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Government Unveils £8 Million Fund for 'Smart Shipping' Innovation

The government has unveiled a new initiative, the Smart Shipping Acceleration Fund, which offers an £8m boost to AI-driven projects that aim to slash shipping emissions.

The government announced recently that this fund will back feasibility studies for AI-powered maritime technologies like autonomous vessels and automated port systems. 

Maritime Minister Lord Davies visited Southampton this week to announce the new £8m funding package, which aims "to put the UK at the forefront of cutting-edge maritime technology."

"Using AI and cutting-edge technology to make boats smarter and transform port operations is part of our plan to decarbonise shipping, enhance safety for our seafarers and help grow the economy," he said. "AI has the potential to revolutionise the sector, create jobs and support the economy."

Companies and organizations are invited to seek funding, with winning projects requiring matching funds. The government aims to attract additional private sector investments in green shipping technologies through these projects.

Potential projects may include AI applications to enhance port safety, optimize operations, and minimize environmental impact. The Smart Shipping Acceleration Fund is part of the broader £206m UK Shipping Office for Reducing Emissions (UKSHORE) program, unveiled in March 2022. Innovate UK will manage the competition.

Mike Biddle, executive director for net zero at Innovate UK, welcomed the launch of the new fund.

"The UK is recognised as a global leader in digital technology and this new fund will enhance that reputation in the maritime sector too," he said.

"Innovate UK are excited to see industry-led consortia pioneer smart shipping feasibility studies that will demonstrate a clear commercial pathway and positive environmental impact in the near future. This is the latest investment as part of our key partnership with DfT around the delivery of UK SHORE to boost innovation across the UK's vibrant maritime sector."

Chris Shirling-Rooke, chief executive at Maritime UK, welcomed the news, adding that it "will allow the fostering of innovation and embracing of cutting-edge technologies, so we can ensure the UK maintains its position as one of the global centres for green maritime technology".

"This support will enable our top innovators and entrepreneurs to not only drive substantial economic gains but also respond dynamically to the major challenges and opportunities within the UK's most important sector," he said.

The unveiling of the Smart Shipping Acceleration Fund follows Labour's recent announcement. If it wins the upcoming election, the party has pledged to invest £1.8bn in public funds to modernize Britain's ports. This initiative is part of Labour's broader strategy to fast-track the development of offshore wind farms.


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