It was a company that could be found on the ocean floor and aimed to find evidence of life on Mars.
But recent court filings suggest Guigne International has been brought back to Earth.
The federal Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) filed three statements of claim with the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador earlier this month, suing Guigne for a total of nearly $2.7 million to recover federal loans.
Guigne International began life in Paradise in 1989, founded by Jacques Guigne, named Entrepreneur of the Year by the P.J. Gardiner Institute for Small Business at Memorial University’s business faculty in 2000.
That was the same year it opened (as Guigne Technologies) a facility in St. John’s to continue its work, which included the design and development of technology for land, water and space applications.
At the time, the company had more than 60 employees, including scientists and engineers. The
St. John’s shop was going to be used to commercialize Guigne’s DRUMS (Dynamically Responding Ultrasonic Matrix Sonar) and Smart Acoustics trademarks.
The company also had offices in Huntsville, Ala., and Marseilles and Nice in France. In 2004, Guigne International was involved with a company proposing a Canadian mission to Mars, potentially to develop a tiny drill to be used for sampling and seismic information.
The Space-DRUMS technology — being used on the International Space Station as recently as three years ago — uses sound waves to levitate materials for processing, allowing them to be processed or grown without contamination by the sides of a container.
“The beams of sound energy work like invisible fingers that gently push the floating sample into the centre of the container so that it doesn’t touch the walls,” Guigne told a writer for Discovery News in September 2009, as the technology was beginning to be used aboard the station.
“With no gravity and nothing touching the walls you can have a very pure structure. Hence, it’s of great value.”
Development and expansion was aided by provincial and federal financing over the past two decades. The agency’s statements of claim seek repayment of outstanding portions of loans made to help in the development of DRUMS technologies for the ocean and ocean floor and for space, dating from January 1998, May 1998, August 2000, March 2001 and May 2002.
All statements of claim say Guigne (including Guigne Inc., Guigne International and Guigne SpaceDrums) and the agency agreed to several amendments to the loan repayment schedule, the last one dated Dec. 22, 2010.
Since the last amendment, however, Guigne has not met the agency’s reporting requirements and defaulted on its repayments, and has “ceased to carry on business,” transferring intellectual property and assets to another entity.
According to NASA fact sheets about the SpaceDRUMS project on the International Space Station, Jacques Guigne represents “Guigne Space Systems, Inc.,” which is not an entity listed among ACOA’s statements of claim.
Guigne’s former location on Kenmount Road in St. John’s is now a Long and McQuade musical instruments shop. The phone number for its Paradise location has been disconnected.
Jacques Guigne could not be reached for comment.