The keynote speaker at this year’s annual general meeting of OceansAdvance left no doubt that Memorial University stands solidly aligned with the ocean technology sector in Newfoundland and Labrador. Dr. Gary Kachanoski, President and Vice-chancellor of Memorial spoke in support of OceansAdvance’s original “Outward Bound” report and the update document issued in 2012. (To download Dr.Kachanoski’s presentation CLICK HERE>)

Kachanoski addressed the gathering of sixty members of OceansAdvance following the formal session of the 2012 AGM which included the annual report “Pulling together for Success” by Executive Director  Les O’Reilly and the election of four members to the Board including Gary Dinn of PanGeo Subsea, Jim Locke with NavSim Technologies, Metzi Prince of Petroleum Research NL and Dan Walker of Oceanic Consulting.

The meeting began at 3:00 at in the NRC Building on Arctic Avenue on Thursday. December 13. 2012. Administrative Officer Cathy Hogan opened the meeting and introduced Anthony Patterson, chair of the OceansAdvance Board. Patterson gave a brief overview of the ocean technology sector in which he emphasised the importance of the export market and set the stage for the executive director by calling for the members to revisit the Outward Bound report.

Executive Director Les O’Reilly’s used the theme of “Pulling together for Success” to provide context for the highlights of the past year in marketing, branding and public-private action. Under those headings he singled out initiatives in building international alliances in the northern and southern hemispheres. Among those singled out by O’Reilly was the MOU which he and the Patterson signed 19 Sept. 2012 with the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande (FURG) of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil. In the document they set out the terms for collaboration on research and development, technical exchange, and technology transfer focused in the marine sector. Still in the international market, OceansAdvance has continued to build on its relationship with Ireland and, farther north, they are working strategically with the North Atlantic Ocean Cluster that includes the Scandinavian countries.

In addition, O’Reilly pointed out that, as they prepare for Oceans 2014, OceansAdvance continues its successful partnerships with the City of St. John’s and with the province to present the capital as a “location of choice” for the ocean technology sector. In support of these initiatives the website continued to garner attention and readership internationally as OceansAdvance completed its first full calendar year with the modernized site online. It is updated weekly, and sometimes daily, with news and events about or of interest to members. As a result it is rapidly raising its profile for search engines and frequently has one or more entries within the first one or two pages of search returns.

O’Reilly pointed out that there are many positive signs of the ongoing engagement between ocean technology and the rest if the province. The most obvious of these signs is the continuing alignment of programs and institutions with the objectives of research, development and commercialization for local businesses. He singled out the collaborative work between Memorial University and industry as a model for successful innovation and commercialization. And aligned with that model O’Reilly said, is the continuous research and development support from the Province, from the Petroleum Research and Development Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador, from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and from the Research and Development Corporation. He said that connections between industry and researchers are further strengthened by the department of Innovation, Business and Regional Development and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.

O’Reilly pointed to several critical challenges over the next decade including the expansion of research and development and intellectual property, increasing access to highly qualified personnel through recruitment and education, expansion of existing companies and building on the strategies as developed in Outward Bound. He concluded his comments by emphasising positive actions that can be undertaken in the short term including collaboration on a comprehensive human resources study, development and implementation of a comprehensive multi-media communications strategy for the sector and a continuing emphasis on arctic-focused research and development. (To view the executive director’s report in full CLICK HERE)

With the official business and presentations by officers completed, Patterson introduced Dr. Gary Kachanoski. As President and Vice-Chancellor of Memorial University of Newfoundland he began a 20-minute review of Memorial plans and activities that underscored not only Memorial’s support of the ocean technology sector but also how it is reorganizing and directing its resources to better support the ocean technology in the future. Kachanoski had high praise for the Outward Bound report and its 2012 update.

In some ways his presentation responded to the points raised by the executive director, for example in MUN’s active recruitment of highly qualified professors, researchers, graduate students and students, and in the creation of new intellectual property—both key moves in supporting innovation in private enterprise. Kachanoski said that the presence of the OT cluster enables the university to engage with the sector in a way that focuses their efforts on addressing needs and opportunities. This he emphasised is particularly relevant given the fact that Memorial is in the midst of very significant growth in its research budget, increasing investment by close to 200 percent from $40 million in the 1990s to $110 million in 2011 – 2012  a budget which continues to expand. And of particular significance is the fact that more than 40  percent  of that budget—and growing—is invested in research directly related to ocean technology.

Among specific activities which Kachanoski says will enhance collaborative efforts with the OT sector is the growth of the science capacity of the university. That includes new research facilities and an expansion of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. This latter expansion alone will add more than 60 faculty positions plus 300 graduate and 500 undergraduate positions. In addition, the university has thrown its weight behind the Marine Institute and its Vision 2020 with an aim of increasing MI’s budget by 40 per cent, thereby expanding its capacity to partner with industry and to recruit more talented people.

As president of Memorial, Kachanoski understands that to reach the $1 Billion goal set out in Oceans Advance’s Outward Bound business and research cannot rely solely on investment from the province or even the country but must seek new international investments.

The university will continue to support the sector as it grows its scientific research and IP capabilities and installs new infrastructure over the next five to six years. Most critical during that time, according to Kachanoski, are finding the ways and means to meet the needs of the Marine Institute, of attracting more highly qualified faculty and staff, of recruiting more students in the relevant fields, and of developing new experiential ways of learning that will not only expose the students to the research and commercialization in the province but will engage them in the marine technology sector in a way that fosters lifelong connections, motivates them to live and work here and supports the development of Memorial University as an intellectual property pipeline for the ocean technology sector.