Maritime and Marine

Zero emissions shipping for the UK

Shipping accounts for 95% of international freight arriving in the UK, with close to 420 million tonnes of goods being handled at UK ports in 2020-21, and this is expected to grow exponentially grow over the next two to five years. 

There are some key challenges for this industry. Material waste needs to be reduced and the transition to cleaner fuels for domestic and international shipping is difficult. The UK Shipping Office for Reducing Emissions (UK-SHORE) aims to transform the UK into a global leader in the design and manufacture of clean maritime technologies, with low carbon hydrogen likely to play a crucial role. The Department for Transport estimates that by 2050, there could be 75-95TWh of demand for hydrogen-based fuels from UK domestic and international shipping. Hydrogen use in shipping could help create an end-to-end low carbon freight system from port to door. 

The route to decarbonising shipping is threefold: innovation in design and manufacture to increase manufacturing speed to get products right, first time; streamlining operational processes to reduce waste and costs; and the use of low and zero carbon fuels. Hydrogen is at the heart of what we do and shapes the activities that are being undertaken at the National Composites Centre. 

Composites in the marine industry

Composites have been a material of choice in the marine industry for the last 50 years, largely for their excellent strength to weight characteristics, corrosion resistance for extended periods of time, flexibility and stiffness. With increasing demand for composite materials in the delivery of net zero technologies, the NCC is working with a range of organisations to find sustainable solutions for end-of-life composites and the associated manufacturing material and consumable waste.

A key area of our work is to investigate and test a variety of bio-based source materials for composites and provide a viable route to recycling, which will help steer the marine industry to a cleaner, brighter and more sustainable future. We can help you to streamline your processes to increase manufacturing speed and reduce in-process waste. 

What we do

At the National Composites Centre, we are assessing biomaterials and resin systems to support the adoption of bio-sensitive materials that reduce the potential environmental impact for OEMs. The overarching aim is to accelerate the route to net zero, helping UK companies to innovate and create a green ecosystem for maritime and marine.  

Marine composite waste

According to the International Maritime Organization, it is both glass-reinforced plastics (GRP) waste from production processes and end-of-life products that are a huge challenge, with around 55,000 tonnes of GRP waste produced from the UK marine industry every year. This is expected to increase by 10% each year. This is not only a major environmental issue but a key challenge for the marine sector. Marine waste reduces company profitability, so having a route to cost-effective end-of-life disposal and the ability to reuse manufacturing waste is key to protecting the environment we treasure.

The National Composites Centre can help identify options for end-of-life GRP and other composite materials. We can also optimise in-process methods to reduce the materials used through the manufacturing process, as well as identify and test natural and bio-based alternative source materials. 

Hydrogen storage solutions for net zero

Read more about Hydrogen storage solutions for net zero

Hydrogen storage solutions for net zero

Although most new vessels are equipped with engines that are multi-fuel, there is still a need to operate cleaner in and around our shores and inland waterways. Hydrogen and methanol based fuels offer a solution.

The National Composites Centre has been developing design capability for hydrogen pressure vessels and pipes that will provide solutions for the toughest problems the marine and maritime industry faces. 


Digital transformation for composites in marine

Read more about Digital transformation for composites in marine

Digital transformation for composites in marine

At the National Composites Centre, we work with engineering and manufacturing companies and digital technology providers of all sizes to develop innovative and impactful digital solutions. Working across industry, we help organisations to reduce costs, enhance their productivity, reduce time to market and develop sustainable products.

We can help your marine business to use digital technology and techniques to help visualise your data and designs - from the drawing office into the boat yard. If boat builders are to reduce waste, maintain design conformity and increase design freedom, then augmented reality can enable this transition to be made. We have a dedicated Digital Engineering team who can help you to digitally optimise your products.

Work with us

Access our world leading R&D facility

Read more about Access our world leading R&D facility

Access our world leading R&D facility

As one of the seven centres that make up the UK's High Value Manufacturing Catapult, the NCC has more 450 composite experts (and an additional 200 at the University of Bristol) that can support you with solutions for your business and product challenges.

We've invested over £200 million in cutting edge technologies within our two Bristol-based facilities since we began in 2011. Our portfolio has grown extensively: we’re working with companies of all sizes from micro-organisations and start-ups to some of the world’s largest and most respected innovators. With links to over 60 universities and academic institutions, we are in a prime position to accelerate your product development from low technology readiness levels towards a robust commercial offering. 

Collaboration and funding opportunities

Read more about Collaboration and funding opportunities

Collaboration and funding opportunities

Working with the National Composites Centre could not be simpler. We can work with you and support your business through a variety of ways: from a standard contracting commercial basis through to supporting or leading bids into wider funding calls, and as a part of major collaborative research programmes.   

Our SME team offers dedicated support to help small businesses with innovation, giving access to our facility and expertise to increase the technology readiness level (TRL) of your products. In 2021, we secured over £7.5 million of grant funding and supported 169 SMEs. 

As part of the wider Catapult Network, the NCC fosters collaborations between industry, government, research organisations, academia and many others. Through this extensive network of organisations, we can help create the best environments for innovation, working with thousands of innovative businesses across a wide range of sectors, such as manufacturing, space, health, digital, energy, transport, telecoms, the urban environment and many others. 

NCC membership opportunities

The National Composites Centre offers a range of membership opportunities that give you access to 'beyond' state-of-the-art technology and the best composites engineering capabilities in the world, as well as expert advice from specialist engineers. Our Members are our closest customers – helping to steer our major R&D activities with multiple partners, allowing them to share the benefits of the programme outputs that have greater value as a collaboration. Find out how membership with the NCC can bring you added benefits. 


Book a consultation with the team

Our dedicated Surface Transport team has specific marine and maritime sector expertise that can help you to innovate and decarbonise your products and services. We can help you to shape your R&D, collaborate with you on your projects, offer training and skills development, and advise you on what is required to increase the technology readiness level of your product and get ready for market. We're here to help. 

Get in touch

Marine news, projects and case studies

  • Read more about Project CAPSULE

    Project CAPSULE

    We're working with Teignbridge on Project CAPSULE to design the next generation of sustainable composite propulsion systems for marine transport. 

  • Read more about Composites recycling consortium for the marine industry

    Composites recycling consortium for the marine industry

    We're supporting a collaboration led by SME Blue Parameters that aims to create the UK’s first large-scale glass-reinforced plastics (GRP) and fibre-reinforced plastics (FRP) recycling facility, looking at the process of recycling composite materials and their re-use.

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