Winners announced to improve observation capabilities in UK waters

Innovate UK and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) announce winners to improve observation capabilities of biodiversity in UK waters.

There has never been a more critical time to invest in restoring and enhancing nature to improve biodiversity in UK waters.

Innovate UK and Defra are jointly investing £1.5 million to back innovative projects that can improve the observation capabilities of the UK’s waters.

Next generation technologies

Professor Gideon Henderson, Chief Scientific Advisor, Defra, said:

We are investing in the development of next generation technologies that will support us to achieve our national and global environmental objectives.

Innovative new marine monitoring technologies and capabilities are critical for improving observation capabilities of our waters, enabling us to fill priority evidence gaps on the health of our marine natural capital assets and the pressures they are facing.

By working together with SMEs and other partners, we can progress the UK’s vision for clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse seas.

Natural Capital and Ecosystem Assessment (NCEA) programme

This competition is part of the government’s marine NCEA programme, which is leading the way in integrating natural capital approaches into decision making for the marine environment.

Learn more about the NCEA programme.

First round of funding

We are pleased to announce £835,415 of funding has been allocated across 11 projects in the first stage of our competition (see ‘Further information’ for details).

These innovative projects are developing key technologies and capabilities that can be used for more effective and efficient observation of our marine natural capital assets. These include:

  • data acquisition
  • communication
  • storage
  • analysis
  • modelling systems

Andrew Tyrer, Robotics Challenge Director, Innovate UK, said:

Innovate UK is excited to be working with Defra, to harness the collective strength of British robotics and sensor companies together with academic colleagues, to accelerate the development and deployment of technologies to autonomously monitor the unique marine environment around the UK’s shores.

Second round of funding

Later this year, Innovate UK and Defra will launch the second stage of this competition to back the development of complete end-to-end marine monitoring systems and their verification and validation.

This will include on-site testing in an operational environment, data curation, validation, analysis or visualisation.

Please check the funding finder for updates.

Further information

Round one projects

Adapting a casting winch for a non-stop wave propelled USV

Award winner: Autonaut Limited

Adapt and develop a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) casting winch to operate to 100m depth from the wave propelled AutoNaut uncrewed surface vessel (USV).

This will provide an ideal zero carbon platform for observing UK offshore and deep ocean biodiversity.

Automated Robotic Ocean Biodiversity Observation Glider (AROBOG)

Award winners:

  • Seaweed Generation Ltd
  • South West Mull
  • Iona Development

Develop a remotely operated visual and soundscape monitoring array mounted to an automated marine vehicle, with an in-situ docking and charging station.

This will create a remotely operated biodiversity platform that can record and transmit data for extended periods of time and cover a greater area than is currently commercially available.

Autonomous Seagrass Habitat Monitoring System (ASHMoS)

Award winners:

  • Hydrosurv Unmanned Survey (UK) Ltd
  • University of Plymouth

Develop an end-to-end solution for subtidal survey of submerged aquatic vegetation, such as seagrass.

It will collect a range of hydroacoustic and observational measurements from a ground truthing instrument array.

The use of deep learning algorithms enables sediment analysis, while collecting complementary environmental datasets.

Autonomous wind-driven devices for acoustic and visual sensing

Award winner: Oshen Ltd

This project aims to investigate the feasibility of using Oshen’s wind-driven, autonomous surface vessels for marine sensing in coastal waters for two applications: acoustic surveying and visual dataset collection.

GO-eFISH: Generating best practise for the use of eDNA for marine fish biodiversity analyses

Award winners:

  • Applied Genomics Ltd
  • Plymouth Marine Laboratory

Applied Genomics have developed technologies that can automatically collect large quantities of environmental (e)DNA from the marine environment, as well as protocols to semi-quantify fish species abundance.

The aim is to compare the data on fish taxa derived from DNA methods with those from conventional catch-and-count methods in order to refine DNA methodologies, improving the technology readiness of Applied Genomics’ automated large volume eDNA sampler.

Improving natural capital asset monitoring through 5G enabled multisensor integration

Award winner: JET Engineering System Solutions Ltd

Development and integration of increased sensor packages into JET Engineering System Solutions’ existing off-grid, marinised 5G systems, hosted on floating buoy platforms.

This will improve the spatiotemporal density, quality and cost of sensing data acquisition.

Marine Observation & Biodiversity Intelligence (MOBI)

Award winners:

  • Emu Analytics Limited
  • Acua Ocean Limited

Design the standards by which data sourced from sensors on future Acua vessels should be structured and exposed to facilitate the use of this data by advanced analytics and visualisation systems (in this case, Emu’s digital twin technology).

Emu will subsequently demonstrate how its software could be transitioned from adjacent industry sectors and applied to focus on marine biodiversity data (and directly related data, for example,offshore wind farms locations).

Real-time molecular biodiversity monitoring of the marine water column

Award winner: Platform Kinetics Limited

Develop a deployable instrument for use by marine biodiversity assessors to quantitatively measure and analyse eDNA obtained from marine water samples.

This forms an end-to-end marine biodiversity observation and assessment tool, enabling rapid identification and abundance quantification of species on the micro and macro level scale; for example:

  • bacteria
  • fish
  • larger mammals

Self recharging sensor carrying platform

Award winner: Wave Venture Ltd

Wave Venture’s glider incorporates a wave energy converter that allows autonomous recharge at sea, reducing the need for manned intervention to recharge autonomous vehicles.

This innovation opens the possibility of long duration underwater sensing missions with minimal supervision, perpetual-presence, reduced cost and high power.

Smart Buoy

Award winners:

  • Iknaia Limited
  • University of Hertfordshire Higher Education Corporation
  • Ocean Scientific International Limited

Deliver a smart monitoring buoy capable of operating in a marine environment, measuring and transmitting a range of datasets that allow water quality to be monitored 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

This will include the assessment of coliforms, which are direct indicators of environmental pollution. The data will be evaluated holistically using artificial intelligence models and displayed in different formats on a visually coherent dashboard.

SurfCam: sensor triggered remote imaging system for marine monitoring

Award winner: Plant Ecology Beyond Land (PEBL) CIC

Develop an affordable remote monitoring system (SurfCam) that is either deployed as a stand alone unit or is mounted to existing marine infrastructure.

The system is modular in design and integrates environmental sensors for detecting abnormalities in the local environment that may be associated with a risk to the local marine ecology.

Top image:  Credit: RJGimages, iStock, Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

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