Written by:  Carla Wilson, Times Colonist
Published: Thursday, July 17, 2008

A new feasibility study will look at a proposed Ocean Technology Park in North Saanich, intended to deliver hundreds of millions of dollars into the economy, create about 1,500 well-paying jobs and set global standards for marine research.

 A marine tech park would be a focal point for industry, academics and government ocean research, said Dale Gann, acting president of UVic Properties Investments Inc., at yesterday's funding announcement. UVic Properties owns both the Vancouver Island Technology Park and the existing Marine Technology Centre on West Saanich Road.

"Look at the potential here," he said. "We need to bring these folks together."

The $330,000 study will create a business and master plan for UVic's 17-acre site, now housing the Marine Centre, across the road from Fisheries and Oceans Canada's Institute of Ocean Sciences. Western Economic Diversification Canada and the province of B.C. are each contributing $135,000. UVic Properties is making up the difference, Gann said.

If all goes smoothly, the study would be complete by spring 2009 and a rezoning application for increased density on the site would then go to North Saanich, he said.

Although plans have not yet been developed, an expansion might see 300,000 square feet of commercial space go up, Gann said, up from the current 42,000 square feet. Construction could cost about $120 million: Some building would be paid for by UVic Properties, while some might be done with a partner.

 Such a centre would lead to increased commercialization of new products to be sold around the world and attract more clean, high-tech industry to this area, Gann said. It would open up possibilities for more research into energy creation using the ocean's power.

Up to three wave tanks, measuring 30,000 square feet altogether, would be a key part of the site in what would be called the Pacific Centre for Ocean Energy and Engineering within the new park, Gann said.

These tanks can give researchers information in just minutes that would otherwise take far longer, said Brad Buckham, of UVic's faculty of engineering. Tanks could be used by businesses to "make ocean energy solutions a reality," Buckham said.

David Fissel, president of ASL Environmental Sciences Inc., praised the initiative.

"Over the past 10 to 15 years, we have too often seen reductions in government programs supporting ocean science and technology activities," he said. B.C. marine high-tech companies account for about $1.5 billion in annual revenue, most generated through export sales, Fissel said.

To maintain and increase their global market share, companies need effective ways to collaborate with universities and governments, he added, saying stronger partnerships are also needed with research labs.