Category: Blog Post
Empowering SMEs to Drive Canada’s Prosperous Path in the Expanding Blue Economy
By: Dr. Jason Goldsworthy, P.Eng., Executive Director, The Centre for Ocean Applied Sustainable Technologies (COAST)
The Blue Economy is growing around the world as more and more businesses and organizations understand that our oceans are one of the planet’s greatest assets.
Access to reliable data is a vital component for effective innovation, and providing that access is what’s fuelling the development of new technologies that transform the way we work with, in, on and around the oceans. Thanks to equitable access to high-end computing power, we’re seeing that it’s actually not the large multinational corporations that are driving this transformation as you’d expect, but rather the more nimble small to medium enterprises (SMEs), who are motivated by both the inherent opportunities in the industry and a desire for change.
Many of these SMEs are single innovators with a great idea to support the world’s largest industries in improving operational efficiencies, transitioning to a cleaner footprint and finding new markets to increase revenues and profitability.
Canada has a strong history of developing exceptional intellectual property thanks to our outstanding educational and research-based organizations. This is especially true in our marine and ocean-based sectors, where we lead the world in many areas of ocean based research.
Commercializing this IP will have a massive impact on an industry predicted to be worth $3 trillion (US) by 2030. And with Canada boasting the longest coastline in the world, our diverse natural ecosystems, Indigenous knowledge and leadership and desire to improve, we have the potential to lead the world in bringing new innovations to the ocean and marine industries.
We are already seeing Canadian SMEs commercializing world-leading technologies in the ocean sector including innovations in clean renewable energy, marine decarbonization, coastal restoration and waste management. These SMEs are redefining what our future markets for energy, marine products and environmental protection could look like.
Many SMEs are honing their technology in our backyard and then exporting to worldwide markets to solve some of the oceans’ greatest challenges. We should celebrate these successes while also ensuring that we foster a commercial environment where future innovators and SMEs can prosper.
If Canada is to continue this path of success in the Blue Economy, we need more SMEs to develop new technology, with the support of organizations like Canada’s Ocean Supercluster, the Centre for Ocean Ventures & Entrepreneurship (COVE) in Halifax, Novarium in Quebec, the Centre for Ocean Applied Sustainable Technologies (COAST) in Pacific Canada and programs like the Ocean Startup Project. With collective will and support, Canada’s marine industries can thrive and lead the path to a better use of our oceans and our SMEs will grow to support a burgeoning ocean economy and export to the world.
It is an exciting, engaging and prosperous time to be in this Blue Economy as a researcher, innovator, SME or industry participant. I am privileged to be part of it and encourage others to engage. Feel free to connect with COAST at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Significance of AI in the Ocean Sector
Jennifer LaPlante, Chief Growth and Investment Officer, Canada’s Ocean Supercluster
This past week the OSC had the opportunity to share an announcement of nearly $20 million in AI projects led by companies across seven provinces. As part of the Pan Canadian AI Strategy, we are striving to increase the use and adoption of AI in the ocean sector. The announcement took place at the first annual All In AI Conference, providing the opportunity to showcase five different ocean ventures named in the list of the Top 100 AI start-ups in Canada. This week has highlighted the opportunity we have to continue the momentum to grow ocean AI in Canada.
With the increased demonstration of and access to ChatGPT, Dall·e, Midjourney, and countless other AI products, the awareness of AI grows by day. These tools have opened the door for all of us to explore AI across our daily activities. Nevertheless, it remains a demanding journey for companies to navigate how to leverage AI for both commercial activities and operational optimization. Developing and building your own artificial intelligence solutions requires a significant volume of data, domain expertise to understand and label that data, technological ability to understand the algorithms that may be the possible recipes to create usable models, and the full technology suite of talent and infrastructure to deploy and maintain new AI solutions. Not every company is positioned to do this on their own. We are striving to support our members on this journey.
Over the coming year we will be working to help the sector better understand and articulate the challenges in developing and benefiting from AI. This includes the creation of an Ocean AI Strategy Steering Committee to ensure we work with members to better understand the barriers to AI comprehension and adoption. We are partnering with a range of organizations, such as AI research institutes to garner access to leading AI expertise to support ocean challenges. Lastly, access to quality and usable data has been previously identified as a real barrier for the ocean sector to build more robust and usable AI. As such, all projects within our AI program and Phase 2 are required to provide high level details about the data created within the projects. By supporting the access to high level details of a range of ocean related data, OSC members are able to potential share or sell their data, enabling others to benefit and create usable AI tools or other solutions.
