Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Marine wave and tidal

This research area covers the study and research of devices and systems to capture and utilise the kinetic or oscillatory energy of bodies of water.

Partners involved:
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

The scope and what we're doing

This research area covers the study and research of devices and systems to capture and utilise the kinetic energy (for example, via tidal turbine devices) or oscillatory energy (for example, utilising wave energy converters) of bodies of water.

Covering two distinct technologies, this research area includes systems, control and components as well as hydrodynamics, fluid dynamics and modelling. It also includes socio-economic and environmental issues related to wave and tidal technologies (such as the public acceptability and possible environmental impact of large-scale wave and tidal schemes).

It does not include the development and application of hydrothermal sources and ocean thermal gradients.

We support a cohesive interdisciplinary UK marine energy research capacity that delivers collaborative fundamental and applied, user inspired research. This research will tackle immediate and long term challenges, and provide policy-related evidence.

Academic capacity in this area has grown to a modest level. We envisage this being maintained, especially for early career researchers, to support these ambitious research activities in the future.

The UK leads the world in wave and tidal energy research and innovation, development, demonstration and deployment and the devolved Scottish and Welsh governments have a strong interest in these technologies.

EPSRC’s strategy recognises that tidal turbine and wave energy converter technologies are at very different stages of development. Wave research will be more fundamental, whereas tidal research tends to be closer to market and will start to pass out of our remit and into the UK innovation space. Both technologies should be addressed in equal measure within this research area.

Despite their disparity, each marine energy technology features similar key challenges, focusing on, for example:

  • environmental impact
  • foundations and moorings
  • resource modelling
  • power transmission
  • power systems management
  • device reliability
  • condition monitoring
  • operation and maintenance.

These must all be addressed by fundamental research. There is a strong steer from the UK government and industry to reduce the cost of marine energy.

Any future significant critical-mass investment will be built on the UK’s key strengths in innovation and delivered via the Supergen Programme and associated centres for doctoral training, which will provide a focus for research and leadership for the community.

The area will capitalise on existing UK testing infrastructure, including:

  • FloWave at the University of Edinburgh
  • Coastal, Ocean and Sediment Transport (COAST) Laboratory at Plymouth University
  • demonstrator facilities at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC)
  • Wave Hub
  • Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult in Blyth.

Closer working between EPSRC and other funding agencies will facilitate interdisciplinary research and translation to use through the Energy theme.

The strategy acknowledges the need for open data access and strategies for data acquisition, curation and signposting, for the good of the research community and UK innovation infrastructure and to enable impact of research outputs.

We aim to:

  • support research investments that create high-quality, user-inspired research outputs as well as maximising their uptake and impact
  • use the existing strong links with the UK innovation infrastructure and industrial end users to provide solutions to immediate and long-term problems
  • support training that builds on and adds value to the strong portfolio of research and existing training in this area
  • enable early career researchers across marine energy to build their profiles and track records
  • strengthen connectivity with the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) encouraging research programmes that are complementary to NERC priorities.

This research area is also of potential relevance to the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office’s Official Development Assistance funding streams.

Why we're doing it

Marine, wave and tidal technology is of major interest to the government, particularly the Scottish and Welsh governments, having potential impact on the UK’s ability to reach its ambitious 2050 greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.

The UK is a world leader in both wave and tidal technologies. Internationally the Supergen Marine Energy Hub is well renowned and the UK is a preferred partner of choice for many developing nations. These technologies are very exportable but are currently an expensive solution. Often, recipient countries need to decide whether to buy in technology or do the research themselves.

The Marine, Wave and Tidal research area is supported by existing expertise, interaction and collaboration in the following areas:

This research area has crossover with and draws additionally from the Natural Environment Research Council’s (NERC’s) Benefiting from Natural Resources strategic theme, which includes consideration of the potential environmental impacts or benefits.

The UK currently punches above its weight internationally in both technologies, with a moderate academic volume. Within the portfolio we envisage maintaining capacity funding through the Supergen Programme, with a refocus towards targeting immediate and long-term problems and addressing the balance between wave and tidal technology, which is currently dominated by tidal.

View evidence sources used to inform our research strategies.

Past projects, outcomes and impact

Visualising our portfolio (VoP) is a tool for users to visually interact with the EPSRC portfolio and data relationships. Find out more about research area connections and funding for marine wave and tidal.

Find previously funded projects on Grants on the Web.

Who to contact

Last updated: 18 August 2023

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