Plymouth is given the chance to lead the world in maritime science
City Deal is an opportunity for Plymouth to steer the region to global leadership in marine science and technology and reap the rewards of sustainable economic regeneration.
Assets such as Plymouth University's state-of-the-art Marine Building, the facilities at Devonport, the relationships with academic and scientific organisations, and the region's rich maritime heritage, mean the sector transformation could happen swiftly.
To accelerate it further, the University has launched the Marine Innovation Centre (MARIC) to create intelligent connections between businesses, world-class knowledge, technologies, people and infrastructure.
City Deal is about displacing Whitehall and putting a city in the economic driving seat by devolving real power and giving authorities the right levers to drive economic growth.
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At a Mansion House speech last week Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg summed up the political and economic position when he said: "Letting go of power and money doesn't come naturally to Whitehall. Rather than let our industries and communities wither, we need to free up cities outside of London that have their own unique selling points."
Now is the chance for Plymouth to break free and control its own economic destiny.
The regional infrastructure and commitment is in place. The South West Marine Energy Park (SWMEP) is a zone stretching from Cornwall to Bristol with priority focus for marine energy technology development, energy generation projects and industry growth.
Wave Hub is now operating as a grid-connected offshore facility near Hayle for the large scale testing of wave power technologies and the FaB Test nursery facility at Falmouth enables wave energy device developers to test components, concepts or full-scale devices.
The UK's most sophisticated wave energy testing tank is at Plymouth University.
Crucially, City Deal is about working across boundaries: partnership and collaboration between Government, cities, neighbouring authorities, and local business leaders, to deliver transformative change together.
At the heart of the marine transformation will be MARIC, funded under the European Regional Development Fund's Business Technology Centres Programme.
It is a collaboration of existing sector leaders including Babcock International, Princess Yachts International, GL Garrad Hassan and IT Power, with market-leading SMEs Supacat, Manuplas and Offshore Wave Energy to create a powerful steering group.
MARIC's vision is to increase the flow of knowledge and expertise between higher education and small businesses, directly supporting the industrial uptake and commercialisation of research and emerging technologies and improving the performance of small firms by supporting and stimulating innovation and the successful exploitation of new ideas.
The group will be linked to four key marine sectors in the South West: marine energy, (including renewables), marine manufacturing (including leisure), marine environment and marine operations.
Its target audience includes inventors, prospective entrepreneurs, new and existing business, and inward investors looking to establish operations in the South West.
To give MARIC regional reach, it will also have an outreach Office at the Bristol & Bath Science Park, next door to the National Composites Centre.
Behind MARIC is the University's Marine Institute with 3,000 staff, researchers and students. It is the first and largest such institute in the UK – focusing on research, education and innovation.
Underpinning this is the Growth Acceleration Investment Network (GAIN) – gaininbusiness.com – which is a network in which businesses or individuals can develop plans, get investment advice and receive all of the necessary help to turn ideas into high-growth sectors.
In practical terms MARIC will enhance the technology development pathway within the South West Marine Energy Park (SWMEP), streamlining access to the cutting-edge resources of the University, which include the brand new Coastal, Ocean and Sediment Transport (COAST) Laboratory, as well as providing innovation funding to help marine renewable energy technology developers get their ideas off the drawing board.
It is through this expertise, commitment and entrepreneurship that the region can achieve greatness in the marine and maritime sectors and kickstart regional economic growth.