Blue Economy wave hits Cape Cod: Local companies developing marine technologies
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution provides R&D foundation for entrepreneurs
Technology and services companies that work in and around the oceans are forming the basis of a vibrant and growing regional technical blue economy here on Cape Cod. This marine technical economy has a research and development footing in the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), a giant in the ocean sciences.
Hydroid in Pocasset and Teledyne Benthos in North Falmouth are examples of companies that have commercialized WHOI research to achieve scale and become acquisitions of global leaders in their field. Also important are the Cape’s engineering services companies that provide infrastructure support.
Among these is Coastal Engineering Company, which has provided a range of engineering services for more than 40 years. “The big push in the blue economy is to find a balance between economic development and ecological sustainability,” says CEO John Bologna, P.E.
Hydroid, a field-proven technology leader in advanced marine robotics, has grown to nearly 200 professional employees since its founding in 2001. Frank Raspante started working at Hydroid in 2004 after a stint at Datasonics. “When I first joined, I could look around the lunchroom table and count everyone in the company,” Raspante says. “Now we have almost 200 people. Many of them are raising families on Cape Cod.”
Teledyne’s presence on the Cape came about from the acquisitions of two entrepreneurial firms, Benthos and Webb Research. Among nearly 160 Teledyne employees working in Falmouth, Dan Shropshire is director of product line management, overseeing 10 products. He describes the Cape as being home to one of a handful of marine technology clusters in the world.
Jim Bellingham, director of WHOI’s Center for Marine Robotics, says much innovation at WHOI today is focused on robotics and sensors. “Many of these innovations have applications far outside of ocean science,” he says. “The underwater automated vehicles (UAVs), for example, were initially developed for environmental monitoring uses. Now, they are being used by the U.S. Navy for a variety of applications. Hydroid and Teledyne are both playing important roles in building that industry.”
Also playing an important role is the Blue Economy Project, a joint effort of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce and the Cape Cod Commission to promote and sustain a maritime-focused economy in the region. “We have a massive brain trust of ocean research here,” says Bert Jackson, the project’s director of community outreach, who calls the Cape the “epicenter” of ocean research worldwide.
The relationship between WHOI and the surrounding ocean science technical community, and the infrastructure-engineering firms that support the Cape’s environment, is symbiotic, and it’s pointing toward continued growth in the local entrepreneurial economy. This section is intended to introduce Cape Cod LIFE’s readers to companies in this sector.
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