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Belfast can lead the way in meeting global carbon challenge

By Iain Percy OBE, CEO, Artemis Technologies

A maritime revolution is coming which will herald a new wave of zero-emissions vessels designed to meet the global carbon challenge and see Belfast once again take the lead in the development and construction of the most advanced ships on the planet.

With a vision to lead in the decarbonisation of the maritime industry we are partnering with experts in research and development and manufacturing, across industry, academia, and local government, to develop solutions that will provide the green powered vessels of the future.

The choice of Belfast as our base is an obvious one, given the rich shipbuilding heritage of the city and Northern Ireland’s incredible depth of talent in the spheres of aerospace and composite manufacturing.

Combined with our knowhow in advanced yacht design, gained at the very height of competitive sailing as sister company to the Artemis Racing team (a veteran of several America’s Cups), there is a huge opportunity for this part of the world to harness those capabilities and make a global impact.

There is no escaping the fact that the world is facing an enormous challenge, with many scientists predicting there is just a decade left to prevent irreversible damage being caused by climate change.

Businesses, as well as government, must play their part, particularly in those sectors such as transport that are responsible for the highest levels of pollution – and our plans for Belfast can help.

The publication this month of official statistics that laid bare the level of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK made for sobering reading.

The overall total reduced by just 2 per cent over 2018 while the transport industry experienced a decline of only 1 per cent – and that was its first fall since 2013.

This must improve especially given the bold targets set by government, particularly around maritime craft with a commitment that all new vessels from 2025 should be designed with zero-emissions capabilities.

A key problem however is that many of the technologies required to make that happen don’t yet exist, at least not at the requisite scale and commercial viability to make a real difference.

We’re lead partner in a Belfast consortium that is aiming to change that and is currently the only applicant either from Northern Ireland or the maritime sector remaining in a bidding process for £30 million support from the UK Research and Innovation Strength in Places Fund.

Our plans can capitalise on the tremendous strength in Northern Ireland, creating a new class of zero-emissions vessel, unlocking the creation of hundreds of jobs and laying the foundations for future commercial opportunities and countless development pathways.

The project will also go some way to helping rebalance spending on research and innovation across the United Kingdom, with Northern Ireland currently accounting for just 2 per cent of the overall total.

We believe this region can literally ride the next wave of development of green powered vessels, tackle the global carbon challenge, and once again take the centre of the shipbuilding stage.

Double Olympic sailing champion Iain Percy OBE is CEO of Artemis Technologies, the world’s leading high-performance maritime design and applied technologies company and lead partner of a Belfast consortium which aims to return commercial shipbuilding to the city

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