The group is led by Artemis Technologies which began as a spin-off from an America's Cup sailing team.
The project also involves Bombardier, Belfast Harbour and the local universities. The grant will help fund the project for the next four years.
The world's shipping industries are a significant source of pollution and have been difficult to decarbonise.
The Belfast project aims to develop environmentally friendly, high-speed ferries, capable of carrying up to 350 passengers.
It is based on a concept known as electric hydrofoil propulsion.
Iain Percy from Artemis Technologies said: "For years, we've been designing low energy, high performance solutions for some of the fastest yachts on the planet, and we will now utilise that knowledge, and along with our partners, apply it to build the world's most environmentally friendly high-speed ferries.
"When we launched Artemis Technologies, we decided to base ourselves in Belfast because of the incredible aerospace and composite engineering talent available."
Bombardier's Belfast operation is a world leader in composite technologies which allows it to make very light but robust aircraft wings.
Michael Ryan, chief operating officer of Bombardier Aerostructures, said he was keen to expand that technology into other markets.
"The Artemis Technologies project, in our view, represents a credible technology path that could provide a technological step-change to the maritime sector and passenger transportation."
The grant comes from UK Research and Innovation, the national funding agency for science and research.
Article sourced here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-53184775