(St. John’s, NL: 19 August 2014) One of the many benefits of joining the provincial delegation to the NavalShore 2014 Conference in Rio de Janeiro was the opportunity to identify potential international “innovation partners” that could add value to the local ocean technology cluster in Newfoundland and Labrador.

NavalShore South America 2014 Expo and Conference was held August 12 – 15, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro. However, for Barry Snow, Executive Director with OceansAdvance, the real value of the visit was discovered outside the walls of the Sulamerica Convention Center. 

The tours of the resources, infrastructure, and meetings within the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, were all meaningful, said Snow, but the highlight of the trip came “when I began to see that there are regional pockets of ocean innovation throughout Brazil, such as in the city of Macaé.” Located 175 km northeast of Rio de Janerio, Macaé is one “jumping-in point to offshore oil and gas sector in Brazil,” says Snow. Petrobras has a major presence there.  And, with a growth rate of more than 500% over the last decade, Macaé is one of the fastest-growing cities in Brazil.

In “Petroleum City” as it is known, OceansAdvance met with a business coalition of 80 companies called REDE PETRO-BC, mainly suppliers for the oil and gas sector. “They recognize the importance of an innovation strategy as part of a sustainable business model for servicing today’s oil and gas industry,” said Snow.

Snow said the meeting provided invaluable insight into the region’s convergence of innovative companies with researchers, with universities, and with regional and national government support. Because they are part of an “innovation ecosystem” all the players have a stake in innovation. “They also recognized the ocean technology cluster in our Province for its unique resources and expertise, including OceanAdvance and its approach to supporting diversification and growth,” says Snow. (Right OA’s Executive Director Snow pauses with representatives of REDE PETRO-BC in Macaé, a Brazillian centre for service to the offshore O&G sector)

He believes that by assisting such coalitions as partners in innovation, OceansAdvance is taking a carefully measured approach to strengthening the innovation ecosystem in Newfoundland  and Labrador, by enhancing the potential for multinational collaboration. “When we participate in trade missions, such as this one to Brazil, our aim is to identify innovation-driven networks where we can develop long-lasting and mutually-beneficial relationships. Mutual benefit is the secret sauce,” said Snow. He went on to point out that, while academia, research and industry are all key constituencies in any innovation cluster, “we seek to work with consortia or clusters where our collective experience, our research assets and our expertise in oil and gas and harsh environments gifts us with a unique value proposition where innovation can flourish for the benefit of both regions.”

The next step for OceansAdvance in Brazil, according to Snow, is to follow up the meeting with the Macaé coalition, “offering support and sharing our experiences in creating an engaged, dynamic and flourishing ocean technology cluster,” he said. “We will share best practises and continue to dialogue. The benefit of this for us is it provides a creative way for our membership to access an innovation ecosystem in another region, a side door into their innovation ecosystem,” Snow said. “This is a creative way of approaching business development which adds value to the fine work underway by local economic development agencies and the various industry associations.” 

“As we develop these ocean innovation partnerships, whether it’s Brazil, New England, Ireland, Iceland, California, China or elsewhere, a key benefit is their increased understanding of what is happening here in our cluster,” said Snow. “And that will make it all the more compelling for them to come and set up to do business here,” he explained.  “This type of investment can manifest in many different forms, and supports our own mission to continually diversify our ocean technology cluster in this province. Win-win”