SAINT JOHN – As a unique microcosm of diverse energy projects, Saint John is in a position to become an international energy policy think-tank.

Tim Curry on the UNBSJ campus. The president of the Atlantica Centre for Energy says a proposed Energy Institute may not get off the ground because of the province’s decision not to build the Centre for Excellence for Energy and Construction at Tucker Park.

Establishing a so-called Energy Institute is something that Tim Curry, president of the Atlantica Centre for Energy and people from the University of New Brunswick Saint John, have been exploring. The Atlantica centre is a Saint John-based regional energy association.

The business case for establishing the institute is complete, but with the province’s announcement that the Centre of Excellence for Energy and Construction will not be built on the UNBSJ campus at Tucker Park, it may not get off the ground.

“We pulled that back. There’s no point on working on attracting investment to a mess,” Curry said.

“It’s one of those things that becomes more possible if you’ve got some critical mass starting to be assembled.”

If the energy centre of excellence were to be built at Tucker Park, it would better enable the think-tank to come together because its work would cross many disciplines, from biology and engineering to economics and business, and they would feed on each other and grow, he said.

“It’s a real cross-disciplinary potpourri of issues that cross on energy,” he said. “That’s what makes it particularly attractive for the Saint John campus. We’re at the heart of the energy cluster and we’ve got some resources already in place, like the Rivers Institute.”

It would also make sense to cluster all business programs at UNBSJ, he said, because of the realm of issues to be explored.

“From an industry point of view, some of our members have said they draw employees from both resources and if there were opportunity for some synergies in the delivery of those programs, how much better it would be,” he said.

A body that looks at energy from a policy perspective and has academic credentials and grounding in some of the latest thinking would be a resource with some “international cache” that would brand the Saint John campus, Curry said, and could attract amenities such as a research chair, which would leverage federal cash.

“If you had an institute that could pull together some thought leadership on all that, it really starts to become an attractive value-add to the educational complex and the energy complex,” he said.

With both the college and the university struggling to keep lab equipment current, the institute would provide an opportunity to share resources, he said, not just in the energy realm, but particularly in business, if both university and college business programs were located at Tucker Park.

“There are opportunities of some sharing of resources and articulation of programs which the university and the college seem to be quite amenable to,” he said.

Finally, Curry said, with a demographic crisis looming, an institute would provide a collection of opportunities to attract students, researchers and faculty.

“It would be a key element in helping us attract and retain talent for the region in energy, business and services that are building up around this energy-fueled industry that we have.”