Marine Autonomy and Technology Showcase goes from strength to strength

MATS 2018 highlights

Last week (13–15 November) saw the NOC host the Marine Autonomy and Technology Showcase 2018 (MATS-2018), which welcomed hundreds of delegates from across industry, academia, government, defence and beyond to the Southampton waterfront site.

MATS-2018 was the fourth annual event focusing on the present and future of marine autonomous technology and this year boasted its biggest roster of expert speakers, a packed exhibition arena, and more attendees than previous showcases.

The Marine Autonomy and Technology Showcase has gone from strength to strength since launching in 2015, and by all measures this year’s event was the biggest and best yet. Attendees came from a wide range of sectors and organisations, including research centres, universities, multi-national corporations, SMEs, and government departments and agencies, enabling technology manufacturers and developers to meet with scientists, researchers and other end-users.

Pioneering marine autonomous platforms

MATS-2018 opened with a keynote speech from Major General Robert Magowan CB, CBE Royal Navy, who highlighted the Navy’s growing interest in marine autonomous systems across a range of operational disciplines. The NOC’s Head of Marine Autonomous Systems Development, Dr Alex Phillips, delivered a presentation on the Oceanids programme, funded by the governments’ Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, which is enabling the development of pioneering marine autonomous platforms that will allow scientists to explore further and deeper into our oceans, tackling the biggest environmental challenges facing the planet.

The event also saw updates on the most recent demonstrator mission co-ordinated by the NOC. The Marine Autonomous Systems in Support of Marine Observations (MASSMO) programme is now into its fifth year, with this year’s deployment taking place last month off the coast of Orkney and bringing together the NOC, Dstl, Ecosub, University of East Anglia and others, including the first time a Royal Navy vessel - HMS Enterprise - has been directly involved in the operation. 

In addition to a packed programme of keynote and technical presentations, the three-day event provided an effective and lively forum for networking and discussion, including a well-received poster session from NEXUSS PhD students, highlighting research from some of the bright emerging talent that will be entering the industry over the next few years.

The NOC is a pioneer of marine autonomy - a transformative and disruptive technology that is contributing to the government’s Industrial Strategy and continues to generate ever-growing interest from major industry sectors. MATS-2018 brought all of this together in one place. Feedback from delegates, speakers and exhibitors has been overwhelmingly positive and plans are already well underway for next year’s MATS, which will take place in November 2019.

Celebration of emerging and existing partnerships

Aidan Thorn, the NOC’s Marine Robotics Innovation Centre Manager, said: “The Marine Autonomous and Technology Showcase 2018 was our biggest yet, welcoming over 300 guests from 12 countries to share ideas, knowledge and experiences around developing the next generation of marine robotic systems. MATS is a great showcase for the pioneering work that the NOC is delivering in the field of marine robotics, for the benefit of UK industry and the wider science community. The event is also a celebration of emerging and existing partnerships, and a genuine catalyst for innovation in the sector.”

Prof Russell Wynn, NOC Chief Scientist for Marine Autonomous and Robotic Systems, said: “Once again, our Marine Autonomy and Technology Showcase provided a unique opportunity to update our partners and the wider end-user community on the Oceanids and MASSMO programmes, and also enabled us to learn from the experiences of others who are developing these important technologies.

“An emerging theme across the three days this year was that of ‘trust’, and a tacit consensus from many presenters that this most human of concepts will be ever more important in terms of securing wider adoption of autonomous technologies in the future. All of this experience sharing is vital if we are to fast-track the deployment of marine robotics to tackle environmental challenges in the ocean, such as over-fishing, chemical and noise pollution, and climate change impacts.”




“MATS is a really important event on the marine robotics calendar. It is a great opportunity to hear not only what steps forward the NOC have made but also the whole industry and eco-system around it. This year certainly had a real buzz and the event is a great indicator of just how busy this industry is at the moment.”

Dan Hook, Senior Director – Business Development, L3 ASV

“MATS-2018 at NOC was a step up from previous years in all respects; the number and quality of delegates, exhibitors and the quality of the talks makes MATS a must attend event in our busy calendar.”

Terry Sloane, Managing Director, Planet Ocean / ecoSUB

“MATS was a great forum to introduce the Maritime Autonomy Regulation Lab (MARLab) to a broad spectrum of industry players, and at the same time gain a comprehensive overview of industry and academic achievements over the past 12 months, and to discuss ambitions and new uses for these technologies in the future.”

Tim Wilkes, Product Manager, MCA

“Sonardyne’s deep capabilities are enablers for #oceanrobots. Bringing these to the right forum, to the right people in the industry, is of great value to us. That is why I firmly believe that there is space in the calendar for a show specialising in autonomy on the maritime domain. If MATS continues to grow, and be as effective as it was this year, then MATS is that show. Unless you can find another show that invites both BP and the Royal Navy to outline their visions for marine autonomy. Not that easy.”

Ioseba Tena, Global Business Manager – Marine Robotics Systems, Sonardyne

“The intimate set up and combination of presenting and exhibiting at MATS gives us the opportunity to introduce and demonstrate our new technology solutions, whether they are in the research phase or a final product, to current and potential partners and customers.”

Nick Green, Global Business Development Manager, SeeByte

“Great to see all of UK marine autonomy under one roof. MATS has really established itself as a vital date in our diary. We especially liked the balance between presentations and exhibitions, scientists and industry – stimulated some great discussions.”

Phil Johnston, Business Development Manager, Seiche Ltd