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Public Policy|Southampton

Minister for Science, Innovation and Technology visits Southampton

Published: 19 May 2023
George Freeman MP
Minister of State for Science, Innovation and Technology George Freeman MP visits Southampton

Minister of State for Science, Innovation and Technology George Freeman MP found out more about the current research and world-leading facilities at the University of Southampton during a recent visit organised by Public Policy|Southampton.

The Minister, who had expressed an interest in marine science and technology, visited the Coral Reef Laboratory at the National Oceanography Centre Southampton and the Towing Tank at Boldrewood Innovation Campus .

He was met by Professor Mark Spearing , the University’s Vice-President (Research and Enterprise); Professor Joerg Wiedenmann , Head of the Coral Reef Laboratory; Professor Stephen Turnock , Head of Civil, Maritime and Environmental Engineering; and Dr Nicholas Townsend , who shared with him the impact the University is having on society and the environment in these areas of research.

One of the Coral Reef Laboratory’s key missions is to contribute to marine research, coral restoration and the conservation of endangered species. The laboratory is a fully established system for coral reef projects and experimentation and includes an innovative coral nursery facility and an experimental aquarium facility for long-term experiments with reef-building corals.

The 138-metre Towing Tank is the largest university towing tank in the UK and can be used to improve the efficiency of ships or harness energy from the sea. A bank of wave-makers at one end of the tank generates wave patterns creating a variety of realistic sea states that can be tested using ship models to see how vessels are likely to operate in these conditions.

Professor Mark Spearing said: “It was a pleasure to welcome Minister Freeman to the University. He engaged with interest and enthusiasm in the sessions we arranged for him on coral reefs and the maritime towing tank, which fitted closely with his overall purpose of understanding and promoting the Solent Maritime Innovation Cluster.

“We are very proud to be one of the key institutions contributing across the wide range of innovation activities in this cluster, which is of regional, national and international significance.”

Professor Joerg Wiedenmann added: "I informed the minister about how the water quality affects the resilience of corals to survive under the impact of global warming and how our findings suggest that it is not ‘game over’ yet for coral reefs.

“Accordingly, it is a worthwhile investment to conserve coral reefs and the valuable services they deliver to human societies. I was impressed how well informed the minister was about the coral reef subject.”

Towing Tank founder Professor Stephen Turnock said: “It was great to be able to showcase the University’s use of its tow tank in seeking solutions for maritime decarbonisation. The Minister’s sailing experience really helped in his understanding of the challenges with how the energy efficiency of ships can be significantly improved.”

The visit was made possible by Yaryna Basystyuk and Dr Wassim Dbouk of Public Policy|Southampton.

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