Maritime firms can get help with new innovations

Maritime firms in Liverpool city region looking for support with new ideas and innovations are being urged to access help through a special project that comes to an end in just over a year. Tony McDonough reports

Dr Matt Fulton
Dr Matt Fulton leads the Innovating Maritime initiative at Mersey Maritime. Picture by Tony McDonough


Liverpool city region maritime firms are being urged to make full use of a project that offers support for new innovations and comes to an end in just over a year.

Port City Innovation Hub is being run by Mersey Maritime, the University of Liverpool, Wirral Chamber and Wirral Council. It offers interns and graduates to help SMEs turn their ideas into reality.

In January, Mersey Maritime unveiled its Innovating Maritime initiative, being led by Dr Matt Fulton from the University of Liverpool. Its aim is to act as a complimentary bridge for the maritime ecosystem, pointing it towards sources of funding and expert support.

As part of that project, Dr Fulton is the main contact for the Port City Innovation Hub. He explained: “We are trying to get the maritime sector involved in innovation in all ways. This project ends in July 2023 and we are offering Masters projects and internships.

“Internships are a brilliant way for SMEs to get a little bit of research under their belt. Any ideas of working within the maritime sector or companies that are not in the sector but want to engage with it.

“It is for SMEs in the maritime sector that want to develop new products or processes but don’t have the time, resources, or expertise in-house. They can come to me and we will see if we can get an intern to do the work for you.

“We pay the intern around £1,200 to do a month’s work. They don’t work from your offices but from a desk at the university or from home. The interns have access to all the university systems so new ideas that you want to show to clients – we can make some really nice 3D graphics from the mechanical and engineering department.

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“We had someone from Calderstones Park over in Liverpool who wanted a low-energy lighting system. A student came along and designed one. It won’t be the final product but it allows the company to prove their case and demonstrate a model. They are things you would quite like to do but don’t have the time or resources to do it.”

Dr Fulton said the Master element of the project was much more in-depth. Businesses can get a graduate working on new innovations for them for a 12-month period. It costs £6,000 a year. He added: “Having a graduate for that long would normally cost you at least £30,000 a year.

“You get the graduate and the academic that helps with the project and access to the facilities at the university. It is massively good value for money and everything about this project is industry-led.”

Because the projects take a year, Dr Fulton says there is now a “big push” to get them up and running as soon as possible with the overall project coming to an end next year. He said: “This is not just that short-term benefit.

“As part of Innovating Maritime it means that you are in the system and it means the students all learn about maritime and will consider careers in this sector. Sometimes these students aren’t even aware of the opportunities in the industry.”

And, added Chris Shirling-Rooke, chief executive of Mersey Maritime, engaging with students at the university was critical to addressing the “brain drain” in Liverpool city region.

He explained: “We have high levels of deprivation here. So kids go to university and then they tend to leave. We need to keep them and this is great because we help the firms and we address the brain drain and maybe keep the skills here.

“We have a small window to test and trial this and support you with your good idea. It is the maritime community supporting each other. On average, we pay £13,000 more as an industry than the national average wage and we need to get that message out there.”

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