“Ireland for too long turned its back on the sea. We are now facing into that,” Mr Kenny said as building work is set to begin on the Beaufort Centre maritime energy research lab in Cork Harbour.
It is being built by University College Cork next to the National Maritime College of Ireland in Cork Harbour as part of the Irish Maritime and Energy Resource Cluster campus plan at Haulbowline.
The plan is a partnership between UCC, the Cork Institute of Technology, and the Irish Naval Service.
The project will create up to 200 construction jobs, with up to 135 full-time researchers expected to take up positions once Beaufort is completed next year.
The centre, which has already secured over €50m in funding from European programmes and Science Foundation Ireland, will also house the National Ocean Test facility which will have the world’s largest, wave-testing tank.
“Ireland needs to be able to compete globally where new research in fields like sustainable energy and maritime science are concerned,” said Mr Kenny.
“We want to exceed €6.4bn a year in turnover from our maritime sectors by 2020, and want to double their contribution to 2.4% of GDP a year by 2030.
“The Government’s action plan for jobs 2013 recognises this and the Beaufort building will play an important role in the marine energy sector and help to drive Ireland’s economic recovery.”
Named after the Irish hydrographer, Rear Admiral Francis Beaufort, who devised the Beaufort scale for measuring wind strength, the centre will bring together the Hydraulics and Maritime Research Centre, the Coastal Marine Research Centre, and the Sustainable Energy Research Group, to form a new maritime research cluster, and aims to attract researchers from all over the world.
The research team will be led by professor of energy engineering at UCC, Tony Lewis, who first envisaged such a facility in the late 1970s. He described the sod turning as “a historic day”.
“All of the research that will be conducted in Beaufort building will be directed at economic activity in the maritime area,” he said.
The Irish Maritime Development Office estimates that direct employment in this area could double over the next five years, with the potential for up to 52,000 jobs in ocean energy, maritime security and safety, shipping, logistics and transport, and marine recreation in Ireland by 2030.
* The Beaufort lab will house the National Ocean Test Facility. Its facilities, which will be used for the design and testing of devices to be deployed at sea including wave, tidal, and offshore wind devices, will include:
* An ocean wave test tank (25m x 18m x 2m deep) with 40 wave paddles to produce 3D seas at model scale, and another tank (35m x 12m x 3m deep), with 12 electric paddles to simulate ocean waves.
* A coastal flume (27m x 3m x 1m deep) which includes a flow facility to test tidal power turbines.
* Mechanical and electrical workshops, power labs, energy storage, and smart-grid labs, as well as industry suites and incubation space.