– By working with other clusters, we can connect different expertise and technology to collaborate to create comprehensive solutions for detection, collection, and disposal of marine pollution or organic threats. This gives us increased technology-development opportunities and strengthened implementation ability compared to what individual companies can do individually.
Right now, a kelp project in the Atlantic Ocean is very relevant, as the boom is increasing in frequency and scope, and threatens existing ecosystems, fisheries, and tourism.
– If we can design a good and sustainable total solution, this will be interesting for all regions where these industries are responsible for much of the value creation, says Eirik Langeland, head of NOSCA Clean Oceans.
In this context, it is about the “Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt” which occurs on the west coast of Africa and flows in huge numbers in the direction of the Caribbean. These mats with kelp and seagrass have the sizes of a football field. They destroy the existing ecosystem and cause major problems, including fishing and tourism with dirty beaches and foul-smelling gas.
Leaders in Central America and the Caribbean have now promised to take action to deal with the damaging effects that greatly affect the economy in this part of the world.
– Sargassum is on the agenda for both clusters, but with a different focus. By using the combined expertise, we can tackle a challenge that creates headaches for several countries, says chairman of the board of Ocean Autonomy Cluster, Eirik Evjen Hovstein.
He is also the COO and one of the founders of Maritime Robotics, which has membership in both clusters. The company started 15 years ago with two or three employees. Today, the number is close to 40, and in addition, there is a corresponding number employed by partners, not least in the immediate area around the industrial and production environment in Vanvikan in Indre Fosen.
Dull, dirty and dangerous
– Our philosophy is to cooperate where we can and compete when we must. In the Atlantic, we are facing a gigantic task that is well suited for a cluster-to-cluster collaboration, which can double the impact and show the way to completely new markets, says Hovstein.
He reminds us that all that has to do with pollution in the sea is a business that requires great accuracy and boundless patience:
– It is “dull, dirty and dangerous” – and therefore perfect for autonomous vessels. The work is tedious, but autonomous vessels never get bored. There are also often dirty and risky assignments, with a lot of pollution and perhaps the danger of explosion. There may also even be a risk of piracy in certain waters along the coast of African.
Another factor is the cost of using research vessels and other conventional solutions. Autonomous vessels, ranging from drones and balloons to unmanned aerial vehicles and satellites, can provide far cheaper and more sustainable processes.
Close to NTNU
– Ocean Autonomy Cluster works for value creation and export, and we want to profile the region of Trøndelag, and Norway, as “the world’s best” in autonomy in connection with the sea, says Hovstein.
He refers to Trondheim as the «technology capital», where NTNU and SINTEF focused early on autonomy. They should have much of the credit for connecting many small and medium-sized technology companies in the region.
– For example, NTNU is very vigilant and often includes new technology in research. It provides good opportunities to test ideas and equipment that are under development.
Eirik Langeland from NOSCA Clean Oceans also emphasizes the need for an open culture between clusters.
– We do not always have all the necessary knowledge and technology among our own members. Then we have to look to other innovation clusters to see who can help us, as is the case with the sargassum problem.
He emphasizes that NOSCA’s members are good at detection that can be used to calculate driveways, establish barriers and do the collection, by technology transfer from the oil and gas industry.
– For us, logistics and disposal are challenges. How to handle seagrass, prevent it from rotting during transport and find out what it can be used for. Ocean Autonomy Cluster can help us with this.
– The cluster collaboration is currently under development. We are now gathering facts and exchanging ideas, with the hope of a more formalized collaboration during the summer, says Eirik Hovstein, who points out that this can be extended to other fields than sargassum.
– The amount of maritime littering is increasing, and in Norway, there are several companies with extensive expertise in this area. Many of them are small, and there is a need for interaction to create products and package solutions that can reach out to the big world. If we develop new solutions this can open up even more opportunities, for example by recycling the waste and making resources out of it.