Stay tuned for upcoming sessions about AI, data and AI talent, as we build out support to drive Canada’s leadership in Ocean AI.
Unleashing the Power of People
Navigating the sustainable ocean sector’s Talent Landscape towards Ambition 2035
By: Janelle Caballero | Director, Cluster Workforce Growth, Canada’s Ocean Supercluster
In the collective potential ocean innovation presents for Canada, Ambition 2035 represents a 5X growth potential in ocean – for industry, communities, for workers – for our country. In May we came together with leaders from coast-to-coast-to-coast in Ottawa for a meaningful conversation around how individual aspirations in ocean can and should contribute to transformational opportunity for Canada’s entire ocean community – and where collaboration, innovation, and inclusivity were all recognized as some of the key enablers in realizing it. In this dynamic and evolving ocean sector – which is set to outpace the broader economy, financial capital is no question a key driver, but there is consensus that there is an equally impactful force we need to address: human capital. It is the strategic and skilled people that join this sector who will help bring our ideas and aspirations to life, grow more ocean companies, and bring their products to markets around the world.
Canada’s Ocean Supercluster (OSC) recognizes the urgency and importance of attracting talent to the sustainable ocean economy. The key lies in the alignment of shared values, where the foundations of ambition are fortified by purpose-driven connections. It is not just about economic gains; it is about building awareness and delivering a narrative that resonates with jobseekers, where the call of the ocean meets the values that guide their career choices.
In 2019, Canada’s ocean economy employed more than 300,000 individuals and con-tributed $39 billion to the country’s GDP. Looking ahead, the global ocean economy’s projected value of $4 trillion CAD by 2030 and Ambition 2035 presents an aspiration to grow Canada’s ocean economy to $220 billion by 2035. This is a testament to the vast potential awaiting exploration. Yet, amidst this sea of opportunities, challenges also arise. The need to bolster Canada’s ocean sector capacity is undeniable, given the constraints of a limited ocean talent pool and the imperative to stay relevant and competitive.
In the current landscape of the Canadian labour market, the ripples of change are palpable. Workforce trends projected for 2023 are set to leave a profound impact on the sustainable ocean economy. The surge in demand for a flexible workplace culture, characterized by hybrid models and remote work facilitated by cutting-edge technologies, is undeniable. Alongside this, the call for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the ocean space resounds with urgency. Historically underrepresented groups – Indigenous rights holders, women, 2SLGBTQIA+ community members, BIPOC individuals, and the neurodiverse – are asserting their rightful place, adding their unique perspectives and in-sights to the fabric of the industry.
This is a landscape where more Canadian ocean companies are starting and scaling, and the demand for skilled talent reaches unparalleled heights, with employers across industries fiercely vying for the best and brightest minds. The ocean sector’s journey is uniquely challenging, as it navigates the intricate interplay of an aging demographic’s retirements and the multiplying opportunities for digital and technological niche roles, especially for youth and mid-career sector entrants.
OSC talent research conducted in 2022 offered insights into this dichotomy, revealing that only 52% of OSC membership job postings in skilled talent were filled over a two-month period, leaving 48% vacant. Yet amidst this challenge, glimmers of hope are on the horizon. Over 600 ocean sector job boards, internship opportunities, mentorship programs, and accredited courses have been identified. These initiatives and resources are crafting a solid foundation for the nurturing and growth of a robust talent pool and pipeline.
There is meaningful and impactful work being done in this space already to lay the foundation for our talent pool and pipeline development. Yet, the central question remains: how do we attract these skilled and values-aligned individuals to the ocean sector? To-day, jobseekers, including recent graduates and those seeking mid-career shifts, are seeking values-aligned work. This is the juncture where Ambition 2035 and OSC 2.0 make their entrance. Cultivating a larger, more diverse workforce to realize the full potential of the sustainable ocean economy requires a profound understanding of the evolving workplace trends and articulation of our shared vision for sustainable ocean growth in Canada. This is where collaboration and holistic vision-building come into play.
