Memorial University Leading the Way in Harsh Environment Research

News release

New research facility will support world-class research and development 

August 27, 2019 – St. John’s (NL) – Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency 

Atlantic Canada has a wealth of internationally-recognized ocean research and development expertise, which contributes to a diverse, globally competitive oceans industry. Memorial University is establishing a new Harsh Environment Research Facility (HERF) to strengthen the region’s infrastructure and expertise in technologies operating in harsh environments, such as the ocean, energy, shipping, and aerospace sectors. 

The HERF will be a new world-class R&D facility for large-scale testing, research and development that is vital to the Canadian economy and environment. It will include a multi-purpose facility to simulate harsh conditions with icebergs and sea ice, high winds, waves, sea water spray, fog, and other harsh climatic conditions such as freezing rain storms. The facility will have strategic importance to industrial research locally, nationally and globally with its capacity to simulate both fresh and salt-water conditions, which will be unique in the world.

Memorial University will work with other post-secondary institutions and industry partners to address engineering challenges in three core areas – icing of marine vessels and other structures such as overhead power lines, aircraft and wind turbines; ice-structure interactions including ice management and safety and; advanced material coatings and engineered surfaces.  

The Government of Canada, through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency(ACOA), is providing a non-repayable contribution of $2.7 million, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is contributing $2.4 million and Husky Energy is investing $1 million. 

Nick Whalen, Member of Parliament for St. John’s East, on behalf of the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), along with Sarah Stoodley, Parliamentary Secretary for  Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation (TCII), on behalf of the Honourable Christopher Mitchelmore, made the announcement today.
Economic growth and the creation of good jobs for Atlantic Canadians require innovation and diversification. Support for this project is one way the Government of Canada is growing the innovation economy by working to sustain strategic clusters, and enhance the development and reach of business accelerators and incubators. Projects like this also contribute to the Atlantic Growth Strategy outcome of long-term economic prosperity in the region.


“The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of the blue economy to Atlantic Canada. Through the Ocean Supercluster, we are working with our partners to harness emerging technologies to strengthen Canada's ocean industries. That is why we are pleased to invest in this world-class initiative, which will be an asset for the Ocean Supercluster, and will enable Memorial University to pursue key research to help grow the oceans sector.”

The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Minister responsible for ACOA

“Over the past number of years, Memorial University has built an international reputation for its research capacity, expertise and collaborative work in harsh environments. This new facility will help Memorial and its partners pursue important leading-edge research in this field, develop solutions to real world challenges and help drive innovation and growth in our region’s ocean industries.”

- Nick Whalen, Member of Parliament for St. John’s East

“Our government is proud to invest in this new world-class facility, which will add significantly to industry-relevant research and development capacity in our ocean industries. Support for innovation and technology delivers on our government’s commitments in The Way Forward’s Business Innovation Agenda and Technology Sector Work Plan to strengthen the province’s economic foundation. This investment will enable the development of highly qualified professionals that will advance research and innovation in our ocean industries to drive market growth and further develop our economy.”

- The Honourable Christopher Mitchelmore, Newfoundland and Labrador Minister of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation

“At Memorial, we take pride in creating exciting teaching and learning environments for students and researchers alike, while simultaneously achieving an important goal of having a positive, practical impact on industry. This includes better ways to operate in harsh offshore environments. So I thank the federal and provincial governments and Husky Energy for this critical investment into the establishment of this facility. Memorial is proud to work with these partners to lead innovative breakthroughs in cold ocean and harsh environment research.”

- Dr. Gary Kachanoski, president and vice-chancellor, Memorial University

“Our top priority is to reduce risk to our people and the environment. Having access to the Harsh Environment Research Facility and being able to collaborate with experts in the field will give us more opportunities to test systems and structures in conditions specific to our region. Consistent with our commitment to continual improvement, the more we learn about the environment in which we operate, the better we can optimize our logistics and asset deployment, providing for more timely and effective interventions.”

- Trevor Pritchard, Senior Vice President Atlantic, Husky Energy

Quick facts

  • The Harsh Environment Research Facility (HERF) is led by a multidisciplinary team from Memorial University, York University, Concordia University and the National Research Council Canada.

  • The project is led by Dr. Yuri Muzychka, professor and department head of mechanical engineering at Memorial University.

  • The total project is valued at more than $16 million. The Government of Canada is investing $2.7 million in this project through ACOA’s Regional Economic Growth through Innovation program. The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is contributing $2.4 million through the Department of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation. Husky Energy is investing $1 million and Memorial University is providing more than $3.2 million. In addition, the Canada Foundation for Innovation announced more than $6.7 million for the project from its Innovation Fund in 2017.

  • More than half of Canada’s $30 billion ocean economy is anchored in Atlantic Canada, with its ocean industries accounting for over one-third of all ocean-related jobs in the entire country. This project is an example of a local institution making waves in the global blue economy.


Paul McGrath
Director of Communications

Eric Humber
Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation
709-729-4819, 709-725-9655

Jackey Locke
Communications Advisor, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science
Memorial University

Kim Guttormson
Media & Issues Specialist
Husky Energy

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