believe will see Northern Ireland at the centre of the revolution in water transport.”
Welcoming the announcement, First Minister Arlene Foster said the project demonstrated the benefits of collaboration between business, academia and government. In her own words, “This investment can support economic growth locally, but its impact could be felt globally through solutions to more sustainable transport.”
Belfast Harbour boss, Joe O’Neill, described it as a cutting-edge maritime design project, which he said keeps Belfast firmly on the shipbuilding map.
Belfast City Council chief, Suzanne Wylie added: “This investment will help our economy recover more quickly, creating jobs and economic prosperity for the city.”
Michael J. Ryan C.B.E., Chief Operating Officer, Aerostructures, Bombardier Aviation commented: “As the largest manufacturer in Northern Ireland, Bombardier Belfast is a centre of excellence for the design, manufacture and aftermarket support of complex metallic and advanced composite aerostructures and therefore can provide a depth of experience, capability and capacity in support of Artemis Technologies. We are keen to expand into markets that exploit our capabilities and advanced technology and where there are synergies with novel technologies. The Artemis Technologies project, in our view, represents a credible technology path that could provide a technological ‘step-change’ to the maritime sector and passenger transportation.”
Research England’s Executive Chair, David Sweeney, who leads the Strength in Places Fund, added, “All of these projects have the potential to deliver research and innovation that will transform activity within their target industries, in a way that is deeply rooted in local strengths and well linked to wider local economic plans.»
The Belfast consortium includes: Belfast Harbour, Bombardier Belfast, Northern Ireland Advanced Composites Engineering (NIACE), Creative Composites, Energia, Catalyst, Invest Northern Ireland, Ulster University, Belfast Met, Queen’s University, Belfast, Ards and North Down Borough Council, and Belfast City Council.
With files from The Irish News