At our Ambition 2035 event in May, we heard the participants and the thoughtful contributions made. Collaboration, respect, integrity, equity, sustainability, impact, and com-munity were top values that were raised and when asked for input into our list of Talent priorities for OSC 2.0, this included:
• flexible training pathways
• mentorship and training for those looking to enter the ocean sector
• further awareness building of Canada’s ocean brand
• facilitating ocean economy workforce data sharing and reporting
• DEI support mechanisms and training, and minimizing of barriers
• linkages from post-secondary talent pipelines to entry-level jobs
• funding allocated for talent pipeline projects
• promotion of a wide variety of jobs in the ocean space
Canada’s Ocean Supercluster’s talent pillar strategy addresses these key areas of growth, and actions on moving the talent needle substantially over the next five-year funding cycle. As we continue to move forward with talent initiatives, we are keeping top of mind that our success lies in forging purpose-centered relationships with individuals, rather than merely focusing on reporting metrics or ticking boxes. We collectively need to facilitate connections with intention, fostering a space where not only are people wel-comed, but where they are motivated to stay, to contribute, and to shape the future we aspire to create. As we continue this shared task of ecosystem talent building, our cen-tral focus will remain on shared values, innovation, inclusivity, and a commitment to a prosperous and sustainable ocean economy.
The path ahead is one where we cultivate relationships with people who are the driving force in shaping the sustainable ocean legacy we leave behind.
Tech startups turn their attention to the blue economy
A reflection on the first-ever OceanFest event at Montreal’s Startupfest
By: Nancy Andrews, Chief Engagement & Communications Officer, OSC and
Amélie Desrochers, Executive Director, Novarium
Every year, Startupfest brings thousands of founders and investors from across Canada and around the world to explore the latest in tech, emerging trends and opportunities, and also to pitch and hear new, exciting ideas. This year, for the first-time ever, Startupfest included an ocean focused event called OceanFest – hosted in partnership by Novarium, AquaAction, the Ocean Startup Project and Canada’s Ocean Supercluster and with the support of many other ecosystem partners from across the country.
Set to outpace the growth of the broader economy, the magnitude of the opportunity in the ocean sector means that we need more tech companies who aren’t already thinking about ocean to consider how their innovation can also be applied in this space and the investment needed to do it. Oceanfest helped put a spotlight on this earlier this month with speakers who highlighted the role of ocean in climate change and many of the biggest challenges facing our world today and investors who agreed the time to invest in ocean is now. The event featured some of Canada’s foremost academic, industry, and investment leaders as well as some of its most promising startups with clear take-a-way around the tremendous opportunity for ocean innovation in not only helping solve problems that impact us all but also in propelling new growth and new companies in an ecosystem that is bursting at the seams with potential.
The OceanFest agenda included ‘The Next Big Thing’ pitch competition with $30,000 in non-diluted funding prize and the opportunity to join FLOTS’ 12-month post-acceleration program. Canadian startups showed excellent pitching skills, compelling business models with demonstrated strong market pull in front of judges from across the country. After deliberations, Blue Lion Labs, a startup using AI to reduce environmental and biological threats walked away with the top prize. Congratulations to all the startups who participated in the competition and made such impressive pitches.
Before vacating due to inclement weather and a tornado warning later in the afternoon, we gathered in a beautiful space at the Port of Montreal with 24 ecosystem partners from across Canada including founders, accelerators, and regional innovation hubs for an interactive roundtable discussion on how to increasingly work together to advance our collective opportunity in the blue economy and potential through Ambition 2035, but also propel the work of each other. To do this a series of priorities and next steps were identified under pan-Canadian collaboration, diverse ecosystem development, and a strong global ocean brand for Canada. Leaving energized, inspired and excited for what’s next, we concluded the day with a commitment to build on what we started at Oceanfest in the weeks and months to come and come back next Startup Fest with an even bigger ocean event to build on this momentum.
