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The next level

Memorial-led program empowers next generation of ocean leaders


By Jeff Green

Twenty research teams are getting a crash course on all things ocean this fall.

The groups, from seven universities across the country, are among the latest cohort participating in Lab2Market Oceans.

The seven-week program, hosted by Memorial and part of the Ocean Startup Project, provides post-doctoral fellows, graduate students and faculty the opportunity to explore their ocean research ideas in a new way.

“Ocean related-technology research is an economic driver for the province and the university.” — Dr. Oscar De Silva

Facilitated by world-class experts, teams are learning about everything from stakeholder engagement to intellectual property to revenue stream.

‘Better understanding’

The Lab2Market Oceans program is not just about commercialization, says Dr. Paula Mendonça (PhD’10), director of innovation and entrepreneurship, at Memorial who oversees Lab2Market Oceans.

Dr. Paula Mendonça is seen wearing a white shirt and dark coloured skirt.
Dr. Paula Mendonça
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

“It’s about training ocean researchers to be better communicators, entrepreneurs and problem-solvers,” she said. “By participating in the program, these teams are opening up new doors as they enhance their professional networks, explore new business ventures and foster a better understanding of the ocean ecosystem.”

Cross-country participation

Interest in the program has risen since its launch in 2020.

The latest cohort consists of 13 teams from Memorial, along with groups from the University of Victoria, Simon Fraser University, the University of Alberta, Ontario Tech University, Concordia University and Dalhousie University.

Forty per cent of the entrepreneurial leads self-identify as female, up from 23 per cent in 2021 and 11 per cent in 2020.

Participating students receive $15,000 in Mitacs funding to support them through the program.

Ocean-related projects

Memorial’s teams are based in the faculties of Science, Engineering and Applied Science and the School of Fisheries at the Marine Institute.

Dr. Oscar De Silva is seen wearing a blue and white shirt and dark jacket.
Dr. Oscar De Silva
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

Memorial’s teams are based in the faculties of Science, Engineering and Applied Science and the School of Fisheries at the Marine Institute.

Dr. Oscar De Silva (PhD’15), assistant professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, is one of this year’s participants.

He says the Lab2Market program is “incredibly” valuable.

“It allows us to methodically assess where our R&D efforts are on the commercialization scale,” he told the Gazette.

He says students get access to key stakeholders and clients from across the country.

“Our team is focused on developing hardware and software to support aerial logistics and marine autonomy specifically for use in harsh environment applications. Through the Lab2Market program, we are hoping to learn from leading tech entrepreneurs and potential future clients how to better align our R&D efforts and at the same time enable tech startup spinoffs led by students of the lab.”

Crashing ocean waves and the edge of a cliff.
Twenty research teams are among the latest cohort participating in Lab2Market Oceans.
Photo: David Howells

‘Economic driver’

Dr. De Silva says it makes sense for Memorial to be the host institution for Lab2Market.

“Ocean-related technology research is an economic driver for the province and the university,” he said.

“I think Memorial, with its facilities and network of partners, is uniquely geared to take on challenging ocean-engineering problems, which in turn produces highly marketable skills in the tech sector.”

‘Significant’ benefits

That feedback is welcome news for organizers.

“It’s exciting to see so many ocean researchers exploring commercialization in Canada, which adds to the significant momentum this country has in the blue economy,” said Don Grant, executive director at the Ocean Startup Project.

“Canada is uniquely positioned to be a global leader in developing innovative, sustainable ocean technologies that can help us better understand and protect our ocean resources. The potential for these researchers to create new products and services is huge, and the benefits to our economy and our environment are significant.”

The Lab2Market program is part of the Ocean Startup Project, hosted by Memorial University, and supported by Springboard Atlantic, Canada’s Ocean Supercluster, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and Mitacs. More about the program is online.

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