Marine wave and tidal

The study and research of devices and systems to capture and utilise the kinetic energy (e.g. via tidal turbine devices) or oscillatory energy (e.g. utilising wave energy converters) of bodies of water. Covering two distinct technologies, this research area includes systems, control and components as well as hydrodynamics, fluid dynamics and modelling. It also includes socio-economic and environmental issues related to wave and tidal technologies (e.g. the public acceptability and possible environmental impact of large-scale wave and tidal schemes). It does not include the development and application of hydrothermal sources and ocean thermal gradients.

We will support a cohesive interdisciplinary UK marine energy research capacity that delivers collaborative fundamental and applied, 'user inspired' research. This research will tackle immediate and long-term challenges, and provide policy-related evidence.

Over the last Delivery Plan period, academic capacity in this area has grown to a modest level. We envisage this being maintained, especially for early-career researchers, to support these ambitious research activities in the future.

The UK leads the world in wave and tidal energy research and innovation, development, demonstration and deployment. (Evidence source 1,2,3) As of the first quarter of 2016, the UK had 9MW of installed shoreline wave and tidal generation capacity. (Evidence source 4) The UK Renewables Roadmap estimates that up to 300MW could be installed by 2020, (Evidence source 5) but there are no set targets for marine energy generation. The devolved Scottish and Welsh Governments have a strong interest in these technologies. (Evidence source 6,7)

This strategy recognises that tidal turbine and wave energy converter technologies are at very different stages of development. (Evidence source 8) Wave research will be more fundamental, whereas tidal research tends to be closer to market and will start to pass out of our remit and into the UK innovation space. Both technologies should be addressed in equal measure within this research area.

Despite their disparity, each marine energy technology features similar key challenges, (Evidence source 1,8,9,10) focusing on, for example: environmental impact, foundations and moorings, resource modelling, power transmission, power systems management, device reliability, condition monitoring, and operation/maintenance, all of which must be addressed by fundamental research. There is a strong steer from UK government and industry to reduce the cost of marine energy.

Any future significant critical-mass investment will be built on the UK's key strengths in innovation and delivered via the Supergen Programme and associated Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs), which will provide a focus for research and leadership for the community.

The area will capitalise on existing UK testing infrastructure, including FloWave at the University of Edinburgh, the Coastal, Ocean and Sediment Transport (COAST) Laboratory at Plymouth University and demonstrator facilities at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), Wave Hub and the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult in Blyth. Closer working between EPSRC and other funding agencies will facilitate interdisciplinary research and translation to use through the Energy Programme. (Evidence source 2)

The strategy acknowledges the need for open data access and strategies for data acquisition, curation and signposting, for the good of the research community and UK innovation infrastructure and to enable impact of research outputs.

By the end of the Delivery Plan, we aim to:

  • Support research investments that create high-quality, user-inspired research outputs as well as maximising their uptake and impact
  • Use the existing strong links with the UK innovation infrastructure and industrial end-users to provide solutions to immediate and long-term problems
  • Support training that build on and adds value to the strong portfolio of research and existing training in this area
  • Enable early-career researchers across marine energy to build their profiles and track records
  • Strengthen connectivity with NERC encouraging research programmes that are complementary to NERC priorities

This research area is also of potential relevance to Official Development Assistance funding streams.


Marine, Wave and Tidal technology is of major interest to government, (Evidence source 1,5,8) particularly the Scottish and Welsh Governments (see above), having potential impact on the UK's ability to reach its ambitious 2050 greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. (Evidence source 11)

The UK is a world-leader in both wave and tidal technologies, internationally the Supergen Marine Energy Hub is well-renowned and the UK is a preferred partner of choice for many developing nations. These technologies are very exportable but are currently an expensive solution. Often, recipient countries need to decide whether to buy-in technology or do the research themselves.

The Marine, Wave and Tidal research area is supported by existing expertise in the Fluid Dynamics, Materials for Energy Applications, Control Engineering, and Materials Engineering - Composites areas. The area also benefits from interaction and collaboration with the Whole Energy Systems, Energy Storage and, in particular, Energy Networks research communities to find real-world solutions.

This research area has crossover with and draws additionally from the Natural Environment Research Council's (NERC's) Benefiting from Natural Resources strategic theme, which includes consideration of the potential environmental impacts or benefits.

The UK currently punches above its weight internationally in both technologies, (Evidence source 1,2) with a moderate academic volume. Within the portfolio we envisage maintaining capacity funding through the Supergen Programme, with a refocus towards targeting immediate and long-term problems and addressing the balance between wave and tidal technology, which is currently dominated by tidal.

The Marine, Wave and Tidal energy research area mainly contributes to the Resilient and Productive Nation Outcomes of the EPSRC Delivery Plan through the following Ambitions:

R1: Achieve energy security and efficiency

The technology makes use of an abundant, readily available resource to generate power and reduce UK reliance on imported fossil fuels.

R2: Ensure a reliable infrastructure which underpins the UK economy

The UK's wave and tidal sector is attracting global recognition and attention, and there is potential for future export of technology/knowledge; the technology also has potential to bring down the levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) to consumers.

P1: Introduce the next generation of innovative and disruptive technologies

The technology has the potential to be highly disruptive.

P2: Ensure affordable solutions for national needs

By making use of the UK's tidal and wave resource, and linking research to industrial end-users, this technology will bring down the LCOE to consumers.

  1. J. Skea, Investing in a Brighter Energy Future: Energy Research and Training Prospectus (PDF), (2013).
  2. The Supergen Programme review process, gathered evidence and reports, (2016).
  3. Consultation with the Department of Energy and Climate Change, and subsequently the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), about their research needs, (2016).
  4. BEIS, Digest of UK Energy Statistics (DUKES), (2016).
  5. DECC (now BEIS), UK Renewable Energy Roadmap (PDF), (2011).  
  6. Scottish Government, Energy 2020 Routemap for Renewable Energy in Scotland: Update (PDF), (2015).  
  7. Welsh Government, Energy Wales: A Low Carbon Transition Delivery Plan, (2016).  
  8. Low Carbon Innovation Coordination Group (LCICG), Marine Energy Technology Innovation Needs Assessment (TINA), (2012, refreshed 2015).   
  9. Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) and UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC), Marine Energy Technology Roadmap (PDF), (2014).
  10. European Ocean Energy, Industry Vision Paper (PDF), (2013).
  11. Climate Change Committee, The Fifth Carbon Budget, (2016).

Research area connections

This diagram shows the top 10 connections between Research Areas within the EPSRC research portfolio. The depth of the segment relates to value of grants and the width of the segment relates to the number of grants shared by those two Research Areas. Please click to see the related Research Area rationale.

Visualising our Portfolio (VoP)
Visualising our portfolio (VoP) is a tool for users to visually interact with the EPSRC portfolio and data relationships.

EPSRC support by research area in Marine wave and tidal (GoW)
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Contact Details

In the following table, contact information relevant to the page. The first column is for visual reference only. Data is in the right column.

Name: Mamiko Ohno
Job title: Senior Portfolio Manager
Department: Energy
Organisation: EPSRC
Telephone: 01793 444405