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The University of Southampton

Royal National Lifeboat Institution Advanced Technology Partnership (RNLI ATP)

Ship scientists, engineers and researchers in other disciplines at the University of Southampton work closely with the RNLI to support the charity and its mission of saving lives at sea.

The University has enjoyed its close association with the RNLI since the 1980s and on the back of a shared philosophy in promoting, investigating and implementing state of the art engineering, the Advanced Technology Partnership (ATP) began in 2001. It was the brainchild of the RNLI’s then lead naval architect Professor Bob Cripps and Professor Ajit Shenoi of, formerly, the Department of Ship Science, who now leads the Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute (SMMI).The ATP has grown, evolved and developed over the years.

Technological innovation is important to the RNLI. Lifeboats must be built to the highest safety standards if volunteer crews can save people at peril at sea without risking their own lives; trust in their equipment is paramount. Much work has been carried out at Southampton to understand the forces that lifeboats experience during the worst storms to improve their performance. Since the formation of the ATP, many collaborative projects have been undertaken. They range from undergraduate projects examining particular aspects of maritime engineering to more complex postgraduate research assignments and consultancy with the University’s world-leading academics and research engineers.

Increasingly, specialists in complementary areas of research beyond ship science contribute to RNLI projects. They include, for example, management scientists who can advise on how condition-based maintenance affects through-life costings of a typical lifeboat, and supply chain issues such as equipment obsolescence. Psychologists provide insights into how lifeboat crews handle their craft and the best ways of training them to be as safe and efficient as possible. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) may prove invaluable tools in the future by aiding search and rescue efforts at sea and helping with beach lifeguarding by providing ‘eyes in the skies’.

Every year, the RNLI ATP organises the Annual RNLI Lecture, hosted by the University of Southampton. A distinguished individual affected by or influencing matters related to maritime safety and engineering is invited to give their perspective; in 2014 the speaker was double Olympic gold medallist Shirley Robertson OBE.

For more information, contact:

Dr James Blake

023 8059 9544


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