Ocean technology firm expands to Rhode Island for URI connection

Pictured with Dean of Engineering Ray Wright are recent graduates working at Navatek, whose CEO, Martin Kao, is standing in rear, far right.

One month after the launch of the University’s Business Engagement Center, designed to be a central portal for businesses to connect with URI resources, ocean technology firm Navatek Limited announced the opening of its first East Coast office in South Kingstown. When the Hawaii-based company chose its new location in the Palisades mill complex in Peacedale, proximity to URI was a major factor.

Navatek executives say URI is providing a critical pipeline of engineers to the company. “We’re eager to collaborate with the University to develop a future workforce and a continuing pipeline of new ideas valuable to the defense and alternative energy sectors,” said Navatek Chief Scientist David Kring. By the end of the year, Navatek will employ eight URI engineering graduates and launch a paid internship program for URI engineering students.

Graduates and interns alike will do hands-on, high-tech research and development to create software that will enable the U.S. Navy to design ships that are faster, more energy efficient, and can move more efficiently and safely through the waves. “We’re taking the problem-solving skills we learned at URI and applying them to cutting edge research,” said URI alumnus and Navatek engineer Chris O’Reilly ’13.

Navatek is a leader in the design of advanced ship hulls for the Navy, as well as wind turbine technologies, wave energy conversion, and utility-scale energy storage. It’s a place with the feel of a small start-up but with the backing of a 40-year old company that spends $25 million per year on research.

Even before Navatek opened its new offices, company executives signed an agreement with the University to launch a paid internship program for engineering students to provide practical, hands-on learning experiences. The company also plans to send its engineers into the classroom to serve as mentors for senior design projects, which pair students with company personnel to solve real-world engineering challenges.

These are exactly the kind of partnerships that the Business Engagement Center was designed to facilitate, according to URI President David M. Dooley. “Our partnership with Navatek provides real-world, realistic and challenging learning opportunities for students; innovative research possibilities; and another strong relationship with private industry,” he said.