The Future Ocean Space Centre

The Norwegian Marine Research Institute Marintek is leading a public-private initiative to build a World Ocean Space Centre in Trondheim by 2020. The concept has been called the third wave, referring to the historic opening of the first ship towing tank in Trondheim in 1939 and the ocean basin in 1981.

The plan calls for the creation of a completely new marine technology centre possibly closer to the city centre of Trondheim, with an ocean basin placed in the middle of the sea. The existing marine technology centre is at Tyholt, just outside downtown Trondheim.

The current buildings house a ship model tank, ocean laboratory, Marintek, the Institute of Marine Technology, and various labs owned by NTNU. The World Ocean Space Centre will comprise 90,100 square metres of new space with 1,000 employees and 500 students if politicians approve the most ambitious alternative, costing up to NOK 10 billion.

Under this scenario, the new centre would require the building of a new flexible ocean space laboratory with complete ocean environmental modelling and deepwater facilities, a 3D flume tank for the study of the effects of complex flow conditions and internal waves on slender marine structures, and a combined towing tank and wave-generation basis, as well as a combined flume and cavitation tunnel, designed to meet the challenges facing the shipping, fishing, and aquaculture industries, advanced marine operations under extreme weather conditions and development of renewable ocean energy resources.

In addition, there could be an Arctic laboratory, a design laboratory specifically for the challenges with the interface between structures and material technology, and a saltwater lab for the study of interactions between technology, biology and the environment.

 Norwegian architects Snøhetta, the winners of the 2009 EU prize for contemporary architecture for the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, have designed a futuristic ocean basin lab as part of the World Ocean Space Centre concept.
© Architecture: Snøhetta/Illustration: MIR

Keeping up with Competition

The plans for the World Ocean Space Centre have long been in the making. The origins for upgrading the existing centre date back to 2005, when the Norwegian government issued a white paper on research, according to Atle Minsaas, World Ocean Space Centre project leader and Marintek special advisor. Since then, the development of the Marine Technology Centre has gotten support from an additional four government white papers.

The driver behind the whole process has been the need for Norway to maintain its competitiveness as a maritime, oil and gas and fishing nation and create future value for the society, while addressing new challenges and opportunities within climate change and the environment, renewable ocean energy, marine bio prospecting, ocean mining, and Arctic and ultra-deep exploration.

The country has a leading position with the fifth largest maritime fleet in the world, 100,000 employed and value creation of USD 16 billion. Together with offshore oil and gas and fisheries and aquaculture, the three industries comprise more than 40% of Norway’s total annual value creation and more than 70% of exports.

However, the nation faces growing competition from the Asian shipping industry. The ocean space centre will be one element in the country’s goal of making Norway a sustainable global maritime knowledge hub. Other efforts have been the establishment of the Oslo Maritime Network and Maritime 21, a new national strategy on future research and development spending needs.

The centre will gather higher education, applied research, centres of excellence with critical knowledge areas, laboratories, an innovation centre, and an experience centre for the general public, all at one location. The hope is that it will make the centre a global knowledge hub and centre of gravity between the Norwegian local clusters and international research and development community.

“The centre would not only provide the major research and development infrastructure (RDI) in the global maritime knowledge hub, but is required for the hub to be sustainable as innovation competition increases,” said Torgeir Reve, professor of strategy on international competitiveness in the Norwegian School of Management, in his 2009 research report Norway- A Global Maritime Knowledge Hub. “Without a well functioning RDI there will be little R&D, and there will be limited possibilities to model, test and verify new technologies.”

The proposed World Ocean Space Centre could cost up to NOK 10 billion to build based on the conceptual study presented to the Norwegian trade and industry ministry this February.
© Architecture: Snøhetta/Illustration: MIR

Decision by 2011

There are still many hurdles for the project going forward. The project steering group has just finished the pre-study of the Ocean Space Centre, which proposes one possible concept that best matches its vision.

The plan is now in the next phase of the project where alternative concepts will be developed and further evaluated before a final decision can be made. This process could take one and a half years, meaning a final decision on the concept for the Ocean Space Centre could come in late 2011. So far, the current trade and energy minister, Trond Giske, has expressed his support for the project.

“If Norway is to continue to be a leading maritime nation, we must develop the industry through world-class research and innovation,” said Giske, when he received the conceptual pre-study in February. “The vision for the Ocean Space Centre is great, and if we realize this, it will have far reaching consequences beyond both the maritime environment and Norway’s borders.”

The project steering group for the World Ocean Space Centre includes representative companies such as Teekay, Statoil, Stakraft and the Ulstein Group, in addition to Marintek, SINTEF, NTNU and the Marine Research Institute. In addition to the Norwegian Trade and Industry Ministry, financial contributors to the pilot study include Det Norske Veritas, Statkraft, the Norwegian Shipowners’ Association, SINTEF and Marintek.

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