Integrating Two-Eyed Seeing in the Blue Economy
Integrating Two-Eyed Seeing in the Blue Economy:
Reflections from the Blue Generation During World Ocean’s Week
By: Stephanie Hurlburt, Indigenous Program Lead, Clear Seas
As an Indigenous Program Lead at Clear Seas, I had the privilege of bringing participants from our Indigenous Career Pivot Program and Indigenous Internship Program to World Ocean’s Week in New York. Supported by funding from Canada’s Ocean Supercluster, we came to New York to join the Blue Generation, a group of 35 early career ocean stewards from over a dozen countries with a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences. Collaborating with experts in ocean research and conservation during this event deepened my understanding of the challenges our oceans face due to climate change. It also made me realize that it is only through collective innovation and using the Two-Eyed Seeing approach envisioned by Mi’kmaq Elder Albert Marshall that we can overcome these obstacles.
The Blue Economy offers many career paths. From marine biologists studying ecosystems to data scientists analyzing large datasets and engineers creating innovative solutions for renewable energy, the opportunities are endless. Through our sessions, we learned about the diverse jobs available in the marine industry but what makes these careers fascinating is their interconnectedness. For example, data collected by marine scientists can shape fisheries management policies and advancements in artificial intelligence technology improve climate predictions through oceanographic modeling. These connections foster a collaborative environment where professionals from different fields come together to tackle the complex challenges our oceans face. This is precisely why the Blue Generation holds such significance.
As part of the programming for World Ocean’s Week, Titouan Bernicot shared his inspiring story with us. Growing up on a remote South Pacific Island, Bernicot’s deep connection with the ocean and coral reefs led him to found Coral Gardeners at the age of 18 in 2017. With a dedicated team of over 30 members, Coral Gardeners has already planted 30,000 corals in French Polynesia and aim to plant one million corals worldwide by 2025. Further, they build capacity by empowering local communities to become coral gardeners. Through his organization, he not only focuses on reef restoration efforts but also raises community awareness and provides innovation development through their labs. Bernicot’s story resonates with our Indigenous Programs as we likewise strive to create sustainable career pathways and empower communities.
While the growth of the Blue Economy and the accompanying job creation is exciting, it also raises concerns. As society increasingly recognizes the economic potential of our oceans and coastal resources, it is crucial to balance this growth with the conservation efforts of Indigenous people whose communities are intertwined with the ocean to address and mitigate climate change. Through my participation with the Blue Generation cohort, I witnessed the critical yet often overlooked role Indigenous voices have in shaping policies concerning our waters. Indigenous communities possess a deep-rooted connection to the ocean, and their knowledge and perspectives are invaluable when it comes to understanding and safeguarding our marine environments.
In the context of the Blue Economy, embracing Two-Eyed Seeing is of paramount importance. This means valuing both Indigenous and Western knowledge about the ocean. Indigenous communities have a deep understanding of the ocean’s cycles, species interdependence and the importance of conservation. This knowledge is passed down through generations and comes from their close relationship with marine environments. On the other hand, Western approaches, like scientific research and data analysis from disciplines such as marine biology and oceanography, provide important insights into ocean ecosystems and human impacts. By recognizing and combining these perspectives, we can more effectively tackle the challenges of ocean conservation and sustainability.
As I reflect on my time in the Blue Generation Program, it becomes evident that embracing the principles of Two-Eyed Seeing is essential for creating a sustainable blue economy that benefits Indigenous communities and protects the health of our waters. By fostering collaboration and integrating Indigenous knowledge, we can work together towards marine career paths that benefit everyone and safeguard our valuable ocean living networks. I was grateful for the opportunity to share some insights from our Indigenous Programs with the Blue Generation group, in the hopes of emphasizing the significance of creating inclusive and fulfilling career paths for Indigenous people and in turn, empowering Indigenous communities. It is essential that we bridge the existing gap and give due recognition to Indigenous voices in shaping the future of our oceans.
Stephanie is a member of the Sapotaweyak Cree Nation and Indigenous Program Lead at Clear Seas.
Achieving Canada’s Ocean-Climate Solutions Ambition
By: Eric Siegel, Chief Innovation Officer, Ocean Frontier Institute &
Executive in Residence, Creative Destruction Lab – Oceans
Ocean innovators, investors, scientists, and the Canadian government are aligning to position Canada as the global leader in ocean-climate solutions.
Earlier this year, the department of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada (ISED) committed $125 million for Canada’s Ocean Supercluster (OSC) to grow Canada’s ocean economy.
