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Memorial recognized for innovation

By Meaghan Whelan

It wasn’t a surprise when a Memorial University group won the Distinction in Innovation Award at the 2009 Export and Innovation Awards on Nov. 18 – after all, all of the finalists were from the university.

The Fisheries and Marine Institute (MI) was named the winner of the Distinction in Innovation Award in recognition for its work with SmartBay, an MI-led oceans observation project that plays a valuable role in support of marine operations in Placentia Bay. Distance Education and Learning Technologies (DELT) and SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise) Memorial were the other finalists in the category.
The Distinction in Innovation Award distinguishes an individual or group that has taken a leadership role in advancing Newfoundland and Labrador’s innovative culture and creating new opportunities for industry.

The submissions from Memorial showcase the variety and diversity of innovative projects happening all around the university. MI’s submission focuses on a tangible product for use in the shipping industry; DELT’s submission highlights the innovative work of an administrative unit at the university; and the SIFE submission showcases innovation from students.

Dr. Christopher Loomis, president and vice-chancellor pro tempore, said this recognition is important and significant for Memorial.

“The fact that all three finalists in this category are from Memorial clearly demonstrates our leadership position in the province, and our success in building a university community that enables and values innovation. The benefits of this are reaching far beyond our campuses,” he said. “Ocean safety, access to education in rural communities and youth helping others through entrepreneurship are just a few examples of innovation across Memorial University. We have many great success stories to share.”

The SmartBay project is the largest ocean observation initiative in eastern Canada and one of the most successful in the country. SmartBay provides customized weather and sea state forecast information using data gathered by four oceanographic buoys strategically placed in Placentia Bay. The information is made available to the public in near-real time via the web portal Fishers, shipping companies and other users in the area routinely take advantage of SmartBay as a user-driven ocean observing system that helps them make better decisions about their operations in the bay.

DELT was a finalist for the award in recognition of its innovative development and delivery of online and distance education, as well as its support and enhancement of teaching and learning both on-campus and at a distance at Memorial. Over the last four decades, DELT has pushed the boundaries of technology both to increase access and enhance the delivery of post-secondary education. DELT also engages in major and significant provincial partnerships with the public and private sector for the greater benefit of the university, the province and its people.

SIFE Memorial, a student group dedicated to creating local solutions to global economic challenges, was recognized for its innovative programs that benefit Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. Projects include Launch Pad, Canada’s first student-run entrepreneurial incubation centre, which provides student entrepreneurs with the resources to grow their own businesses, and FLAGS, a six-phase interactive program providing essential financial information to seniors.

In 2008, C-CORE was awarded the Distinction in Innovation Award and the Marine Institute was a finalist.

The Eastern Edge Robotics team and SIFE Memorial (then ACE Memorial) were awarded the Award of Merit in recognition of their accomplishments, entrepreneurship and innovation.