The UK has a distinguished history of oceanographic research, can lay claim to the birth of oceanography as a scientific discipline and remains a world-leader in scientific discovery and publication. The recent Nurse Review (by Prof. Sir Paul Nurse) highlighted that sovereign research infrastructures also contribute significantly to the strength of the UK research, development and innovation landscape.

The Future Marine Research Infrastructure programme will deliver next-generation technologies required by the UK if it is to maintain its leadership in ocean science.

Leigh Storey, FMRI Senior Responsible Owner

At a time when the ocean and polar regions are changing faster than ever due to the climate crisis, the FMRI programme will provide the UK with the critical infrastructure needed to understand the global and societal impacts of climate change.

New technologies and new techniques

The changing mix of ocean observing technologies through the decades.

Ever since the Challenger Expedition in 1872, oceanographic research has been centred around the use of research ships visiting areas of scientific interest. That ship-based capability will remain a vital element of NERC’s marine research infrastructure for years to come. However, the Future Marine Research Infrastructure (FMRI) programme will deliver new technologies to enable new and different science. The greater spatial and temporal coverage provided by networked autonomous fleets (supporting semi-persistent presence) will offer scientists access to vastly expanded data sets and generate new understanding that could not be achieved with conventional, ship-based deployments.

As FMRI’s digital infrastructure matures, the ability to conduct remote campaigns and participate virtually in research expeditions will create new opportunities for broad, multi-disciplinary and international research collaborations. It will also make oceanography a more inclusive discipline for those who may be unable to participate in traditional, ship-based expeditions.

Delivering in partnership

In its ambition to build a new research environment, FMRI will aim to develop partnerships with industry that will underpin this infrastructure. This will create the opportunity to establish a new paradigm for collaboration between the science community and industry. This mutually beneficial partnership could generate new economic opportunities while also providing the science community with early access to technology that is under development.

Path to net zero

UKRI is committed to achieving net zero by 2040, and a sustainable research environment will require the decarbonisation of the existing marine research infrastructure which currently contributes over 70% of NERC’s carbon emissions. FMRI technologies will play an important role in gathering low-carbon data sets and enabling the future use of low-carbon alternative fuels for ship-based science.


NZOC Summary Report

This report seeks to identify options for developing a world-class oceanographic capability with a reduced carbon footprint by presenting a range of options for transitioning to low or zero carbon capabilities.

NZOC Scoping Report (pdf)