Matthew Hancock announces £5m for unmanned boats and submarines technology

Matthew Hancock, Minister of State at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills made his first visit to Portsmouth and announced £5m in financial support to help companies develop technology for unmanned boats and submarines.

Global demand for these products is increasing, with one estimate valuing the overall market at about £80b over the next 15 years. Government believes 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, a Portchester-based firm 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).

Today’s £5m 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 unmanned submarines.

The £5m fund will be run by the Technology Strategy Board and will open for bids from across the country from October.

Companies wanting to develop technology for unmanned maritime vehicles will be able to apply for funding. This could include ways to make the vessels safer, improve performance at higher speed and improve technology for launch and recovery.

£3m of the funding is being contributed by the Technology Strategy Board, with £2m being contributed by the Defence, Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl).

Last week the Solent LEP also announced that it would be making a £1m fund available for Solent small and medium-sized businesses developing unmanned marine systems such as autonomous boats and submarines.