HAMPSHIRE companies have today received a £5m funding boost to develop cutting-edge technology for unmanned boats and submarines.

The cash injection was announced by the new minister for Portsmouth Matthew Hancock when he visited the county today.

There is booming global demand for the technology with estimators valuing the overall market at $136 billion over the next 15 years.

Mr Hancock made the pledge while meeting staff at Autonomous Service Vehicles in Portchester a company which designs and builds a range of unmanned vessels for use by offshore energy companies, scientists and the military.

The government believes that the Portsmouth area - with its skills base and marine strengths - is perfectly placed to become a hub for the rapidly growing sector.

Mr Hancock said: “Unmanned boats are part of a growing £100 billion global industry and are a great opportunity for Portsmouth.

“This £5 million funding for research and development can help keep Portsmouth, and local Portsmouth companies like Autonomous Surface Vehicles, Qinetiq and BAE systems at the cutting edge of technology.

“It is another step in the right direction for Portsmouth, building on recent developments like the £125 million Solent Growth deal and Sir Ben Ainslie's decision to base his America's Cup team here. I am delighted to visit Portsmouth in the first week in the job to meet with local leaders and discuss how we can continue to build on the strong momentum built by Michael Fallon and local leaders.”

The minister will also visit the historic waterfront in Portsmouth and meet with Portsmouth City Council and the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

Mr Hancock is also responsible for ensuring that Britain is a good place for small firms to start and grow met owners of family run shop Southsea Coffee which has received £20,000 from the Solent LEP'S Bridging the Gap fund.

The investment follows last week's announcement by Prime Minister David Cameron to pledge a £4m investment to make Portsdown Technology Park home to a new UK Centre for Maritime Intelligent Systems.

Last week the Solent LEP also announced that it would be making a £1 million fund available for Solent small and medium-sized businesses developing unmanned marine systems such as autonomous boats and submarines.