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November 2, 2018

USM, businesses launch institute to strengthen economic ties across the North Atlantic

Courtesy / University of Southern Maine
Courtesy / University of Southern Maine
Glenn Cummings, president of the University of Southern Maine, at left, joins Patrick Arnold, co-founder and CEO of New England Ocean Cluster, at Thursday's press conference in Portland announcing a new international consortium of businesses and universities with a mission of expanding economic and educational ties between Maine and North Atlantic countries such as Iceland and Norway.

A new international consortium of universities and businesses could expand economic and educational ties between Maine and countries such as Iceland and Norway.

The Maine North Atlantic Institute will "bring together large numbers of individuals and entities, private and public, for the purpose of strengthening our relationships, in all ways, with the North Atlantic," University of Southern Maine President Glenn Cummings said at a press conference Thursday. "Our view is that of a multidisciplinary approach that is connected to the economy, to the culture and to the people of the North Atlantic. It begins to place Maine at the center of economic activity for the East Coast."

In addition to USM, partners in the institute include Whole Oceans, which is developing a land-based salmon farm in Bucksport, and the New England Ocean Cluster, a Portland incubator of marine-related businesses which hosted the press conference at its new headquarters on Commercial Street.

The institute will serve as a hub for new collaborations as well as dozens of existing ones, according to a news release.

USM has already partnered since 2015 with Reykjavik University and the University of Akureyri, both in Iceland, and the University of Tromso in Norway. The collaborations have included student exchanges and jointly taught courses on common industries, such as fishing, tourism and renewable energy.

USM faculty are also exploring opportunities with peers at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland and the Iceland University of the Arts.

The institute provides an "umbrella brand" that will allow Maine and overseas partners to better develop and market their work together, said New England Ocean Cluster co-founder and CEO Patrick Arnold.

"The institute makes it easier to understand (the opportunities)," he said Friday. "It's a way of hanging a shingle out."

Over the next six months, the institute will be taking stock of the diverse academic and business collaborations underway, identifying opportunities for growth, according to Arnold.

"There's going to be a lot of inventorying, organizing and planning," he said.

The institute may eventually include other components of the University of Maine System as well as the University of New England, according to USM.

Since Icelandic shipping company Eimskip launched its U.S. operations in Portland five years ago, Maine's links to the North Atlantic region's countries have blossomed.

Last week, UNE signed an agreement with the University of Akureyri and Holar University College to jointly offer a new master's degree program in ocean food systems. The deal was inked at the 2018 Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavik, Iceland, where Gov. Paul LePage led a delegation of 40 Mainers.

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