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Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Recognized as Business Leader

Many underwater vehicles developed at WHOI have been spun off as for-profit companies.
Elsa Partan
Many underwater vehicles developed at WHOI have been spun off as for-profit companies.

Later this week, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution will accept one of three 2017 Vision Awards given by Associated Industries of Massachusetts, the state’s largest employer association. 


With about a thousand employees, WHOI is one of the largest employers on Cape Cod. But Mark Abbott, the Oceanographic’s president and director, says WHOI’s contributions go beyond the direct employment at the institution. 

“We’ve also spun off many independent companies, about 15, that have relocated or formed on the Cape,” he said. 

Abbott cites WHOI's Center for Marine Robotics as a strong business incubator.

But located in a village of fewer than a thousand people, the institution could be at a competitive disadvantage. Abbott says there are pros and cons when it comes to WHOI’s location.

“I always like to say, we are at the end of a long, skinny road,” he said.

Abbott says the Oceanographic takes full advantage of its proximity to companies and universities in southern New England, including with MIT in Cambridge, Mass.

“We also provide a kind of retreat center, in a sense,” he said. “Where people can come, work together intensely, and have that kind of really intense environment separate from their day-to-day jobs.”

Since Donald Trump was elected president, many scientists have become more politically active in fighting for policy action on climate change, as evidenced by the recent March for Science. But Abbott doesn’t see a role for WHOI in politics. Individual scientists are free to speak their minds, but the Oceanographic must stay above the fray, he said.

“Our fundamental value is that we provide the unbiased source of scientific knowledge,” he said. “And to help people use that knowledge to make better decisions and better policies, that’s just a core value.”

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