Nobody, including Oceanit, expected 2020 to be the chaotic and surreal a year that it was. In our 35 years in business, the Oceanit family has not experienced a local and global situation like this. From the global pandemic to incomplete or absent leadership and government policies, there were many reasons to be pessimistic. Hawaii’s tourism industry was hit, highlighting a weakness in economic reliance on one industry, and hundreds of thousands lost their lives across our country.
Despite the chaotic year, we feel a sense of optimism and hope that we can all work through these trying times and bring the community closer together. Oceanit’s focus in 2020 was adaptation… to the new normal, to the evolving pandemic, and to the difficult problems that continue to face the world. Our goal for 2021 is to find opportunity in chaos and roar back, stronger than ever, with and for our home.
In January, Oceanit was featured as an Air Force Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program success story. Many Oceanit projects get their start in the Department of Defense’s SBIR programs, which are designed to fund technology development deemed too risky by the traditional business models of large corporations. Our success story featured Oceanit’s High Accuracy Network Determination System (HANDS), a network of observation points around the world that map and track ever increasing levels of space debris, that was ideated, developed, and deployed from right here in Hawaii. https://www.oceanit.com/news/in-the-news-hands-space-debris-and-scientific-success/
In March, the global wave of COVID-19 truly hit the US, and Oceanit, like many others, was forced to shift away from in-person activities to remote working environments. Unfortunately, it meant cancelling our office tours, cancelling events and conferences, and prompted us to seek new ways of engaging friends, communities, and partners.
Oceanit’s S&T team, who were working with the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) pivoted work on an AI for cancer genomics https://www.oceanit.com/services/noetic-mathematical-engine/ to focus on SARS-CoV-2 and discovering a way to detect the virus in infectious people using AI. We began developing our ASSURE-19 test kit (embed open-in new tab link) with it, wrote the ALOHA protocol, developed and put into action using our tests to allow for innovation and groundbreaking activity to continue, while keeping the entire Oceanit Ohana and our own families as safe as possible.
In April, Design Thinking strategist Raviraj Pare was named as one of Pacific Business News’ 40 Under 40 class of 2020, continuing a tradition of younger innovators making Oceanit incredibly proud and hopeful for the future of Hawai’i. Past honorees have included Oceanit’s Sumil Thapa and Dr. Michael Foley, among others
At the height of the summer, Physicist Sergey Negrashov partnered with his friends and colleagues at the University of Hawaii to create https://alohamask.org/, a group that went to work producing thousands of reusable cloth mask kits. Sergey worked full time at Oceanit while also recruiting dozens of Aloha Mask volunteers to help cut, sew, and distribute PPE in a time of dire shortages and extreme need. https://www.oceanit.com/news/oceanits-sergey-negrashov-rallies-the-community-around-alohamask/
At her alma mater, Iolani School, Oceanit engineer Taylor Chock joined her sister and other volunteers to lead efforts to fabricate thousands of face shields for healthcare workers across the state of Hawaii. Using Iolani’s lab facilities, Taylor and her team 3D-printed thousands of face shields, a vital part of personal protective equipment, in the school’s Sullivan Center for Innovation and Leadership.
In June, Oceanit and our ASSURE-19 rapid saliva tests were selected by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to participate in a Shark-Tank–esque program called RADx to support quick development of rapid, accessible, affordable COVID-19 tests. Oceanit is now under contract with NIH and the RADx team and advancing our science and production capabilities in pursuit of an FDA emergency use authorization for ASSURE-19.
In the midst of our pandemic response, Patrick Sullivan released the physical edition of his long-awaited book “Intellectual Anarchy: The Art of Disruptive Innovation”. Finally, after years of interviews and conversations discussing aspects of the thought process behind Oceanit’s 35 years of success, the method is captured on paper to help other innovators and businesspeople find success in chaos. (embed site link open in new tab) Dr. Sullivan spent almost five years compiling stories from within Oceanit to put together his book, stories that capture the ‘innovate from anywhere’ spirit that we all value.
Throughout the tumulus year, Oceanit participated in many virtual events that would have otherwise been hosted in person. These included presenting, sponsoring, and hosting at such events as the Hawaii Book and Music Festival, virtual Astronaut Lacy Veach Day, the annual Girl Scouts STEM Fest with a successful virtual experiment, and more. The Oceanit team produced videos for the events or appeared live on-screen to speak with children and STEM educators from all around the state.
The entire team at Oceanit is grateful to have the Hawaii community as our home for over 35 years. The success that we have is due in no small part to the support and partnership with the island’s community, educators, university, and workers and we are very grateful for that kokua. The Oceanit Ohana wishes you and yours a refreshed 2021, full of good health and opportunity.