Will be largest facility of its kind in Europe
A project to build a world-class, aquatic training and development centre for marine and space research at the University of Essex was shortlisted in 2016 for an Enterprise Europe Network Award.
Blue Abyss will feature the world's largest and deepest indoor pool – 50 metres in depth and equivalent to 14 Olympic swimming pools. It promises to be the premier facility of its kind in the UK and Europe.
Construction at the university's Knowledge Gateway Innovation Park in Colchester is expected to start early next year and be finished in 18 months.
Blue Abyss will include a Kuehnegger Human Performance Centre, hyper and hypobaric chambers, a microgravity suite along with a 120-bed hotel
Astronaut training facility
Around 40 staff will be needed for the diving centre, another 20-25 for the astronaut training facility and 60 more in the hotel. The whole facility is expected to generate annual profits of €3.5 million.
EEN in the East of England has supported Blue Abyss with connections, funding advice and pan-European market research needed for pitches to investors.
Blue Abyss will be used for recreational and advanced commercial diving as well as human spaceflight training, allowing space scientists to study how the body changes in a weightless environment.
Human physiology research
The facility will cater for human physiology researchers too, by helping them study the effects of the marine and space environments on the human body.
Blue Abyss managing director John Vikers had turned to his local Enterprise Europe Network office, when he needed help in accessing finance and attracting investment.
They put him in touch with a business coach while also introducing the company to different funding streams and business advice programmes.
Meanwhile EEN teamed up with colleagues across Europe to compile information on the commercial and remote diving markets, as well as other applications in gas, nuclear power, shipping and harbour operations. A single EEN market research report also provided data on human space flight, human physiology and research into extreme environments.
"I am very grateful to Enterprise Europe Network advisers for their support and assistance. Our presentations were really enhanced by the market research information which enabled the company and the University of Essex to conduct further market analysis and meet with both the European and UK space agencies."
John Vikers, Blue Abyss MD