Marine-i, the EU funded programme set up to boost marine innovation in Cornwall, has made a grant award to Falmouth-based Kiote.

Kiote specialises in innovative marine designs and has devised a new concept in sail technology which could have a massive worldwide market.

Kiote’s MD, George Dadd, said: “Over recent years there has been an explosion in the use of unmanned, autonomous surface vessels to carry out a wide range of tasks at sea, such as surveying and exploration. However, these vessels have to stay at sea for very long periods of time, which places huge demands on their power systems.

“To date, few people have seriously considered the addition of sails to these craft, as it was always assumed that this would make them too unstable and likely to capsize.

“We have devised a technological solution to this challenge – a sail system that can propel an autonomous vessel very effectively while also providing excellent stability, even in rough seas. The potential commercial benefits of our system are huge: it could be automatically controlled and offer zero-fuel, long-range, high-speed propulsion for a wide range of vessels.”

To move to the next stage of development, Kiote needs to conduct extensive computer modelling of the concept to prove its full potential, prior to moving on to develop a working prototype. This led it to apply for a Rapid Innovation Grant from Marine-i, a project which is part-funded by European Regional Development Fund and is designed to help accelerate innovation within the marine sector.

Marine-i project leader, Professor Lars Johanning, said: “We were impressed with the innovative thinking that has gone into this solution and the meticulous plan that Kiote have mapped out for its development. Not only does it have the potential to put Cornwall at the forefront of a completely new field of marine propulsion, it could also provide a valuable stream of skilled development work for local marine businesses and suppliers.”

Another Falmouth firm to have benefitted from a Rapid Innovation Grant recently is Whiskerstay Ltd, which has devised a new propulsion solution for both the leisure and commercial marine markets. It will use the funding to purchase the computer equipment needed to carry out vital system design and simulation work.

Whiskerstay was set up three years ago by Dr Rachel Nicholls-Lee, who is a naval architect with a background in yacht design and marine renewables. She is currently one of the leading experts in electric vessel design working in the south west.

She said: “There is huge interest in the marine sector for electric and hybrid propulsion systems that can deliver good performance whilst also being quiet and environmentally friendly. However, to date, the pace of development in the marine industry has been relatively slow.

“There is a brilliant marine supply chain here in Cornwall, with all the facilities we need to build and test our new technology. Getting the full support of the expert team at Marine-i together with this crucial grant funding, has provided the perfect kick-start to this exciting project.”