A new report from consultancy Thetius has predicted that the People’s Republic of China will be the runaway leaders of the autonomous shipping market by 2025, with organisations in the country already holding almost all of the registered patents related to autonomous vessel technology development.
The researchers analysed close to 3,000 patents relating to autonomous shipping technology and found that 96% of them were registered in China. The vast majority of those patents were registered in the last five years by a small group of Chinese universities and private companies.
“The incredible amount of recent patent activity indicates that significant R&D funding has been made available to Chinese researchers building the next generation of autonomous shipping technology,” said Nick Chubb, Director of Thetius.
“Further, the government is highly supportive of the sector, having recently set up a 300 square mile autonomous shipping testbed in Guangdong.”
The report goes on to say that the maritime autonomous surface shipping (MASS) market is already worth $1.1 billion annually, and is expected to grow 7% per year to $1.5 billion by 2025.
$113 million of venture capital has been invested in MASS technology since 2010, the majority of which – despite the suggested dominance of China on the patent side – has gone to California-based start-up Saildrone, which has raised $88.5 million over four investment rounds.