Tectorian of the Week: AXYS Group

axys 40

Our Tectorian of the Week is the AXYS Group, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this month.

In many ways, the AXYS Group represents where Greater Victoria’s tech sector has been, and where it’s going. Forty years ago, a tight-knit group of visionaries saw an opportunity and then worked like crazy to take advantage of it.

Along the way, the companies of the AXYS Group have created a whole bunch of new technologies that are helping change the world, have produced a ton of high-paying jobs, and have put Victoria on the map as the location of Canada’s top ocean technology cluster.

Besides attracting talent, the AXYS companies also nurture and produce talent, adding knowledge, wisdom and experience to the Tectoria gene pool.

Privately-held AXYS Group was founded in 1974 and has played a leading role both in the economy of Saanich Peninsula and Greater Victoria.

The founding members of the AXYS Group all had graduate degrees in marine analytical chemistry. Their background and interest in marine science is responsible for the direction the AXYS Group has taken.

Paul Erickson played a key role within the AXYS Group with Seastar Chemicals. Since stepping back from day-to-day operations just over a decade ago, Erickson has turned a personal interest in type 1 diabetes into an active role as a philanthropist involved in funding research to for the hereditary condition. He has been an early stage investor in numerous biotech and technology companies.

David Thomas still serves as the president and chairman of the AXYS Group of companies, while Peter Berrang was the founder and President of Seastar Optics Inc. for 10 years.

Seastar, which manufactured semiconductor laser devices for the telecommunications industry world-wide was sold to SDL Inc. of San Jose, CA., a public company, in Dec. 1995. SDL was subsequently acquired by JDS Uniphase.

AXYS Group company Seastar Chemicals is still a major employer on the Saanich Peninsula, while AXYS Analytical is a world leader in ultra trace analysis of Persistent Organic Pollutants and emerging organic contaminants.

AXYS Technologies, which designs and builds its distinctive yellow marine hardware, is the most recognizable of the companies sharing the local DNA.

The AXYS Technologies legacy began with marine consulting contracts to Environment Canada for wave studies in 1974. This was followed by the design of several marine technology devices in the 1980’s that lead to an opportunity to design, manufacture, install and service Canada’s Marine Weather Buoy Network. Enhancements and improvements to these technologies has been an ongoing mandate in close collaboration with Environment Canada.

In the early 1990’s, AXYS began inventing additional marine technologies in collaboration with the National Research Council (NRC), including the industry-leading TRIAXYS directional wave monitoring buoy. The NRC also assisted financially with development of the next generation WatchMan500™ controller processor.

Over the last twenty years, AXYS Technologies has continued to grow its marine product portfolio and increase market share with major buoy network sales in Italy, Colombia, Spain, Portugal, the United States, and Brazil. AXYS has built and tested over 200 meteorological and oceanographic data buoys of various types.

In the last five years, AXYS Technologies further diversified with the creation of the first commercially-deployed offshore wind resource assessment buoy, as well as hydrological products for freshwater monitoring, and automated weather stations for aviation data.

Other companies in the AXYS Group have also developed a strong reputation for innovation.

In 2005, Atlantic Canada’s Jacques Whitford acquired AXYS Environmental Consulting Ltd. to become one of Canada’s largest environmental and engineering consulting firms. In 2008, engineering services giant Stantec went on to acquire Jacques Whitford – a lot of people all over Canada and the rest of the world are looking at what innovative companies are doing in Tectoria.

With special thanks to ASL’s David Fissel who himself has not only watched the local ocean cluster thrive and grow, but has also played a key role in the process.


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