St. John’s NL, Thur. 8 Dec. 2011: This year’s annual general meeting for OceansAdvance Inc. was a productive one. In addition to the election of three new board members, those present received a progress report highlighting successful cluster activities that are rapidly advancing the sector toward its goal of $1 billion in annual sales within four years. And there was a keynote address by Keith Hutchings, Minister responsible for the newly minted Department of Innovation, Business and Rural Development.

The AGM and election of officers for the Board of OceansAdvance was held 3:00 PM, Thur. 8 Dec. 2011 at the Institute for Ocean Technology. Administrative Officer Cathy Hogan opened the meeting and introduced Anthony Patterson, chair of the OceansAdvance board.

Patterson took a moment to commend the membership for their openness to collaboration within the Ocean Technology community. “To focus on competition among ourselves now would be to foster mediocrity; but to cooperate is to strive for excellence,” said Patterson. “And we have made great progress.” He called attention to the progress report prepared for the AGM by Executive Director Les O’Reilly. “This year alone our members leveraged more than $40 million in external research funds for ongoing projects,” he said, predicting that, based on current trends, the cluster would break $600 million in annual sales in 2012. 

The presentation by O’Reilly focused on the importance of collaboration, past, present and future. “How far we’ve come since 2007,” he remarked, attributing the success to co-operation and collaboration among cluster members. He pointed out that the sector is on track to achieve $1 billion in annual sales as originally targeted in the cluster’s strategic plan, Outward Bound 2015. However, O’Reilly said there are challenges to the rate of progress including a need to focus on growing new products and services, a need for accelerated business start-ups, and the need to attract and retain more highly qualified people.

By responding to these challenges, the cluster will be better able to drive innovation and foster research, O’Reilly added, particularly in areas where investigative efforts require the combined expertise and resources of several companies—a type of operation for which the cluster is uniquely qualified. He concluded by saying that the industry-led ocean technology cluster is proving by its positive impact on the community that the “whole is greater than the sum of the parts.”

Minister Hutchings,took the podium nextwith his keynote address. New to the position, the minister admitted to being on a steep learning curve and told those present, “the success of the ocean technology sector surpassed my initial high expectations.” Referencing the newly created ocean technology branch within his office, he said he is very interested in hearing from members about which department policies are working for them and which ones are not so his department can, “work with you to open the door to greater collaboration.” Minister Hutchings referenced support for arctic research, recruitment and retention of international graduate students, and international business opportunities in places like Brazil and China, and then told members, “Premier Dunderdale has singled out ocean technology as a target sector to advance. Tell us where our actions should be focused and let’s act together now.”

Four cluster members, including Catherina Kennedy, Anthony Patterson, Joe Ryan, and Derek Scott stood for the three positions on the board. Following the ballot count in which 67 ballots were cast, Elections Officer Barry Dawe declared that, after a very tight race, Patterson, Ryan, and Scott were elected.

Within 90 minutes, the formal business of the AGM was concluded and members adjourned to the foyer for refreshments and some Christmas networking.