A £1m fund has been created for small firms in the Solent area to encourage marine businesses.
It follows news, as reported on Monday, that the government has picked Portsmouth to be the home of a new £4m defence research base.
The cashpot has been launched by Solent Local Enterprise Partnership in association with the University of Southampton and the Defence Growth Partnership.
Eligible businesses will be able to apply for a share of the Defence Growth Partnership SME Fund by telling the Solent LEP how it would use the cash to develop unmanned marine systems.
The strongest proposals will then go to an investment panel made up of representatives from the DGP, Ministry of Defence, Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute, Solent LEP and Portsmouth City Council.
Companies will need to match fund the investment they receive.
Russell Kew, Solent LEP director and marine maritime sector lead, said: ‘The Solent remains one of the most important areas in the UK for defence and the government’s decision to home this new research centre here is evidence of that.
‘While it will understandably be some time until the centre opens its doors, it’s important to get moving now and give companies in this vital sector the funding they need to kick-start projects.
‘That’s exactly what this fund aims to do and I would urge any eligible businesses to take advantage of it before the opportunity passes.’
Don Spalinger, director of research and innovation services at the University of Southampton said: ‘The university looks forward to participating in the Maritime Autonomous System activity in partnership with the DGP Maritime Mission Systems team and the Solent LEP.’
Firms eligible to apply must be small or medium-sized and involved in the production and development of autonomous boat and submarines.
They must be able to match-fund any cash applied for.