Wind farm

Marine autonomy in the South West

Companies in the South West of England are developing technologies that aim to disrupt every aspect of the maritime world.

The South West of England is the largest maritime cluster in the UK. An exclusive opportunity exists to design, develop, test, and manufacture autonomous vessels and technologies to support a cleaner, greener maritime industry.

Fish in ice


South West of England

Investment type:

Foreign direct investment


Jet zero and green ships, Offshore wind

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Sector and market opportunity

The UK is one of the world’s leading maritime nations. Its status is built upon a remarkable historical foundation, its geography, and a large and vibrant economy. The South West of England presents a unique investment opportunity as an area that offers uncongested testing conditions, ample physical space for investment and a committed maritime cluster that can support autonomous projects.

The region can create and test target technologies in:

  • defence and security
  • offshore renewable energy
  • shipping
  • aquaculture

Growth prospects

The demand for marine autonomy is predicted to create a £103 billion market by 2030, with applications in almost all marine environments. The global ocean economy is forecast to double in size in the same period.


The South West region is at the centre of the UK maritime industry. It is home to world-class marine autonomy research establishments, alongside commercial technology centres such as the Plymouth Marine Laboratory. The region has a well-established supply chain, with industries ranging from data analytics to shipbuilding facilities.


The region has 3 airports with local and international connections, and has an extensive road network. The region is well connected to the Midlands, London, and the South East by rail with a travel time of two hours to London from Dorset.

Local talent and skills

The South West currently has:

  • a unique qualification, the MSc in Autonomous Systems, offered by Plymouth University
  • 4 universities with highly trained graduates
  • 21 world class research organisations
  • 25,000 jobs in the marine ocean economy

Research and expertise

The region has world-class research facilities, including the Marine Business Technology Centre, Marine-I, Defence BattleLab, and the Dorset Innovation Park.

It also has global scientific expertise, with the Met Office, UK Hydrographic Office, and the Plymouth Marine Laboratory all located in the area.

Region Spotlight
South of England


The region is home to 21 million people. It offers opportunities across a wide range of sectors from nuclear and aerospace, to life science and new technologies. There are vibrant clusters of expertise spanning 5G, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence.

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Enabling clean growth

Marine autonomy will play a key role in monitoring offshore wind farms using Uncrewed Service Vessels (USVs). 30% of operations and maintenance tasks on these farms have the potential to be automated.

Local and national government support

The UK government’s Maritime 2050 strategy sets out its vision and ambitions for the future of the British maritime sector. The strategy aims to achieve its goals by focusing on the following 7 themes:

  • UK competitive advantage
  • Technology
  • People
  • Environment
  • Infrastructure
  • Trade
  • Security

Success stories

Atlas Elektronik UK

Atlas Elektronik UK (AEUK) are known worldwide for their innovative maritime systems, including their autonomous minesweeping system which is used by the UK Royal Navy.

A combination of the Dorset Innovation Park and Portland Harbour’s integration, test and evaluation waterside facilities provide excellent support for the development and deployment of maritime autonomy.

AutoNaut Ltd

AutoNaut Ltd design, manufacture, and operate uncrewed service vehicles (USVs). AutoNaut USVs use patented wave-foil technology for propulsion and solar photo-voltaic panels to power onboard systems and sensors.

This technology collects data at sea over many weeks, without risk to offshore personnel and without use of carbon fuels.

Coda Octopus Martech

Echoscope™ is Coda Octopus Martech’s world-leading 3D sonar technology. It generates high-resolution images of subsea scenes in real time. This patented technology is already used in commercial underwater construction and maintenance, as well as defence and security.

Coda Octopus Group is looking at how it can expand its capabilities and offerings from its engineering base close to Portland harbour.

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