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Patrick Administration Announces $97.7 Million Award and $10 Million State Match to WHOI to Build Sea Laboratory Off Massachusetts Coast

BOSTON — Lt. Governor Tim Murray and Senate President Therese Murray were on hand in Woods Hole today as the Patrick Administration announced that a team led by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Falmouth won a $97.7 million award from the not-for-profit Joint Oceanographic Institutions (JOI) to build an ocean observation system off the Massachusetts coast.

“Today we take a giant step forward here in the Commonwealth,” said Lt. Governor Murray to the crowd that gathered at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. “What we celebrate now will benefit generations to come not only from an environmental but an economic perspective.”

“This federal funding is a tremendous accomplishment for Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and vital for effective management of our ocean resources and the protection of our coastal communities. I’m thrilled that NSF continues to recognize that this important research is best conducted right here on Cape Cod, and I look forward to the results” said Senator Edward Kennedy.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) will lead a world-class implementation team including Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, and Oregon State University’s College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences. The team will develop, install and operate the coastal and global components of the National Science Foundation’s $331 million Ocean Observatories Initiative.

“The Commonwealth has a remarkable and historic relationship with the oceans. Woods Hole is not only home to some of the world’s leading oceanographic, marine ecosystem and global climate change research institutions, but it is also home to a vibrant fishing fleet and a hub for Cape and Islands tourism,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian Bowles. “The Ocean Observatories Initiative will greatly deepen our understanding of the oceans and how to protect its riches for generations to come.”

The funding supports building the infrastructure for an ocean observation system off the Massachusetts coast along the U.S. Northeast Continental Shelf. These state-of-the-art laboratories at sea will spur the development and integration of new ocean observation tools, including innovative sensing and measuring devices and robotic underwater vehicles that will provide real-time data on the marine environment. Researchers will be able to remotely control their instruments and construct virtual observatories specifically tailored to address scientific, health and public policy needs.

“By WHOI winning this competitive award, the Commonwealth is now positioned to capture a large share of emerging opportunities in this sector, estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year over the next decade,” said Dan O’Connell, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development.

Benefits to Massachusetts and New England include:
• Better scientific information for public coastal managers to manage ocean resources and commercial fisheries, predict harmful algal blooms (“red-tide”), and mitigate the hazards from oil spills or coastal storm inundation;
• Improved assessments of the impact of longer-term climate change on the region;
• More accurate weather forecasts and storm prediction;
• Increased ability to balance and preserve coastal environmental resources, protecting recreational areas
• Enhanced academic-industry partnerships that will stimulate the development of new data products and advanced technologies in the Marine Science & Technology cluster (e.g., autonomous robotic underwater vehicles, sensors, self-powered moorings, underwater communication and anti-fouling technologies).

The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative’s John Adams Innovation Institute provided a $10 million matching investment to help WHOI secure the $97.7 million competitive award, the largest such award in the oceanographic institution’s history. In the last three years, support from the Innovation Institute’s matching investments have enabled Massachusetts’ universities and academic research centers to win more than $142 million in new federal and private research awards, better than a 6-to-1 return on investment.

“The emerging Marine Science & Technology sector has the potential to become for Southeastern Massachusetts and the Cape what the Life Sciences cluster is today for Cambridge,” said Patrick Larkin, director of the Innovation Institute. “The success in winning this federal research award is the result of a growing collaborative partnership of the governor’s office and his cabinet, our congressional delegation, the Legislature, and our world-class academic research institutions and public and private universities.”

WHOI is one of the largest employers in southeastern Massachusetts with 370 scientific and technical staff, and a total employment of approximately 850 people. A consortium of institutions will share data from this ocean laboratory widely to further scientific knowledge and the growth of the marine technology industry.In addition to WHOI, the local consortium includes UMass-Dartmouth, UMass-Amherst, UMass-Boston, MIT, Raytheon and the Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole.

“Woods Hole is thrilled to be chosen to lead the scientific research team to create a state-of-the-art, 21st century ocean observation system,” said James R. Luyten, President and Director of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. “We are privileged to work with our research partners and to have the support of an excellent consortium of local industry and university collaborators.”

Continuing support from federal programs at the National Science Foundation and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration could be as high as $1 billion over the next 10 years to support infrastructure, basic and applied research. These federal research dollars would help the United States to maintain and expand upon its global leadership in marine science and technology.

The $97.7 million award to WHOI is being made from a Cooperative Agreement between the National Science Foundation and the Joint Oceanographic Institutions (JOI), a consortium of 31 premier oceanographic research institutions that serves the U.S. scientific community through management of large-scale, global research programs. JOI will manage and coordinate the Ocean Observatories Initiative on behalf of the NSF.

“The Oceanographic Institute has always been an economic engine for Falmouth and Cape Cod.  This grant will help make it an economic engine for Massachusetts as well,” said Representative Erik Turkington.

Last updated: August 23, 2007