Department for Transport
Printable version

£8 million funding boost for AI to make boats smarter

Organisations can apply for the Smart Shipping Acceleration Fund to use AI for projects that make UK waters safer, operations smoother and air cleaner.

  • government launches £8 million Smart Shipping Acceleration Fund to drive maritime innovation and harness the benefits of AI to boost productivity
  • funding will support feasibility studies for cutting-edge technology – from self-driving boats to ports using automated systems – to boost the economy and support coastal communities
  • forms part of the government’s plan to decarbonise shipping and help grow the economy

Maritime Minister Lord Davies is in Southampton today (22 April 2024) to announce an £8 million funding boost to put the UK at the forefront of cutting-edge maritime technology. From self-driving boats to streamlined port operations, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and other innovations will boost the economy and support coastal communities.

The Smart Shipping Acceleration Fund will kickstart feasibility studies to develop smart shipping technologies such as AI, robotics, and autonomous vessels. The winning projects will also require match funding – leveraging further investment from the private sector.

Successful ports will be able to use AI to detect safety hazards, optimise port activities and reduce their environmental footprint – making UK waters safer, operations smoother and air cleaner.

Maritime Minister, Lord Davies, said:

Using AI and cutting-edge technology to make boats smarter and transform port operations is part of our plan to decarbonise shipping, enhance safety for our seafarers and help grow the economy.

AI has the potential to revolutionise the sector, create jobs and support the economy.

AI innovations are already transforming how we tackle and diagnose diseases like cancer, improving our public services, and ramping up productivity. It is the defining technology of our generation. We have invested over £3.5 billion in the technology in the last 10 years and are currently more than doubling the ‘Incubator for AI’ team, recruiting the best of British talent to drive AI integration across the public sector.

Today’s funding comes from the wider £206 million UK Shipping Office for Reducing Emissions (UK SHORE) programme, announced in March 2022.

Lord Davies is visiting Ocean Infinity, who create innovative robotic technology to transform operations at sea. The company won funding from DfT’s UK SHORE programme to undertake innovative projects in maritime decarbonisation including, most recently, a share of £4.4 million from ZEVI to develop future propulsion systems.

The competition will be managed by the delivery partner Innovate UK.

Mike Biddle, Executive Director for Net Zero at Innovate UK:

The UK is recognised as a global leader in digital technology and this new fund will enhance that reputation in the maritime sector too. Innovate UK are excited to see industry-led consortia pioneer smart shipping feasibility studies that will demonstrate a clear commercial pathway and positive environmental impact in the near future. This is the latest investment as part of our key partnership with DfT around the delivery of UK SHORE to boost innovation across the UK’s vibrant maritime sector.

Alongside this competition for business-led innovation funding, the complementary smart shipping community building programme led by Innovate UK Business Connect will provide a great opportunity for UK businesses to join a vibrant smart shipping network that’ll reach across the country.

Chris Shirling-Rooke, Chief Executive at Maritime UK, said: 

We are a proud island nation with a long and exceptional maritime history. This new fund will allow the fostering of innovation and embracing of cutting-edge technologies, so we can ensure the UK maintains its position as one of the global centres for green maritime technology.

This support will enable our top innovators and entrepreneurs to not only drive substantial economic gains but also respond dynamically to the major challenges and opportunities within the UK’s most important sector.

Peter Aylott, Director of Policy at UK Chamber of Shipping, said: 

Artificial intelligence will deliver real change in shipping with an important role, alongside the sector’s workforce, in greater use of autonomous vessels, automation and data analysis. These technologies will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve supply chains and generate jobs.  

Today’s funding is an important step in driving UK cutting edge technology and moving projects from the drawing board to reality.

Aviation, Europe and technology media enquiries

Media enquiries 0300 7777 878

Switchboard 0300 330 3000


Channel website:

Original article link:

Share this article

Latest News from
Department for Transport