A £15 million institute for research into harnessing energy from the sea is being set up by two UK universities.

A £15 million institute for research into harnessing energy from the sea is being set up by two UK universities with the aim of putting the country at the forefront of wave energy development. Called the Peninsula Research Institute for Marine Renewable Energy, the institute is a joint venture between the universities of Exeter and Plymouth and will combine the two organizations’ expertise in environmental technologies and marine science.

An initial investment of £1.4 million from the South West of England Regional Development Agency (RDA) has enabled the Institute to recruit new research teams, including new professorial appointments, and bring world-leading experts to work in the region.

The Research Institute will work alongside the £28 million Wave Hub project, being developed by the South West RDA off the coast of Cornwall, which will allow wave energy device developers to test their technology on a scale never before possible. The UK government has now given planning permission to Wave Hub and it will be up and running by 2009.

The Institute will support Wave Hub, wave energy device developers and the marine renewable energy community. South West England has one of the best tidal and wave resources in Europe and the Research Institute will exploit that potential by supporting the development of a wave energy industry in the region.

The Institute will aim to monitor the ‘wave climate’ to an extent which has not been done before. This will give greater confidence to prospective investors in wave energy projects and provide the South West with a world-class source of data of value to energy device developers, utility companies, government agencies and researchers worldwide.

Professor George Smith of the university of Exeter said: “Wave energy holds the promise of delivering a significant proportion of the UK’s energy requirements in the future. This partnership will enable the University of Exeter’s growing team of renewable energy researchers to contribute to international quality research, support the development of the industry and maximise the potential benefits to the South West region.”

Lorelei Hunt, Director of Innovation at the South West RDA, said: “Harnessing energy from the sea is still an embryonic industry but has enormous potential. This further investment in knowledge capital will ensure that we maximise the economic benefits of our investment in Wave Hub. We are investing to ensure our region becomes an internationally significant centre of expertise in marine renewables, including research and development, design, construction and operation of new technologies.”