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Global Underwater Hub launches defence sector innovation call

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22 June 2022

The body representing the UK’s underwater industry has launched its first cross-sectoral industry project.

The Global Underwater Hub (GUH), in partnership with the Royal Navy and Babcock, has launched a call for innovation that aims to identify technologies and techniques used in the offshore environment that can be applied to the defence sector to address key problem challenges and generate efficiency savings.

The joint initiative seeks to identify ways to increase the operational uptime of assets and reduce dry-docking periods by adopting and adapting existing in-water inspection, maintenance and repair practices used in other sectors. 

This is the first project to be unveiled by the GUH since its formation last year.  It underlines the cross-sectoral exchanging of knowledge, skills and expertise that is at the heart of the membership organisation, which represents businesses operating in the offshore energy, aquaculture, defence, telecoms and subsea mining industries.

As part of the initiative, three separate calls for innovation will take place.  The first call – which went live last week – focuses on in-water inspection, while details of calls two and three will be announced in the autumn.  All three calls are open to GUH members and non-members.

In call one, the Royal Navy is seeking proven, modern technologies and methodologies which it can employ to improve its routine in-water inspection activities.  Currently, in-water inspections are performed either by air divers or ROVs on a variety of steel pressure vessels, tanks, pipework, pipe fittings and structural members.  By increasing the volume of in-water inspections, the Royal Navy, and its industrial support partner Babcock, aims to increase assets’ operational availability, reduce human intervention, bolster workforce safety and decrease dry-docking duration.

Companies interested in taking part in the first call for innovation should read the relevant documents and complete the registration of interest form on the GUH website before Friday, 08 July.  A webinar offering further insight into the call for innovation will take place on Tuesday, 21 June. 

Full details relating to the call for innovation can be found at www.globalunderwaterhub.com/13648/royal-navy-innovation.

Neil Gordon, Global Underwater Hub chief executive, said: "This joint initiative with the Royal Navy and Babcock illustrates the transferrable technologies, capabilities and skills that exist in the underwater sector.  Subsea businesses working in the offshore energy industry have demonstrated a real breadth and depth of innovation for decades and this call for innovation offers opportunities to show how these can be effectively applied in the defence sector.  This has been evidenced by the positive response we have had from industry since the call went live.”

Capt. Pete Deeks, Superintendent Fleet Maintenance, Royal Navy, said: "We are relocating our entire submarine fleet to Clyde to form what will be the Submarine Centre of Specialisation.  In addition to our existing platforms, we have new vessels coming online in the near future, which will result in a surge in maintenance activity at the base.  We face real challenges on a daily basis and collaboration with industry will play a big part in our continued success.  I have been impressed by what I have seen so far and am excited by this programme of work, which I hope marks the start of an enduring relationship with the underwater sector in the UK.” 

Ivan Stace, the Babcock Lead for In-Water Engineering, said: "We are very pleased to be partnered with the Global Underwater Hub and see this as a real opportunity to gain further valuable insight, knowledge and potentially technology transfer from the offshore sector.  Maintaining the Royal Navy’s fleet of nuclear submarines is key to our operations at HMNB Clyde and our deep maintenance facility in Devonport, and we look forward to working with new suppliers and partners to enhance and improve our capability.’’