Close-up wave

Our mission is to advance sustainable use of the marine environment through our systems-thinking approach to research, education and innovation.

Plymouth has been a focus for marine science for over 100 years. Our research and partnerships are fundamental in helping us understand the marine environment and how best to tackle the challenges it currently faces.

Richard Thompson OBE FRSRichard Thompson OBE FRS
Director of the Marine Institute


Research priorities

Our planet is facing an unprecedented number of substantial global environmental challenges. With support from our partners and collaborators, the Marine Institute has identified five research themes to help address these challenges. Within each theme, we are developing and optimising positive interventions and training the scientists and business leaders of the future.
Our world-leading research aligns to a range of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Adopted by United Nations Member States in 2015, the SDGs are a call for action by all countries in a global partnership to tackle climate change, preserve our oceans and forests in hand with addressing inequalities and deprivations.
Our four research priority themes are:
  1. Towards net zero
  2. Sustainable blue economy
  3. Safe seas
  4. Healthy oceans
The fifth cross-cutting theme, Digital ocean, underpins all our research with technological innovation.
  • Life on Earth is threatened by increasing temperature, rising sea levels and more extreme weather events, resulting in flooding and wildfires.
  • Our oceans absorb a substantial proportion of CO2 from the atmosphere, mitigating the rise in greenhouse gases to some extent, but this leads to ocean acidification.
  • Changes are occurring at a faster rate than nature can adapt to.
We are pioneering the use of marine renewable energy to restore the global carbon balance, driving clean maritime through green shipping and autonomous systems, while increasing natural carbon capture, to minimise harmful effects of human activity.
Celtic Sea floating offshore wind
  • 40% of the world’s population live in coastal areas, with many relying on the ocean for their livelihoods.
  • The marine environment is a major contributor to food security and 80% of global trade uses the seas, yet human activity is the primary cause for environmental degradation, putting those same livelihoods at risk.
We are shaping positive change in the way humans interact with the ocean by providing the scientific evidence to underpin, design and implement safeguards for its sustainable exploitation. Our research informs policies that ensure the long-term viable provision of ecosystem services, such as food, recreation and tourism, maritime shipping and heritage, and health and wellbeing.
Fishing port of Brixham, Devon.
  • Technological, societal and environmental threats can result directly from human reliance on the ocean, as well as from natural hazards such as earthquakes and tsunamis.
  • Threats ranging from cyber attacks to coastal erosion or flooding all have the potential to cause major disruption.
Our world-leading expertise and facilities in cyber security drive innovative solutions to protect infrastructure at sea, while our forecasting and analysing of extreme natural events, alongside ground-breaking numerical modelling and novel engineering solutions, underpin impact mitigation of flooding and other coastal hazards.
Huge wave hitting the seawall at Porthleven, Cornwall
  • Accelerated industrial development, coupled with a progressively throw-away society, has played a significant role in the degradation of our oceans through pollution.
  • These societal trends have serious negative effects for marine ecosystems, reducing our ability to rely on them as a source of food.
Our researchers study the sources and impacts of factors that degrade the marine environment, including pollution and habitat destruction, in order to help develop and test practical solutions.
Ocean water and plastic trash, aerial view 1280 - 720
  • We urgently need to optimise the sustainable use of our oceans for food and energy security, while protecting and improving planetary health
  • To achieve our objectives, we need rapid acceleration in the development of digital technology.
Our world-leading expertise in the application of secure marine autonomous systems has the potential to underpin a wide range of activities, including scientific monitoring, observation, deep-sea exploration, and the generation of renewable energy. Furthermore, innovative AI techniques for biological image analysis are being used to inform environmental management.
USV CETUS is a C-Worker 4 unmanned surface vehicle developed and supplied by L3Harris Technologies (Credit University of Plymouth)

Latest news in marine and maritime

A hand reaches into a pile of small plastic pieces, that are about to be sorted and recycled.
University named among world’s best for minimising waste and marine excellence

The Times Higher Impact Rankings praised the University for research and activities linked to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

13 June 2024

Industry support

We support both small and medium-sized businesses, and large multi-nationals, regionally, nationally, and across the world, through:
  • long-term strategic partnerships to help with product and performance testing, workforce development, and ongoing research and development support
  • support to access public funds
  • and access to a large talent pool of students and PhDs.

University student and staff opportunities

We support students and early-career researchers to maximise their potential by providing access to funding, training and external opportunities through partnerships.
We support senior academic colleagues with financial support and training.
Marine Building

The Marine Institute: an integral part of the University's strategic research for the future

Enhanced by creative contributions from the arts, humanities and business, the University’s research spans three research institutes that are committed to finding solutions to some of the biggest global challenges.
View of Roland Levinsky building from The House