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USM signs Ocean Cluster partnership strengthening ties to Iceland

On September 18, President Glenn Cummings, along with several faculty and staff, climbed the gangway, and seven flights of stairs to reach the bridge of the MV Selfoss, a container ship owned by the Icelandic shipping company Eimskip. Accompanied by Patrick Arnold, majority owner in the New England Ocean Cluster House, President Cummings and University of New England's President Danielle Ripich, signed a partnership agreement that will strengthen the relationship and create future opportunities with the new marine business incubator.

The New England Ocean Cluster House combines research and development with commercial operations in Portland, and creates strong ties to similar efforts in Iceland and beyond. As quoted in a Portland Press Herald article last fall, Ocean Cluster partner Thor Sigfusson, an entrepreneur from Iceland, said of the incubator space, “It’s a dynamic embassy for Nordic countries.” 

Pres Glenn Cummings and Patrick ArnoldAt the signing event, President Cummings spoke of the partnership's importance, saying, “The New England Ocean Cluster House partnership will lead to direct economic growth not only for the Portland region but for the entire state of Maine.” 

USM's involvement in the Ocean Cluster partnership includes faculty, staff, students and alumni, such as David Arnold, a USM alumnus who is a principal owner at SoliDG and Erica Benson, a USM alumna who is an account coordinator at the New England Ocean Cluster. USM’s faculty from a number of disciplines and programs (such as the School of Business, the Muskie School of Public Service, the Cutler Institute for Research and Lewiston Auburn College), are collaborating with the Ocean Cluster on cutting edge commercial development opportunities that will allow students to engage with innovative companies in ocean-related industries, and gain international experience. In addition, USM will offer its expertise in regulatory compliance within its Maine Regulatory Training and Ethics Center.

The Ocean Cluster partnership is only the start of the opportunities USM has to connect with business leaders and academic institutions in Iceland. In October, USM will be part of a Maine delegation heading to Iceland to attend an Arctic conference and they will also be connecting with faculty and administrators at Reykjavik University and the University of Iceland to discuss future partnerships in research, student exchanges and more.

Photo of artist and USM alumnus Justin LevesqueIn addition to the business and academic partnerships, USM's ties to Eimskip and Iceland include artistic and cultural endeavors as well. When the group left the MV Selfoss after the signing event on Friday, they left behind one member of the USM family. From September 19 - 28, USM alumnus Justin Levesque (pictured right) is on board the MV Selfoss through a grant from the Maine Arts Commission to document his experience on the Icelandic Eimskip container ship.

Learn more about this project, and follow Justin's journey through his podcast. 

And to read more about the partnership through press coverage, view:

"Maine universities pledge support of marine incubator" - Portland Press Herald

"UNE and USM offer support to New England Ocean Cluster House" - WCSH6 (video)