Jim Hanlon believes Nova Scotia is on the verge of becoming the best place in the world to do ocean-based technology research and development.

Hanlon, CEO of the Institute for Ocean Research Enterprise, was on hand Thursday as the provincial and federal governments announced a combined $19.7 million to transform the former Canadian Coast Guard base on the Dartmouth waterfront to an incubation hub for research, design and development.

Hanlon said the local ocean technology community is already known around the world for its excellence.

Jim Hanlon

Jim Hanlon, CEO of the Institute for Ocean Research Enterprise, said the local ocean technology community is known around the world for its excellence. (CBC)

"In many ways this ocean community is better known in New England, in Europe, in Asia, in Latin America than it is known here at home."

That makes sense, he said, given how connected the sector is, but "it's also because we are very, very good at what we do in this sector here in Nova Scotia."

The funding announcement follows the province's decision to buy the site last year for $6.5 million and hold it for this very purpose. The Nova Scotia Community College will be the academic lead on the project, but it's expected researchers from all universities will tie into the site.

Private-sector partners to join soon

Premier Stephen McNeil said announcements are also pending from the private sector of people and companies planning to partner and invest in the site. While there isn't an exact timeline for when COVE, or the Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship, will open, the premier said it would be soon.

"We're not looking at years," he said. "We're going to see activity on that site within a year."

Existing buildings and wharves have already been evaluated and the premier expects tenders to go out in short order.

Thursday's announcement includes $12.55 million from the province and $7.17 million from Ottawa. It's the first in a planned $60 million in investments to either upgrade existing research sites or create new ones at universities and colleges in the province.

COVE

An artist's rendering shows what the former Coast Guard base on the Dartmouth waterfront will look like when renovations are complete. (CBC)

Treasury Board president Scott Brison said the rest of the money has already been allocated to projects and more announcements would soon follow.

NSCC president Don Bureaux said the project was a natural fit for the college because of all the collaborative work it already does with the private and public sector. It means students at the college will get more opportunities to interact with industry, he said.

"Our students work and learn in an applied learning environment and applied learning is working with our industry and our business partners. That's exactly what this is about."

While the college's involvement could involve a funding aspect, Bureaux said that's still to be determined. The college will also provide in-kind services.