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Memorial University’s Marine Institute creates a virtuous cycle in Indonesia, and beyond

Group of people with arms in the air.


With more than 17,000 islands and millions of people who depend on the ocean for a living, Indonesia is playing a big role in propelling Newfoundland and Labrador’s Memorial University into the top league of global marine research and education.

“We placed Indonesia on our priority list five or six years ago, and we’ve done some relatively aggressive business development there,” says Bill Chislett, Director of MI International, the consultancy arm of Memorial University’s Marine Institute.

Those efforts have paid off in the form of a growing portfolio of assignments that not only help generate revenue but also bolster the institute’s reputation around the world.

Group of people with arms in the air.
Cyr Couturier and Mark Santos, Marine Institute aquaculture specialists, meet with seaweed producers and cooperative members in Bantaeng, South Sulawesi, as part of the INVEST Co-op Indonesia program.

For example, the institute, in partnership with the Co-operative Development Foundation of Canada and various local partners, is working with seaweed farmers in South Sulawesi, Indonesia, to promote more environmentally friendly cultivation methods, including flotation devices that are less damaging to the environment than the plastic water bottles that the farmers are accustomed to using.

On another front, an initiative funded by the Indonesian government has brought 33 lecturers from 13 polytechnic institutions to the Marine Institute over the past two years to upgrade their skills in aquaculture management, maritime transport, educational leadership and program delivery. The programs, extending for up to nine weeks, have included field visits to local fisheries, aquaculture farms and other maritime operations in various parts of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The institute has been involved in 250 projects in about 50 countries over the past three decades. Besides Indonesia, its prime targets in Asia are China, the Philippines and Vietnam. Other priority markets include Tanzania and Kenya in Africa, and several Caribbean island nations.

One of its first moves in the drive to expand its international horizons was to touch base with Canada’s Trade Commissioner Service (TCS), and it has remained in close contact ever since.

“They’ve been instrumental in helping us secure contracts,” Chislett says. “The trade commissioners provide support with market intelligence well before an internationally tendered opportunity appears. They help us identify local partner firms to reduce our overall bid costs as well as promote positioning. And they help with linguistic and cultural aspects.”

Chislett notes that an international presence creates a virtuous cycle, enabling the institute to attract the best and brightest researchers and students, which in turn enhances its reputation: “Not all of the best ideas are coming out of St. John’s, obviously. Engaging with partners, students and institutions overseas is important to making us the world’s ocean institute.”

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