Marine Sensors Proof of Concept

Robotic vehicle being launched into the sea

The oceans play a crucial role in the prosperity and future of civilisation, but their biogeochemical variations remain a challenge to measure, limiting quantitative understanding and our predictive capabilities. Autonomous sensors are well placed to address this capability gap, however, whilst there have been considerable advances in recent years in the operational use of autonomous marine physics sensors, the operational use of autonomous biogeochemistry and biology sensors remains in its infancy.

This programme aims to build on recent research investments in novel marine technologies in the UK and Japan and deliver proof of concept projects for high-risk high-reward innovative sensing technologies.

Marine Sensors Proof of Concept - Announcement of Opportunity

Closing date: 24 Aug
2017

20 Jun 2017

Proposals are invited for submission to a new jointly funded activity between funding agencies in the UK and the Japan Science & Technology Agency (JST) that will deliver 'proof of concept' biogeochemical and biological sensors projects for autonomous observations in the marine and aquatic environment.

The oceans play a crucial role in the prosperity and future of civilisation, but their biogeochemical variations remain a challenge to measure, limiting quantitative understanding and our predictive capabilities. Oceans provide essential natural resources such as offshore energy resources, locations for carbon sequestration capture and storage, fish, tourism, minerals, and a route for global transport of goods and resources.

Much of the ocean environment, including the deep sea, remains unexplored or poorly characterised. To understand, predict, protect and manage ocean processes and resources requires a step change in the available data from this environment. This is particularly true for biogeochemical cycling of oxygen, carbon, nutrients and metals and the resultant microbiological response that dominates ocean productivity and influence fisheries and carbon sequestration potential. These processes vary widely over geographic and temporal scales from the coast to remote-ocean (productive) surface, to (the sequestering) deep sea. Therefore ocean scientists and stakeholders need vast numbers of measurements to study processes leading to effective models, understanding, and effective management and exploitation of these fragile yet valuable environments.

Autonomous sensors are well placed to address this capability gap due to the immediacy of their analysis and ability for widespread year-round deployments on autonomous platforms, such as sea gliders and Argo floats, and on existing traditional infrastructure for extended time series, such as the RAPID North Atlantic observing system. However, whilst there have been considerable advances in recent years in the operational use of autonomous marine physics sensors, the operational use of autonomous biogeochemistry and biology sensors remains in its infancy. There is therefore a critical need to develop the next generation of biogeochemistry and biology autonomous sensors, that can be deployed in numbers (for example, on the Argo float array) and deliver the step change in data density both temporally and spatially.

The development of world-class marine autonomous sensors is a major strength of scientists in the UK and Japan. Whilst there have been considerable advances in recent years in the operational use of autonomous marine physics sensors, the operational use of autonomous biogeochemistry and biology sensors remains in its infancy. This capability gap limits our ability to move forward with science in a number of key areas, including:

  • the response of ocean biogeochemistry and biology in a warming and acidifying future
  • understanding impacts of biogeochemical cycles and their variability on the ocean carbon pump
  • the distribution, sources and fate of chemical elements, harmful organisms and alien species.

Recent advances in sensor technology promise to close the capability gap for some biogeochemistry and biology essential ocean variables (EOV). However, for a wide range of high priority biogeochemistry and biology EOVs there is either no, or poor, sensing capability available.

A key outcome of this programme will be a number of innovative and disruptive approaches using technologies that will ideally be at Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 4 by the end of the programme. This outcome will help to bridge the biogeochemistry-biology capability gap for autonomous observation of the oceans, and will ultimately help to move away from research ship dependence by accelerating the wider use of autonomous observing technologies. In time, this will lead to improved understanding of marine ecosystem by taking the use of novel marine observing technology beyond proof of concept to proof of delivery.

Timing

2017 - 2021

Can I apply for a grant?

Yes, the announcement of opportunity for this call has been published.

Budget

This programme is jointly funded by the UK and the Japan Science & Technology Agency (JST) and aims to award up to three proof of concept studies with maximum funding of £300,000 per award.