Blue Abyss: Diving into the future

Story of Blue Abyss - a world-class aquatic research, training and development centre

Monday, September 26, 2016 —  

Dear Journalist,

The Enterprise Europe Network Awards recognise small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) who took advantage of the services and support of the Enterprise Europe Network, the world's largest support network for SMEs with international ambitions. Composed of 3000 experts across 600 member organisations in more than 60 countries, the Network helps SMEs grow faster through tailored support, new commercial partnerships and access to finance.

For this year’s edition, the British SME Blue Abyss has been selected as one of the nominees in the category “New directions”. The winners will be announced on 14 November during a ceremony in Bratislava, Slovakia.

The SME success story below can be used for your coverage free of charge and copyright (entire version or its parts). Interviews with the entrepreneur or the Network member can also be arranged upon your request (please contact:  


Blue Abyss: Diving into the future

​Inspired by the ocean since he was a young boy, entrepreneur John Vickers decided to take the plunge and launch a project to build the world’s largest and deepest indoor pool. With support from the Enterprise Europe Network, John was able to fulfil a lifetime ambition and create Blue Abyss, a world-class aquatic research, training and development centre to be built at the University of Essex. Once completed, Blue Abyss aims to attract international human life scientists and researchers.

After serving in the British Army for eight years and qualifying as a diving instructor, John worked in management consultancy but the idea of developing an ocean-related business never really faded.

I took the decision together with my family to pursue this idea that I had to develop the world’s first commercial astronaut training centre and the world’s biggest research and development pool, 

recalls John, managing director of Blue Abyss.

The proposed 50m deep pool will be used for recreational and advanced commercial diving and human spaceflight training, providing space scientists a unique analogue to study how the body changes in a weightless environment.

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. Wanting Blue Abyss to become a global facility, John has been in discussions with international space agencies and other foreign authorities regarding the pool, as currently astronauts use facilities in Germany, Russia or the US.

Struggling to find clear information and advice on how to access finance and attract investment, John turned to his local Enterprise Europe Network members St John’s Innovation Centre and Exemplas Holdings based in the east of England. The world's largest support network for small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) with international ambitions put Blue Abyss in contact with a business coach while also introducing the company to different funding streams and business advice programmes, including the Growth Accelerator programme.

We were able to use all resources within the Network and talked to colleagues in different countries, including the Netherlands, France, Norway, Ireland, Greece and Germany, to support Blue Abyss proposals – in particular undertaking European-wide market research on commercial diving markets and applications in gas and nuclear areas,

says Heather Benham, innovation advisor at Enterprise Europe Network in the East of England.

This research helped support their bids for funding and it underpinned all the presentations that they made.

‘The Network helped us get access to market specialists and that support proved vital,’ John acknowledges, adding that ‘when we find opportunities in third-markets or test the water before going into other markets we will absolutely turn to the Network for help.’

The construction of the Blue Abyss facility is expected to start early 2017 and last for 18 months. Built at the University of Essex’ Knowledge Gateway Innovation Park in Colchester, the centre will include a multi-level pool, the Kuehnegger Human Performance Centre, hyper and hypobaric chambers, a Microgravity Suite and a 120-bed hotel to accommodate visitors.

In addition to scientists and researchers, Blue Abyss hopes to attract the attention of governments and commercial organisations working in the commercial diving, Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) and human spaceflight markets.




“Astronauts and other space professionals will want to come from around the world to use the massive, yet controlled, environment to reduce risk in space. Knowledge transfer between the different types of users will benefit everyone, divers and astronauts alike, and I can see plenty of international collaborations and business ventures starting life within Blue Abyss.”

Dr Helen Sharman

First British citizen in Space


Diving into the future

Dive into the Blue Abyss (Marine and Space Research Facility)

© Blue Abyss 2016
© Blue Abyss 2016
© Blue Abyss 2016
© Blue Abyss 2016