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September 18, 2015

UNE to sponsor marine business, research incubator on Portland waterfront

The University of New England announced today it is signing a letter of intent for a sponsorship agreement with the New England Ocean Cluster House, the new marine business and research incubator being developed on Portland’s waterfront that’s modeled after the Iceland Ocean Cluster House in Reykavik, Iceland.

The New England Ocean Cluster House’s intended location is the second floor of the Maine State Pier transit shed. Patrick Arnold, who is the majority owner of the Ocean Cluster House, is leading the effort. He plans to renovate the pier in order to house start-ups and research entities that will develop marine-related businesses and innovative products, namely products created from marine resources that have historically been considered underutilized or unusable.

In a statement announcing its sponsorship, UNE President Danielle Ripich said the venture dovetails perfectly with the university’s realignment of its Marine Science Center programs, which focus on hands-on experiential learning.

“With this new strategic vision at the Marine Science Center, our students focus on the integration of science with the changing nature of coastal tourism, marine policy, aquaculture, fisheries, and entrepreneurship,” she said in a prepared statement. “Experiences afforded them by the New England Ocean Cluster House in research, policy and product development will further them along their career paths and will contribute to the economic vitality of the state and the nation.”

UNE is one of several sponsors of the project and views it as a potential opportunity to utilize its marine, bioscience and pharmaceutical research capacities to develop commercial products and as a new vehicle for providing students with real-world experiences and internships with marine-related companies throughout the country and the world, according to the release.

Ripich described the marine incubator as collaborative effort, singling out the University of Southern Maine as “an important partner, lending its legal and regulatory expertise to the work.”

Barry Costa-Pierce, professor and chairman of the Department of Marine Sciences and director of UNE’s Marine Science Center, highlighted the New England Ocean Cluster House as having real value to students enrolled in UNE’s new marine entrepreneurship major and its new 2+2 marine partnership with Southern Maine Community College, which enables students to earn their associate degree at SMCC in two years and complete their bachelor’s degree at UNE with two additional years of study.

“UNE’s new bachelor of science degree in marine entrepreneurship is a unique major, the only one of its kind in the nation combining the applied studies of marine science, policy, and business,” he said in a press release. “SMCC students can do an applied project in the New England Ocean Cluster House in their first two years and continue it at UNE. I’m convinced these new internship opportunities that will open up to these students with the creation of the New England Ocean Cluster House on the Portland waterfront will launch many, new, high-paying marine careers.”

Arnold’s business partner in this venture is Thor Sigfusson, head of the Iceland Ocean Cluster House on which the Portland incubator is modeled. The New England Ocean Cluster House is the most recent example of growing business ties between Iceland and Maine — a relationship that was kick-started when Eimskip, a major Icelandic shipping company, transferred its North American headquarters to Portland in March 2013.


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