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One of the new laboratories envisioned as part of the Ocean Space Laboratories will be an area of the Trondheim Fjord that allows testing of underwater autonomous or remotely operated vehicles, like this one from NTNU's AUR Lab. Photo: Geir Johnsen, NTNU/UNIS

Six billion NOK for new Ocean Space Laboratories

Three new fjord laboratories, one in Trondheim, one in Hitra/Frøya and one in Ålesund, along with two test basins in Trondheim are planned as part of the project.

Long before oil was found in the North Sea in 1969, Norway has lived off the ocean and its resources. Now, the Norwegian government has said it is willing to allocate up to NOK 6 billion for the construction of new ocean research laboratories in Trondheim, Ålesund and on Hitra/Frøya. Torbjørn Røe Isaksen, the Norwegian Minister of Trade and Industry, came to Trondheim on 7 December to announce the decision.

Norway’s maritime future gets a boost from government go-ahead. Gathered to celebrate the news at the Trondheim waterfront, from left, Gunnar Bovim, NTNU Rector, Sivert Bjørnstad, Storting member from the FrP (Progress) party; Mari Holm Lønseth, Storting member from the Høyre (Conservative) party; Alexandra Bech Gjørv, SINTEF Chief Executive; and Jon Gunnes, Storting member from the Venstre (Liberal) party. Photo: Lena Knutli, SINTEF

“The maritime industry is responsible for more than 200 000 jobs across the country and these jobs are an important aspect of ensuring that we have a sustainable society in the future,” Isaksen said in a press release. “If Norway is going to continue to be a world leader in the maritime sector, it’s important that we have laboratories that ensure that we can continue to expand and develop our expertise.”

New indoor tanks and outdoor laboratories

The plan goes by the name Ocean Space Laboratories and includes adding two new test basins at the Tyholt Marine Technology Centre, along with three fjord laboratories: one in the fjord just outside Trondheim city center, one in the Hitra/Frøya and one in Ålesund.

The fjord laboratory in Trondheim will be used for testing autonomous vessels and underwater robots. The laboratory in Hitra/Frøya will focus on food, fish farming, aquaculture and the environment. Finally, the laboratory in Ålesund will take advantage of the proximity to the shipping industry to test maritime vessels and transport at sea.

NTNU will use the different laboratories for educating students as well as for research, while SINTEF will conduct research in the labs. The laboratories will also be accessible to Norwegian universities and research communities, as well as companies that need to test products or equipment.

“We will create a national infrastructure for marine research,” Olav Bolland, Dean of NTNU’s Faculty of Engineering told Adressavisen, the regional newspaper.

The decision by the government means that the project now enters the “OFP” phase, during which preliminary work to determine the details of the project will be undertaken. If all goes according to plan, the earliest the laboratories will be completed is in 2025.