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The concept that individual components have a greater impact when taken as a whole is not a new one. It is, in fact, the reason for collaboration – the reason that companies working toward the same goals are joining forces to more rapidly advance technology.
In the case of OceansAdvance Inc., a group of more than 50 companies based in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, the desire to expedite progress on a number of fronts was the impetus for forming a cluster that is advancing efforts in the areas of arctic and remote energy, oceans intelligence, and next-generation intelligence to ensure future offshore development.
According to Leslie O’Reilly, executive director of OceansAdvance, the organization’s goal is to make St. John’s a center of excellence for ocean technologies. With all of the pieces in place, it was really a matter of bringing the resources together, he said. “We are strong individually, but when we work closely together, we are even stronger.”
During a visit I made to St. John’s in July, O’Reilly explained that OceansAdvance companies have a goal to develop, attract, and retain expertise within their areas of competency, expand and direct research activities to create innovative technologies and new intellectual property, and collectively provide governance that ensures implemented actions achieve the desired and intended results.
There has been a local maturation of how ocean industries perceive themselves and their role, O’Reilly said, and that has fostered growth in the three pillars that underpin the organization: industry, R&D and educational institutions, and government agencies.
“We have to put tremendous emphasis on R&D,” O’Reilly said, “and we have to put programs in place to promote human resource development.”
Attracting and retaining human resources is vital, he said. “You’ve got to have a total spectrum of R&D, good connections between researchers and industry, co-location, and tremendous programs that support young people and encourage them to enter the industry and to ensure that once they are part of the industry have the opportunity to grow.”
The ocean technology sector is in the middle of that area, he said. “It is a very knowledge-based, innovative, collaborative culture. If we are to achieve our goals globally, we have got to reach out and develop collaborative networks and alliances with similarly positioned clusters. Our job at OceansAdvance is to bring the cluster together in Newfoundland to more successfully reach out internationally.”
The first step, he said, is to focus on building up the local cluster in St. John’s and enhancing collaboration at a local level to ensure alignment in the industry.
“Internationally, our job is to reach out and form alliances with ‘hot areas,’” O’Reilly said. The Newfoundland group is working with a number of regions of the US, including Monterey Bay, the Maritime Alliance in San Diego, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Center for Marine Exploration in New England, and within Washington DC, where many international non-government organizations that are “oceans-focused” are based. “These relationships are critical to pursuing OceansAdvance’s project work,” he said. Additional efforts are under way with international academic institutions.
The group also is working with Memorial University in St. John’s. “In the minds of our young people, there is excitement,” O’Reilly said. “Enrollment in oceans technology majors from the baccalaureate through Ph.D. levels is fantastic.”
For OceansAdvance, collaboration appears to be paying off on every level.