Innovation at the Heart of Appledore With £15.6m in Levelling Up Investment

Appledore's £15.6m Levelling Up Investment

Torridge District Council’s proposed Appledore Clean Maritime Innovation Centre at Middle Dock was given a massive boost this week with £15.6m of funding from the Levelling Up Fund issued by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

Levelling up for Appledore Clean Maritime Innovation Centre

The centre, which represents the largest ever amount of funding and project investment undertaken in Torridge has already received support from a range of globally innovative partners as well as government agencies such as the National Shipbuilding Office. The development will establish Torridge and wider northern Devon as a global-leading research and development destination for innovation in clean maritime technology and support industries.

Expected to open in 2025, the centre will feature cutting-edge research and industry partnerships from the Centre for Future Clean Mobility (CFCM, University of Exeter) and the University of Plymouth offshore renewable and maritime autonomy specialisms. The complex will also incorporate a range of offices and flexibly designed workshops to support businesses to innovate.

Innovation plans for clean-propulsion shipbuilding

CFCM’s global-leading research into clean maritime propulsion will support the re-positioning of Appledore as a centre of excellence for clean-propulsion shipbuilding as the movement away from diesel intensifies over the next few years. The project will also capitalise on the Crown Estate’s plans to develop an initial 4GW of Floating Offshore Wind (FLOW) energy generation in the Celtic Sea, enough to power around 3 million homes, and the Innovation Centre’s waterfront location next to the Harland & Wolff shipyard. The complex  will be a catalyst for jobs and economic regeneration in the area creating a unique mix of research, education, commercialisation and business development opportunities.

Alongside this, and following the recent installation of northern Devon’s first seaweed farm, there has been significant interest to support the growing local seaweed sector- an industry predicted to be worth around €9bn annually by 2030 across Europe. This includes the development of seaweed biproducts such as plastic replacements and pharmaceuticals, efforts which the University of Plymouth are ready to support. Forecasts indicate that the proposals are expected to create circa 90 jobs and bring an estimated injection of over £60 million into the local economy over the next 30 years.

Investment in local-skill generation and education

A key role of the centre is to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers with dedicated space set aside for education and engagement activities. Working together with the two university research partners, Petroc and the staff within their University Centre, will be driving a pipeline of courses to develop skills locally for roles in clean maritime, environmental management and preparing for the future green hydrogen deployment. Local educational initiatives will work in tandem with regional partners under the banner of the South West Institute of Technology (SWIoT) and international partners such as the Moroccan renewable college group IFMEREE.

The next phases will see the Innovation Centre’s design team, led by officers from Torridge District Council, progressing and finalising design proposals ready for a Planning submission later in 2023. The work will also include strengthening engagement with local and national key partners to ensure businesses are geared up and ready to move in as soon as the centre opens.

Torridge recieves £15.6m in Levelling Up fund

Thoughts by leaders on levelling up

On this issue, Professor Lisa Roberts, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Exeter said:

“This multi-million pound funding boost is pivotal to ensuring the South-West region is at the forefront of leading meaningful action against the climate emergency and ecological crisis that affects us all.  

“This development in Appledore will bring about significantly increased economic activity, create numbers of high value jobs and generate wider prosperity not just in the region, but for the UK as a whole. It will extend our capabilities across the region and allow us to engage more with major industrial partners and their supply chains. 

“I am delighted that the University of Exeter’s Centre for Future Clean Mobility will play such an integral role in this ground-breaking partnership to create real solutions to help the maritime sector become truly zero carbon. 

“This partnership reaffirms the Centre’s commitment to be at the heart of both clean shipbuilding and global Floating Offshore Wind technology innovation, while also underpinning the University’s commitment to providing a greener and fairer future for all, while also fuelling economic growth across the region.” 

Professor Judith Petts CBE, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Plymouth also expressed her views saying

“The Government’s investment in these exciting and innovative plans is a further endorsement of the South West’s role as the UK’s clean energy powerhouse. The University of Plymouth is delighted to provide project leadership around offshore renewables and clean maritime innovation and the Appledore Innovation Centre provides further opportunity to lead in the development of emerging but critically important technologies combined with skills development. At the same time, we will be transforming a site with a proud maritime heritage into a cutting edge facility that ignites its clean maritime future.”

“This is fantastic news for Torridge and the wider area of northern Devon and a testimony to the hard work of everyone involved in submitting the ultimately successful bid to government. We are grateful for the funding that will now allow the proposals to be taken forward on what promises to be a truly cutting edge project to capitalise on the future direction of maritime engineering in what is already a fast moving sector. The benefit to jobs and income for the area will be a huge boost for both Torridge and the wider Devon economy”

Councillor Ken James – Leader of Torridge District Council

Rear Admiral Rex Cox, Chief Executive Officer of the National Shipbuilding Office further expressed her opinion on the issue.

“This is excellent news for the people of Torridge and northern Devon and our shipbuilding enterprise, building on the local area’s recent success in winning work through the Fleet Solid Support Ship procurement. As we work across Government to implement the National Shipbuilding Strategy, I am delighted to see the Levelling Up Fund supporting a historic maritime community to become a leader for the clean maritime technologies and innovations that will drive this exciting sector. I look forward to continue working with the District Council and the local shipbuilding community.”

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