26 Jul 2023
by Amy McLellan

A welcome boost for clean shipping

The maritime sector has received a £34m funding boost for cleaner shipping...

The maritime sector has received a £34m funding boost for cleaner shipping.

Innovators aiming for increasingly ambitious net zero goals are gearing up to enter the latest funding round from the UK’s Department for Transport, opening on 2 August. With up to £34m up for grabs in Round 4 of the Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition (CMDC), a recent national briefing event in London was ‘packed to capacity’ with companies, consultancies, universities and other organisations.

Speaking at the briefing on 12 July, James Lovett, innovation lead for future maritime technologies at Innovate UK, said that projects must be able to “quantify a reduction in lifecycle emissions and positive economic impact in the future, including citing usage data from the demonstration”.

This echoed a presentation from Bilaal Takoliya, policy advisor at UK Shore (the UK Shipping Office for Reducing Emissions), who highlighted the recently strengthened IMO regulations that will deepen the required cuts to emissions through the 2030s to deliver an 80% reduction by 2040. “The transition is here, it’s coming now,” he said.

The first round of the CMDC launched in March 2021, allocating £23m in funding to 55 projects comprising 208 partners from across the UK. Round 2 gave another £12m to 31 projects to deliver feasibility studies and pre-deployment trials, and the third provided £60m to deliver technology and system demonstrations in clean maritime solutions. The fourth round is aimed at technology demonstrations, system demonstrations, feasibility studies and collaborative R&D trials. Applications close on 27 September 2023.

Eligible projects must involve UK registered businesses, run for 10-12 months and have a budget of £500,000 to £6m for vessel or infrastructure demonstrations, up to £3m for feasibility studies and pre-deployment trials, and up to £8m for combined vessel and infrastructure demonstrations.

The briefing event included a series of two-minute ‘elevator pitches’ from aspiring innovators in academia and industry. These snapshots showcased the wide range of technologies that are being trialled, developed and commercialised to decarbonise international shipping, along with the technical capabilities and expertise required to go from drawing board to testing tank, to real-world demonstration.

Purple Sector, for example, is a Formula 1-dervived team of experts that uses motorsport techniques and processes to rapidly prototype ideas within months. It hopes to boost the sustainability of existing marine powertrains through green methanol and/or electrification.

Universities including Solent, Cranfield and Brighton presented their capabilities and patented technologies, seeking further collaboration opportunities for cutting-edge R&D.

The event demonstrated the vast array of potential solutions to the net zero challenge, from waste-to-energy and alternative fuels such as ammonia and methanol, to wave-to-thrust and wind assist technologies.

Matt Candy from Steamology showed the reinvention of proven, low-risk steam turbine engineering using hydrogen and oxygen to power the turbine. The only output from the system is water, which can be returned for further electrolysis.

Hydrogen featured heavily in many presentations, not just as an on-vessel solution. Freeport East, for example, is planning a green hydrogen hub at its government-backed site in the East of England.

As well as hearing the latest from a number of cutting-edge projects, attendees at the briefing had plenty of time for networking, and to forge new connections that could drive breakthrough innovations. With the climate crisis front of mind as heatwaves sweep the northern hemisphere this summer, there is a real urgency to move projects from the drawing board to real-world demonstrations.