ARCHIVED - Innovation on the Rock... An Ocean of Opportunity

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April 06, 2006— Ottawa, Ontario

Ocean Technology in Canada Experiences a Wave of Growth

Since its beginnings, Newfoundland & Labrador's ocean technology cluster experienced a 25% growth in the number of companies operating in the local ocean technology sector.


Many new companies, housed at NRC's incubation facility in St. John's (the Ocean Technology Enterprise Centre), have ready access to NRC expertise and facilities to help bring their technology ideas to market.


The past five years have seen unprecedented cooperation among all levels of government, academic institutions and private enterprise.


By working together, public and private sector partners have launched new projects and expanded the ocean technology cluster to make the region an international leader.


Don't let Newfoundland and Labrador's old world charm fool you. The province is becoming known internationally as a hot bed for ocean technology research and development. With new companies and partnerships continually sparking growth of this dynamic industry, the world is set to experience this region's tidal wave of innovation!

At the centre of the ocean technology cluster sit two senior researchers at the NRC Institute for Ocean Technology (NRC-IOT). António Simões Ré and Bruce Colbourne were recently awarded NRC Outstanding Achievement Awards for the work they've done to build Newfoundland & Labrador's ocean technology cluster as solid as "the Rock" itself.

Tides of Change

The province has always had a historical and cultural attachment to the sea, and the strength of its economy has traditionally rested in the region's unpredictable waters. The past several years have been a time of mapping this relationship into an economic growth strategy to fuel innovation, job creation and make the region more competitive.

Central to this strategy has been OceansAdvance, a private-public partnership to build Newfoundland & Labrador's R&D capacities, expand business and export opportunities and identify investment prospects. NRC Outstanding Achievement Award recipient Bruce Colbourne was a driving force behind the development of this initiative and continues to remain a strong, visionary member of the group.

Scale-model tests have included lifeboat deployments from ships
Scale-model tests have included lifeboat deployments from ships

"Building our ocean technology cluster has been challenging but incredibly stimulating," says Colbourne. "My shift from engineering research to working with a broad cross-section of the technology community to develop common goals and strategies has been a lot of fun."

Bruce's vision and persistence have helped spur significant links in the Newfoundland and Labrador cluster. Currently, there are more than 40 knowledge-intensive small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that are coordinating efforts to develop innovative ocean technologies, products and services in the St. John's region alone. With the current world ocean market sitting at $1.8 trillion and growing at 2.5% annually, the Newfoundland and Labrador cluster is now very well positioned as a leader in this field, from geographic and innovation standpoints.

Safer Seas

Growth of the St. John's ocean technology cluster has also been ignited by the ongoing research intended to inspire new products, solutions and ways of doing things. For more than six years, António Simões Ré has led research that evaluates marine safety systems under extreme environmental conditions, which will make the waters safer for cruise ship vacationers, fishermen, offshore oil and gas workers and many others.

The Perfect Storm

With an international call for safer equipment and as the dynamics of the ocean economy continue to change rapidly, António's research is timely and ties in well with the work that Bruce Colbourne is doing to help grow the St. John's ocean technology cluster.

As investment in research and development continues, and the cluster continues to grow, the area will attract even more like-minded innovative companies, investors and talent, like a giant seaborne magnet.

Not only will the ocean technology cluster bring prosperity and economic growth for Newfoundland & Labrador, but the cluster's research findings will help Canadian companies develop new equipment and operating procedures that will save lives.

Evaluation of unique lifesaving devices
Evaluation of unique lifesaving devices
Methods of launching lifeboats
Methods of launching lifeboats

This NRC Outstanding Achievement Award Winner's research lab is literally as big as the ocean! Highlights from António's research in the Escape, Evacuation and Rescue Project (EER) have been captured by fellow researchers:

The Escape, Evacuation and Rescue Project has been involved in the evaluation of many unique lifesaving devices, from lifeboats themselves to methods of launching those lifeboats;

The scale-model tests have included lifeboat deployments from ships and fixed structures, such as offshore platforms.

Scale-model tests have included lifeboat deployments from fixed structures, such as offshore platforms
Scale-model tests have included lifeboat deployments from fixed structures, such as offshore platforms
Tests on offshore platforms
Tests on offshore platforms

Clusters... are those contagious?!

Clustering is a term that economists have borrowed from science to describe the growth of a concentration of innovative companies around a nucleus of R&D facilities. Community integration is key to technology cluster success, as business entrepreneurs, R&D leaders, government representatives and the financial community come together to discuss needs and generate new ideas. NRC has developed considerable expertise in helping develop clusters. In many cases, NRC research institutes have served as central hubs for dynamic technology clusters in diverse areas of science and engineering.

A cluster attracts success like a magnet...

  • Start-ups find the technical and financial support they need to establish a customer base for their own innovative products and services.
  • The success of one company attracts another, and another, eventually building a critical mass of skilled people, expertise, capital and entrepreneurial fire.
  • Small companies spin off from the original R&D laboratory.
  • This environment helps create local jobs and fuels economic growth in a region.

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