Oceansp@ce Industry View: Alan Moore*, Catapult, on Marine energy: opportunities for the taking
In the development of any new technology, there are tipping points when critical decisions dictate the path of travel.
Twenty years ago was one such period in the development of onshore wind power: the UK led the world in development of the technology, hindsight suggests that different decisions then may have built an industry that would continue today to contribute billions to the national economy and mirror some of the success of offshore oil and gas.
A lack of investment saw the opportunity pass us by, others have subsequently reaped the rewards.
Today, there are 3.653GW of offshore wind capacity in UK waters, almost three times more than the next highest, Denmark at 1.3GW. Although marine energy technologies remain in developmental phases, there are more wave and tidal devices installed in UK waters than in the rest of the world combined.
So what needs to be done to seize the opportunity this time around? Investment is only part of the answer.
Successful marine technology development requires industry wide leadership and collaboration across the innovation landscape, from Government to industry and the utilities, academia to SMEs.
Delivering that vision is the reason that the Technology Strategy Board set up the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult. It is one of a network of seven technology and innovation centres where technical and commercial knowledge helps the very best UK businesses, scientists and engineers to build on research and development, transforming ideas and early stage work into viable products and services.
The ORE Catapult is seeking to enhance knowledge and understanding of the marine environment and develop consistent standards.Iit is working with industry to identify the technology blockers that exist today, with academia to ensure that leading research is focused on industry requirements and with SMEs to bring appropriate technology innovation to commercial readiness.
Marine renewable technologies will be commercially developed over the coming few years. The question is ‘which country will take the lead?’.
There are challenges to overcome, but we have a unique opportunity, and the Catapult provides a vital enabler that may just mean that the answer to that question is ‘in the UK’.
By Alan Moore OBE, non-executive director of the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult
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