Maritime Masters initiative: A vote for youthful potential

HRH Anne, the Princess Royal, was in attendance. (Credit: Chatham House)

For all of us, there comes a time in life when you have to cede to the younger generation. This might involve enlisting the offspring to manage a smartphone installation or getting a bright young thing on the phone to talk you through configuring your home network. Skills evolve and, despite our best efforts, we cannot always keep up. We might be too set in our ways or we simply can’t get our heads around a new-fangled concept.

If you are anything like me, you tend to come away from these youthful encounters having discovered something new and transformative, as well as feeling energised by their competence and comfort with new technology.

It seems as if Maritime UK has also locked on to the benefits of this kind of ideological exchange with its Maritime Masters programme. The scheme focuses on strengthening links with British universities that offer maritime-related courses, putting forward Masters students to partner with industry on research proposals connected to contemporary issues for the UK maritime sector. Those individuals who make the grade are then required to present their findings to an industry audience who then vote ‘X factor’-style for a winner.

If the inaugural event is anything to go by, “the valley of death” between educational institutions and the wider industry, as it was referred to by Maritime Research & Innovation UK’s professor Richard Bucknall, may become a thing of the past.

With presentations focusing on everything from policymaking at the International Maritime Organization and operational efficiency to ship design and hydrodynamics, the first set of eight participants dazzled when presenting their research at Clarkson’s London headquarters in early November.

Although the cerebral nature of the work produced some furrowed brows, it was outweighed by murmurs of acknowledgment and nodding heads from the great and the good of the industry, who lapped up the results from their student presenters. The initiative clearly has high-level approval as HRH Anne, The Princess Royal, was in attendance to name the victor.

A final vote saw Tessa Jones of Queen Mary University of London proclaimed the winner for her research on the lack of supporting regulation around blockchain, a presentation that kept tongues wagging during the drinks reception.

Describing the event as being about the future of the industry, Clarkson’s chief executive officer, Andi Case, pointed to the “insane” advantages that the UK as a maritime centre has in many arenas, with its academic prowess readily acknowledged as being one.

The UK has 15 world-class universities offering maritime courses and 85% of those enrolled come from abroad. Given the global nature of an industry that allows for skills to reach far-flung places, initiatives such as the Maritime Masters programme that foster closer collaboration with industry stakeholders and promote the UK’s educational expertise deserve our vote.