A Belfast wave energy company hopes to create enough electricity to rival a small coal-fired power plant.
Enough to power half a million homes could be generated by the Pure Marine Gen machine.
Large numbers of the devices could be situated off-shore, with western Ireland, Scotland and Australia among potential users of the technology.
Dr Paul Brewster of Pure Marine said: "The increased productivity benefits of the DUO WEC (generator) will enable us to capitalise on harnessing the ocean's huge, untapped indigenous renewable energy resources."
The Carbon Trust awarded the company over £153,000 to accelerate development of the wave energy convertor.
Its owners aim to improve the efficiency with which energy is captured from the sea by capturing power from the vertical and horizontal motion of waves.
The funding will be used to conduct tests and produce design drawings for a prototype.
Dr Brewster said: "In the longer term, Pure Marine plans to develop devices with a capacity of over 2MW which, deployed in large arrays, could have generating capacity of over 500MW, comparable with a small coal-fired power plant.
"A techno-economic analysis which also forms part of the project will provide a projection of energy costs from the device and a route map for further cost reductions."
He added the output could be the equivalent to half that of Ballylumford power station.
"We are talking about thousands (of the devices), something the equivalent of thousands of wind turbines with the visual impact a lot less."
Mark Williamson, director of innovations at the Carbon Trust, said the design would produce more energy at lower cost.
"The UK's marine energy sector is world-leading and by supporting innovative designs such as the DUO WEC the Carbon Trust is working to accelerate an industry which has huge economic and job creation potential," he said.