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Marine Research Plymouth cements city’s reputation as the UK’s go-to location for marine science

8 June 2021

The city of Plymouth has seen its position as an international centre of excellence for marine research further enhanced after its three leading science organisations joined forces to launch Marine Research Plymouth.

Aerial image of Plymouth

The University of Plymouth, the Marine Biological Association and Plymouth Marine Laboratory already have world-leading reputations individually across a range of marine disciplines and have strong track records in delivering projects for governments, industry and research bodies.

Collectively, however, they host the largest number of marine scientists in any UK city and the greatest number of undergraduate and postgraduate marine students anywhere in the country.

Between them, they alerted the world to marine plastics, have conducted the longest running assessment of plankton health, and are consistently pioneering new technology and innovations that highlight the impact of climate change on our oceans and coastlines.

Marine Research Plymouth seeks to harness all of that and ensure Plymouth – Britain’s Ocean City –  is the go-to place in the UK, and one of the leading centres globally, for marine science research.

The three organisations will retain their individual identities and roles while promoting even greater collaboration on major projects and ventures.

Marine Research Plymouth will encourage joint investment in research appointments and support the sharing of capabilities, equipment and facilities.

It will ensure Plymouth is even better-placed to attract further funding for initiatives that can advance knowledge and understanding of the oceans.

The signing of the partnership agreement comes at a critical time for marine and climate science, both in the UK and globally.

The G7 summit starts in Cornwall this week and the United Nations climate change conference (COP26) is scheduled to take place in Glasgow later this year, while 2021 also marks the start of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.

Professor Judith Petts CBE, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Plymouth – recently named the best university globally for its marine research and teaching in the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 2021 – said: “World-leading science that ensures the health and sustainability of marine environments is dependent on collaboration. The University collaborates across the UK and globally and its leadership in marine science has long been recognised. I am delighted that Marine Research Plymouth builds on our immensely strong local partnerships to showcase and position Plymouth – Britain’s Ocean City – as a centre of global leadership, opportunity and impact in the marine and ocean sciences that are so vital to our planet.”

Professor Willie Wilson, Director of the Marine Biological Association – one of the world’s longest-running societies dedicated to promoting research into our oceans – added: “I am personally excited about Marine Research Plymouth and I know there is genuine enthusiasm among marine researchers across the city. Working together will create a synergy that will allow us to think big, be more competitive and become a powerhouse of ocean science; the time is perfect for this to happen.”

Professor Icarus Allen, Chief Executive of Plymouth Marine Laboratory – which consistently produces research listed amongst the top 1% of the most cited environmental science papers in the world and has unrivalled capabilities in marine monitoring and AI technology – said: “A healthy and sustainable ocean can only be achieved if organisations, individuals, industry and policy-makers work together to address the increasing challenges faced by the marine environment. Plymouth Marine Laboratory already works collaboratively with partners across the world to further our understanding of the ocean and create sustainable solutions to issues such as climate change and marine plastics.

“Through Marine Research Plymouth there is an opportunity to further harness the world-leading expertise and long heritage of marine research that exists in Plymouth – Britain’s Ocean City – and create a true centre of global excellence. This will bring benefits not just for the organisations involved but for the city and its residents, the wider South West, the UK and beyond.” 

The establishment of Marine Research Plymouth has been supported by funding from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), part of UK Research and Innovation.

Professor Sir Duncan Wingham, Executive Chair of NERC, said: “Plymouth has always had very significant expertise across a wide spectrum of marine sciences. The work carried out in the city represents an important component in helping us understand the biological ocean, and in recent years it has become extraordinarily well-known for its foundational work on marine plastics.

“Plymouth also has the ambition to use its marine heritage and capabilities to reinvigorate itself economically – Marine Research Plymouth can play a major role in achieving that. By uniting in this way, particularly at the start of the UN Decade of Ocean Science, I believe there is the potential for considerable benefits on many fronts.”

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