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RDA backs world-class institute for marine energy research

A £15 million institute for research into harnessing the energy from the sea is being set up in South West England.

Called the Peninsula Research Institute for Marine Renewable Energy, located in Plymouth and at the main Combined Universities in Cornwall campus near Falmouth, it will create an internationally significant research base aimed at putting the region at the forefront of wave energy development.

The Research Institute is a joint venture between the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth and will combine the existing research excellence of Exeter in renewable energy and environmental technologies with Plymouth's expertise in marine science and coastal engineering.

An initial investment of £1.4 million from the South West of England Regional Development Agency (SWRDA) has enabled the Research Institute to recruit new research teams over the summer, including new professorial appointments, and bring world-leading experts to work in the region from this autumn.

The Research Institute will work alongside the £28 million Wave Hub project, being developed by the South West RDA off the coast of Cornwall, which will allow wave energy device developers to test their technology on a scale never before possible. The UK Government gave planning permission to Wave Hub last week (September 17) and it will be up and running by 2009.

The Institute will support Wave Hub, wave energy device developers and the marine renewable energy community.

Lorelei Hunt, Director of Innovation at the South West RDA, said: "Harnessing energy from the sea is still an embryonic industry but has enormous potential. This further investment in knowledge capital will ensure that we maximise the economic benefits of our investment in Wave Hub.

"We are investing to ensure our region becomes an internationally significant centre of expertise in marine renewables, including research and development, design, construction and operation of new technologies."

The SWRDA has calculated that Wave Hub could create 1,800 jobs and £560 million in the UK economy over 25 years. Almost 1,000 of these jobs and £332 million would be generated in South West England.

Significant further investment in PRIMARE will follow from the SWRDA over the next three years to enable the Institute to purchase the equipment necessary to undertake its research programme.

This will give greater confidence to prospective investors in wave energy projects and provide the South West with a world class source of data of value to energy device developers, utility companies, government agencies and researchers worldwide.

South West England has one of the best tidal and wave resources in Europe and the Research Institute will exploit that potential by supporting the development of a wave energy industry in the region.

Professor George Smith of the University of Exeter said: "Wave energy holds the promise of delivering a significant proportion of the UK's energy requirements in the future. This partnership will enable the University of Exeter's growing team of renewable energy researchers to contribute to international quality research, support the development of the industry and maximise the potential benefits to the South West region."

Professor Andrew Chadwick, academic lead from the University of Plymouth commented: "The University of Plymouth will be devoting its considerable expertise in Marine Sciences, Coastal Processes and Coastal Engineering to research a wide range of issues associated with the development of marine renewable energy technologies.

"This will include assessment of the wave resources, optimisation of the design of wave energy conversion devices, marine hazard identification and mitigation, marine and coastal environmental assessments and socio-economic opportunities. It is intended to develop a world leading set of generic methodologies for the exploitation of marine renewable energy resources, which can be applied throughout the UK and elsewhere."

The SWRDA's investment means the Institute can attract the highest quality staff allowing it to bid for substantial additional research funding from the EU, UK Research Councils, UK Government and the private sector in the future.  Within three years, it expects to be at the heart of a research programme valued at around £8 million per year.

It will build on the University of Exeter's activity in the area of environmental technologies, and the University of Plymouth's long association with marine science and technology, and its involvement with the Plymouth Marine Science Partnership.

For further information please contact Jason Clark, Deborah Clark and Associates Ltd, on 01872 276276/07980 834368 or email


Editor's notes:

The South West RDA leads the development of a sustainable economy, investing to unlock the region's business potential.  It works in partnership with public and private sector organisations and takes a long term view.  It aims to drive up the region's productivity by giving people the skills they need, encouraging enterprise, improving infrastructure, regenerating places and promoting the strengths of the region.

Wave Hub is a £28 million project to create the world's first large scale wave farm off the coast of north Cornwall. It will consist of a giant electrical 'socket' on the seabed, connected to the National Grid by an underwater cable and will allow wave energy device developers to test their technology on a scale never seen before. Wave Hub could generate enough electricity for 7,500 homes, directly saving 300,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide over 25 years. This would support South West England's target for generating 15% of the region's power from renewable sources by 2010.

Further capital funding for PRIMaRE will come from the South West RDA over a period of three years but this has yet to be finalised. Additional funding is expected to come through the European Convergence and Competitiveness Programmes, the Higher Education Funding Council for England and from research grants and income.


Clare Morgan
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