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Innovation derived from the under-utilised marine economy of Ireland could result in 3,000 new jobs by 2025, the CEO of the Irish Marine and Energy Resource Cluster in Cork told

A collaboration between UCC, CIT and the Irish Navy, the Irish Maritime and Energy Resource Cluster (IMERC) strives to shore up Ireland’s failure to derive the same economic advantage from its maritime economy as other countries have.

CEO Val Cummins said the objective is to double GDP from the maritime economy from 1.1pc to 2.2pc by 2030.

‘We really need to turn up the heat on the next generation of sectors like marine bio-discovery, renewable energy, offshore aquaculture and more’

But this is a far cry from more evolved maritime economies like Denmark, which derives 20pc GDP from its maritime economy.

“We have a target for creating over 3,000 new jobs in the maritime cluster by 2025,” Cummins said.

The blue economy sets sail

“Ireland is on the way to making the most of its maritime resources,” Cummins added. “Traditionally, we had a blind spot when it came to the sea because we were largely an agri-rural economy and then things changed in terms of the ICT, biomedical devices and pharma sectors.

“When we had the downturn in the economy it was a painful lesson and we learned the need to diversify elements of the economy.”

To spearhead the opportunity, a new innovation space for marine-oriented start-ups, The Entrepreneur Ship, was recently opened at the harbour in Ringaskiddy, Cork.

This unique space will provide new and existing companies in the maritime sector with the supports that they need to grow and innovate.

Cummins explained that Ireland’s maritime area is 10 times the land area of the country.

“But our traditional approach has been fisheries, ports and shipping. We really need to turn up the heat on the next generation of sectors like marine bio-discovery, renewable energy, offshore aquaculture and more.

“All of these opportunities will have a huge impact on our ability to develop new technologies and open up new markets.

“We are at a point now where there is a ‘sea change’ in understanding our marine resource.

“The opportunities and what we are seeing in Ireland are all pieces of the equation – we need to put the building blocks in place that can bring us to the next level of realising the opportunity,” Cummins said.

Companies based in The Entrepreneur Ship are located in the IMERC Cluster in lower Cork Harbour, adjacent to the National Maritime College of Ireland (NMCI), the Irish Defence Forces Naval Base and University College Cork’s new Beaufort building, which houses the MaREI Research Centre and the LIR National Ocean Test Facility.

A number of exciting start-ups, as well as established international companies, are already availing of the facilities and supports at the new maritime innovation centre.

These include DARE technology, an innovative engineering start-up specialising in renewable marine energy, and Exceedence,  a UCC/MaREI spinout that has developed software that will provide financial analytics solutions to developers in the marine renewables sector. A third start-up, UAV Evolution, is developing an unpiloted aircraft that will support offshore activities in some of the harshest conditions on the planet.

Beyond start-ups, Cummins said the entire multinational technology sector in Ireland needs to be switched on to opportunities in the marine economy.

“We need to make the connections in terms of where the technologies are ripe, and the applications in the marine environment present huge opportunities in Ireland – there’s a huge amount of talent within the multinationals that are omnipresent in Ireland, but do they necessarily know about this opportunity?”

Editor John Kennedy is an award winning technology journalist.