University of Essex joins forces with SEA-KIT in new USV collaboration
Essex-based SEA-KIT has won funding as part of a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) by the UK Government’s innovation agency, Innovate UK.
SEA-KIT International, a leading provider of hi-tech solutions for the maritime and research industries, is joining forces with Essex academics to create a secure and intelligent communication system for the control of unmanned surface vessels (USV).
Essex-based SEA-KIT has won funding as part of a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) by the UK Government’s innovation agency, Innovate UK. The funding will help SEA-KIT to commercialise its USV offer by building bespoke vessels for its clients in the offshore energy sector, who conduct surveys for offshore wind and oil and gas infrastructure.
Innovate UK and Essex are meeting the challenges posed by COVID-19 by continuing their business support activities for both current and prospective partners at this unsettled time. This new project aims to boost the local economy and create new jobs over the coming year.
Essex is passionate about helping businesses, boasting more than 100 expert academics, across multiple disciplines, who are engaging with ambitious businesses throughout the East of England, London and beyond through Knowledge Transfer Partnerships and other business-focused research-led projects.
Robert Walker, head of Business Engagement at Essex, said:
“The SEA-KIT and Essex collaboration, valued at more than £200,000, will create a stable framework for SEA-KIT to scale up their business operation. I am incredibly excited by the potential commercial impact for SEA-KIT from this partnership, in addition to the broader benefits across both our teaching and research. This project adds to our growing portfolio of research collaborations involving drones and autonomous vehicles.”
The intelligent communication system developed through this KTP will support SEA-KIT’s ambition to reduce the need for large, fuel-hungry vessels. As a result, SEA-KIT forecasts a potential reduction in carbon emissions of up to 95% in its operations.
Peter Walker, Director of Technology at Sea-Kit International Ltd, said:
“The team here at SEA-KIT is intent on coupling our proven USV designs with robust communications systems that function even in the harshest offshore conditions. Everyone working in the offshore energy sector is in pursuit of greater efficiencies.
We want to disrupt the current market offering with innovations that enable the control of USVs for over-the-horizon missions and reliable retrieval of sensor data from equipment onboard, whilst also reducing cost and carbon footprint. This partnership with the University of Essex taps into their vast network science and AI knowledge base and we are looking forward to working with the team there.”
The SEA-KIT collaboration with Essex will seek to commercialise the technology that was developed as part of the winning entry of the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE competition. This global competition recognises advances in ocean technologies for rapid, unmanned and high-resolution ocean exploration and discovery.
As part of the KTP, Essex will connect SEA-KIT with two leading academics, Dr Leila Musavian, a telecommunications expert and Deputy Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) at Essex; and Dr Nikolaos Thomas an expert in machine learning for communications, from the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, who together will lead on the technology implementation.
Dr Nikolaos Thomos is Deputy Director of Research at Essex, said:
“Network Science and Machine Learning are leading research areas for academics across the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering. Traditionally these research areas have been studied separately but due to recent advances in communications standards such as 5G, synergies between these fields are now necessary."