University of Plymouth Invest £1.2 million in New Underwater Communications Network

Image credit: University of Plymouth

The University of Plymouth is leading a £1.2 million project to upgrade the offshore infrastructure of Smart Sound Plymouth.

The initiative, supported by funding from the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, will further enhance the unique proving ground for businesses to test, trial, prototype and commercialize new products and services.

The Smart Sound Connect Subsurface project builds on the Smart Sound Connect infrastructure launched in March 2022.

Working with Plymouth Marine Laboratory, it will install an underwater acoustic communications network that will be integrated with the existing private 4G/5G and wave relay mesh networks that provide connectivity more than 20 nautical miles offshore.

Combined, this upgraded network will reinforce Smart Sound Plymouth as a unique fully connected proving ground for businesses to develop advanced marine technologies across all domains; above, on and below the water.

In addition, the Smart Sound Connect Subsurface project will be enhanced by new specialist lab facilities at City College Plymouth’s Centre for Higher Technical and Maritime Skills at Oceansgate.

That connection will support training and development opportunities that will create a pipeline of future professionals via a range of full-time, part-time, apprenticeship and T-Level based study routes.

The University and City College Plymouth will also develop a skills escalator, to ensure that businesses and individuals can access the skills needed for the rapidly growing autonomy and marine technology markets.

The upgraded Smart Sound infrastructure is a priority in the Ocean Futures 10-year investment plan, developed by a private-public-research partnership across the Great South West, and will deliver new growth opportunities across multiple sectors including offshore renewable energy, aquaculture, defense, and advanced engineering.

It will also be integral to the success of the National Centre for Coastal Autonomy, the UK’s first autonomous fully integrated coastal observing and monitoring network, which will employ the latest autonomous technologies to deliver world-leading and cutting edge science.

2 Dr Alex Nimmo SmithDr Alex Nimmo Smith, Associate Professor in Marine Physics at the University of Plymouth, said: “If we are to fully unleash the potential of advanced marine technologies, state of the art communications will be essential. This support from the Heart of the South West LEP, and our partnerships with Plymouth Marine Laboratory and City College Plymouth, will deliver a unique subsea communications network within Smart Sound Plymouth. It will also help to train the next generation of engineers and innovators, who will be crucial to maintaining the city’s place at the forefront of this industry.” 

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