An early initiative of the Defence Growth Partnership was the establishment of the UK Centre for Maritime Intelligent Systems (CMIS) in Portsmouth; to build on the strong maritime experience and skilled workforce in the area.
The UK CMIS set up an initial synthetic environment and conducted initial de-risking and “proof of concept” activities as a development of a Maritime Autonomous Demonstrator Programme. Industry committed to create a “start-up” project team at the Portsdown Technology Park, supported by the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and the University of Southampton. Latterly, CMIS focused on experimenting and exploiting the outputs from the Unmanned Warrior 16 (UW16) exercise to allow capability level assessments of autonomous maritime mine countermeasure (MMC) solutions. This was pursued in partnership with the Royal Navy (RN) MARCAP. MMC had previously been recognised by the CMIS team as a significant export opportunity.
The following outcomes were successfully delivered and endorsed by government and industry as successful events that would not have been possible without collaborative working:
- Establishing a man-in-the-loop simulation facility that supported successfully a pan industry and RN proof of concept experiment in Summer 2015;
- Commissioning of a comprehensive market survey, that assessed the global market for Intelligent Maritime Mission Systems
- An innovation process that included soliciting contributions and ideas from non-traditional suppliers including academia and Small to Medium Enterprise (SMEs);
- Establishing a visualisation that supported very early stage experimentation as a “sand pit”.
As a consequence of the CMIS’ outcomes and likely future scope a number of factors were considered:
- The RN MARCAP recognised value and benefits in the outcomes generated.
- Whilst developing, the export opportunities are longer term.
- Industrial appetite to pursue co-investment in due course.
- Was a CMIS ‘centre’ the optimum forum for pursuing a collaborative strategy?
After careful analysis it was decided that the CMIS should be stood down as a ‘centre’ and it ceased operation on 28th February 2017. To continue pursuing maritime market opportunities the UKDSC has instead:
- Established, and lead, a Maritime Community of Interest (CoI);
- Continued to engage with the RN with the objective of stimulating maritime autonomous systems contracts for UK Industry.
As part of the CMIS transition:
- All staff secondees have returned to their parent companies; many have returned to parent companies into roles which allows them to build directly upon their experience at CMIS; many have remained in the Portsmouth area.
- The synthetic environment has been returned to Thales UK, who loaned the equipment originally, and has been retained on the Portsdown Technology Park (PTP) to support Thales’ contribution to the Dstl MAPLE 4 contract.
- The CMIS labs at PTP have been returned to QinetiQ. It is understood that QinetiQ intend to develop and modernise the site.