'First of its kind' centre to test robotics and autonomous tech opens in Blyth

The £3m centre is the first of its king in the UK and was opened by the Minister for Energy Security and Net Zero Graham Stuart. Credit: ORE Catapult

A national centre to research and test robotics, drones and underwater vehicles which can be used in the offshore renewable energy market has opened in Northumberland.

The Digital, Autonomous, and Robotics Engineering (DARE) Centre is based at the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult testing centre in Blyth.

The £3m centre is the first of its kind in the UK and will include a number of areas including a robotics assembly bay, a test zone, and a monitoring system that will simulate live environments.

It is hoped that the digital and robotic systems that will be tested at DARE will be key in helping the country triple its offshore wind capacity over the next ten years, and reach its net zero target.

A number of companies were at the centre's opening on Thursday 18 May demonstrating some of their technology which is being used to improve the installation and maintenance of offshore wind turbines.

Graham Stuart, minister for energy security and net zero, who opened the centre, said: “I’m delighted to open the UK’s national robotics centre for offshore wind.

"Drones, robots and underwater vehicles can reinforce the UK’s position as the world leader in offshore wind, make us even more competitive, and keep turbines turning in even the most hazardous of conditions.

“The robotics centre will increase the safety and productivity of our highly skilled offshore wind technicians, lower costs, and contribute both to lower consumer bills and the nation’s energy security.”

Andrew Jamieson, chief executive at ORE Catapult, said: “The DARE Centre is a fantastic facility that will help the UK stay at the forefront of innovation in robotics, AI and digital solutions to support the growth of offshore renewables.

“The innovation we can unlock here will allow those at the cutting edge of offshore wind development to work faster and safer, optimise specialist skills, improve reliability, and reduce the carbon footprint of the next generation of offshore wind farms.”

Wind turbines in a North East wind farm Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Helen Golightly, chief executive of the North East LEP, said: “The offshore wind and green energy sectors in our region are internationally renowned, so it’s very fitting that the UK’s first centre for advancements in digital, autonomous and robotics engineering in renewable energy has opened here in the North East.

“The infrastructure that exists around offshore wind, and the skills and expertise in our region, has already helped attract significant investment.

"With Dogger Bank Wind Farm set to become the world’s largest offshore wind farm, the North East is well placed to seize new opportunities through the research and development and testing facilities on the River Blyth, as well as the growing base of manufacturing and logistics operations in the sector." 

The DARE Centre was funded by the Government Getting Building Fund, which is managed by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP), and Innovate UK.

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