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Building Canada’s Strengths: Oceans R&D

NCE connects clusters of expertise from across country

 This story is taken from the NCE anniversary report "Building on 25 Years of R&D Excellence."

Photo: Ramon Terrado / ArcticNet

Photo: Ramon Terrado / ArcticNet

Canada is a global steward of the sea, with three world-class science clusters (British Columbia, Quebec and Atlantic Canada) and the longest coastline in the world. A recent Council of Canadian Academies report concluded that coordination across jurisdictions and disciplines is critical to maintaining this leadership position. The NCE has been doing exactly that since funding the first national network in this sector in 2003.


Building blocks

The Government of Canada has invested more than $113 million in ArcticNet since its launch in 2003. It represents Canada’s largest commitment to date to explore the social, economic and environmental impacts of climate change and modernization in the coastal Canadian Arctic. Headquartered at Quebec City’s Université Laval, ArcticNet facilitates multidisciplinary projects involving 145 researchers, as well as students, Inuit organizations, northern communities, federal and provincial agencies and the private sector. Its main research platform is the CCGS Amundsen icebreaker.

A second oceans-related NCE is hosted at Dalhousie University. The Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response Network (MEOPAR) facilitates partnerships between academia, government, the insurance industry, the oil and gas sector, marine technology firms, coastal communities and NGOs to reduce Canada’s vulnerability to marine hazards and emergencies.

Two CECRs are capitalizing on Canada’s global expertise in ocean sciences to open new markets for Canadian companies. The Ocean Networks Canada Innovation Centre (ONCIC) supports commercialization and export opportunities for advanced technologies developed by the NEPTUNE and VENUS cabled observatories on Canada’s west coast, as well as a mini-observatory in the Arctic Ocean. The St. John’s NL-based Leading Operational Observations and Knowledge for the North (LOOKNorth) validates and drives commercialization of remote sensing technologies for environmental monitoring, and safe and sustainable development of Canada’s northern natural resources.


Taking collaboration to the next level

Shared expertise and collaborative governance

  • Leaders from ArcticNet, MEOPAR, ONCIC and LOOKNorth have served on each other’s boards of directors and contributed to their strategic direction.
  • Researchers and stakeholders from ArcticNet, ONCIC and MEOPAR were among the Expert Panel members that produced the Council of Canadian Academies landmark report, Ocean Science in Canada: Meeting the Challenge, Seizing the Opportunity (November 2013).

Collaborative research

  • Germany and Canada signed an agreement in 2012 that supports greater collaboration between their respective researchers, including formal links with ArcticNet and MEOPAR. Common areas of interest include climate change, tsunami risk and resource exploration.
  • ONCIC and ArcticNet collaborate in developing and demonstrating world-leading Canadian technologies that provide continuous and real-time monitoring of the Arctic marine environment.
  • LOOKNorth and ArcticNet investigated ice island fragments from Greenland’s massive Petermann glacier, which threaten oil platforms in the Grand Banks off Newfoundland. LOOKNorth used the data to develop a risk model for drift and deterioration of the ice islands.

Accelerating knowledge transfer and commercialization

  • ONCIC provides Canadian industry with expertise and access to the Ocean Networks Canada Observatory to commercialize technologies needed to develop coastal risk models for MEOPAR, including underwater sensors to detect a passing tsunami.
  • ONCIC organizes international trade missions to introduce new technologies into growing markets such as Brazil, China and India, and to establish academic-industry collaborations involving ArcticNet and MEOPAR.

As a partner in AtlantOS, MEOPAR can help to develop and promote a made-in-Canada strategy for partnerships and cooperation with international groups. It will also ensure Canadian capacities and priorities are represented in this important international research effort.

– Doug Wallace, Scientific Director, MEOPAR

By collaborating with other NCEs we can quickly receive a broader base of requirement inputs to guide our efforts and help promote the outcomes to a wider user community. This allows us to go from needs to operational solutions more quickly than if we were operating in isolation.

– William Jefferies, Executive Director, LOOKNorth

Each of the three networks naturally focuses a somewhat different expertise on one of Canada’s three oceans. This situation creates real opportunities for collaboration among the three networks. Such transcontinental partnerships contribute to mending the fragmentation of ocean sciences in Canada.

– Louis Fortier, Scientific Director, ArcticNet