New initiative looks to make Hampton Roads the leader in maritime ‘blue’ economy

Norfolk

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A new initiative from Old Dominion University wants to put Hampton Roads on the map in the maritime economy, and not just dealing with shipbuilding, but offshore wind, cybersecurity and so much more.

The ODU Maritime Initiative is the brainchild of researchers at the university and the Hampton Roads Maritime Collaborative for Growth & Innovation (HRMC). They believe the region is strategically advantaged to approach the growing needs of the blue economy.

Associate Vice President Nancy Grden from the ODU Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship says many in the region take water for granted.

“We have defense, we have the port and logistics, we have offshore wind, which is growing, and we have everything now going on with sea level rise,” she said. “The good news is there’s cross-cutting opportunities for innovation in all four.”

The university’s Maritime Initiative will address multiple areas, from job training to research, in maritime industries.

Co-chair of the Hampton Roads Maritime Collaborative John “Dubby” Wynne says they hope to innovate technologies vital to maritime industry operations, including cybersecurity, automation, digital transformation and advanced manufacturing.

“We needed change. We needed these foundational things that really can only come out of an educational institution that’s interested in change and doing these things,” he said.

ODU President Dr. Brian Hemphill says this new push to invest in the blue economy has more than just an economic impact.

“This is about looking at sustainability. It’s looking at coastal resiliency,” he said. “We know that we have significant challenges facing us over the next several years and decades for that matter. But we also know that this is about job creation.”

If done right, researchers say the maritime economy could bring 5,000 to 10,000 new jobs annually.

“This is a core problem we need to get on the top of and show we’re part of the innovation,” said Wynne. “We can do this, not just for business, we can do this for your quality of life. So come here, this is a community that solves problems.”

The groups presented their initial research findings and strategies to accomplish these goals during a presentation Thursday, put together by TEConomy Partners.

The plan is still in the very early stages, but the biggest takeaway is the impact this could have on workforce development right here in Hampton Roads.

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