'Revolutionary' Belfast shipbuilding project could create 1,000 jobs after securing £33m grant

A digital impression of a concept ferry using the innovative Artemis technology.
A digital impression of a concept ferry using the innovative Artemis technology. A digital impression of a concept ferry using the innovative Artemis technology.

A Belfast shipbuilding consortium has won a £33 million UK Government innovation grant to develop zero emissions ferries in the city, potentially creating 1,000 jobs over the next decade.

The maritime project, led by double Olympic gold medallist Iain Percy’s firm Artemis Technologies, will initially create 125 research and development jobs.

The consortium says the £33m from the UK Research and Innovation flagship Strength in Places Fund, will bring the total investment to £60m over the next four years.

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The 13 partner syndicate includes Belfast Harbour, Bombardier, and Queen’s University.

A spin-off from the America’s Cup sailing team, Artemis Racing, Artemis Technologies has already invested around £5m in Belfast, creating two dozen jobs at the city’s harbour, where it is manufacturing a new prototype boat.

The consortium said the project, which combines hydrofoil technology with Belfast's aircraft wing-making expertise, has the potential to revolutionise the future of maritime transport.

Iain Percy
Iain Percy Iain Percy

Mr Percy said the goal is to develop technology that could create build the world's most environmentally friendly high-speed ferries, capable of carrying up to 350 passengers.

“When we launched Artemis Technologies, we decided to base ourselves in Belfast because of the incredible aerospace and composite engineering talent available,” he said.

“As cities across the world seek ways to reduce pollution and ease traffic congestion, the transformative vessels to be produced right here in Belfast, will have a global role to play in delivering the connected maritime transport system of the future.”

After two weeks of grim news, the development has provided some welcome relief for Bombardier.

Michael Ryan, who heads the aerospace firm’s operation in the north, said: “Bombardier Belfast is keen to expand into markets that exploit our capabilities/advanced technology and where there are synergies with novel technologies.

“The Artemis Technologies project, in our view, represents a credible technology path that could provide a technological ‘step-change’ to the maritime sector and passenger transportation.”

First Minister Arlene Foster said the project demonstrated the benefits of collaboration between business, academia and government.

“This investment can support economic growth locally, but its impact could be felt globally through solutions to more sustainable transport,” she said.

 Artemis' eFoiler propulsion system.
 Artemis' eFoiler propulsion system.  Artemis' eFoiler propulsion system.

Belfast Harbour boss, Joe O’Neill, described it as a cutting-edge maritime design project, which he said keeps Belfast firmly on the shipbuilding map.

Belfast City Council chief, Suzanne Wylie added: “This investment will help our economy recover more quickly, creating jobs and economic prosperity for the city.”

The Belfast consortium includes: Belfast Harbour, Bombardier Belfast, Northern Ireland Advanced Composites Engineering (NIACE), Creative Composites, Energia, Catalyst, Invest Northern Ireland, Ulster University, Belfast Met, Queen’s University, Belfast, Ards and North Down Borough Council, and Belfast City Council.