More recently, ISED announced $154 million in funding to the Transforming Climate Action (TCA) research initiative through the Canada First Research Excellent Fund. Led by Dalhousie University in collaboration with Université du Québec à Rimouski, Université Laval and Memorial University of Newfoundland, the research will be the most intensive investigation into the ocean’s role in climate change and ocean-based climate mitigation ever undertaken.
Additional investments from national and international industry, research, and government partners bring the full project value to $400 million. This represents a globally significant investment to position Canada as a leader in ocean-climate science, innovation, climate solutions, and equitable adaption.
TCA is much more than a university science project. In addition to driving global research and innovation leadership from Canada, the initiative has a mandate to facilitate commercialization of the research to support economic growth and social innovation.
Driven by a robust innovation and commercialization strategy, and in collaboration with our many industry partners, TCA will advance the ocean science, technology, and innovations to start new ocean ventures and grow the existing cadre of excellent Canadian companies. TCA will deliver value to the OSC members and the other industry partners by co-funding world-class industrial postdoctoral fellows to work in partner companies, spur innovation through co-funded Seed Fund projects, and appraise the OSC, and industry associations with updates from frontline research.
And this is just the beginning of partnerships and innovation – TCA welcomes new relevant, strategic partnerships.
The time is right to make these strategic investments in Canada because the economic and climate mitigation opportunities are epic. The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) asserted that all pathways to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C require carbon dioxide removal (CDR).
The amount of CDR required, depending on how quickly emissions are reduced, ranges from 5-16 gigaton CO2 per year by mid-century. With a forecast future value of $100/ton of CO2 removal, this would create an annual market value of between $500 billion to $1.6 trillion USD. Because the ocean stores 20 times more carbon than all forests and soils combined, and 50 times more carbon than the atmosphere, the ocean holds great promise of providing safe, responsible and durable carbon sequestration.
Canada has the potential to become the global leader for ocean-climate solution industries in the same way we have seen other regions transform into international hotspots. Think of how Austin, Texas became a tech hub, how Ontario become global leader in automotive manufacturing, or Aberdeen, Scotland’s transition into a global leader in offshore oil and gas technology.
Canada is already advancing towards this goal with world-class ocean industries working across most of the relevant sectors. Substantial Canadian non-dilutive funding and tax incentives are available from the likes of the Industrial Research Assistance Program, Sustainable Development Technology Canada, and Scientific Research and Experimental Development to support early and growing companies.
There is a well-aligned ocean innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem in Canada, including Novarium, The Launch, COAST, COVE, Creative Destruction Lab Oceans, and the OSC and Ocean Startup Project (OSP) is continuing to support strategic innovations and collaborations to grow Canadian ocean companies. The TCA project will further advance science, technologies, and regulatory innovation to enable scalable ocean-climate ventures.
An identified gap in Canada is the dearth of risk capital focused on investing in massively scalable Canadian ocean-climate technologies and services. The U.S. has Propeller, a $100M venture capital fund focused on ocean-climate solutions, and Norway has Katapult Ocean, a $50 million USD venture capital fund focused on ocean-climate and ocean-energy solutions. There is not an equivalent private venture fund in Canada with the right people in the right places to identify, support and scale early-stage ocean-climate ventures.
Based on Canada’s strengths and momentum in ocean-climate innovation, a private fund would attract additional private money into the ocean sector and substantial foreign direct investments into the country, thereby growing investment resources across Canada.
The time for climate mitigation is short and the economic and impact rewards are enormous. Advances through OSC, TCA, and the many other people, programs, and companies working in Canada are aligned to be successful. This is the decade to advance science, innovate technologies, take risks, and make calculated and informed investments. Now is our time to put Canada on the map as the global-leader in innovative ocean-climate solutions.
Looking Ahead With Great Ambition
National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
Canada’s Ocean Ambition: Shaping the next phase of Canada’s Ocean Supercluster
Collaboration is a key component of Canada’s thriving ocean startup ecosystem
By: Natasha Legay, Senior Program Coordinator at the Ocean Startup Project
Innovative startup teams are developing cutting-edge technologies that are reimagining a more sustainable future with the potential to change the world.
So what can leaders in the innovation space do to better support the growth and development of entrepreneurs? They can explore and create more opportunities for the ecosystem to better serve these founders – together.
Founders benefit most where key stakeholders – government, academic communities, risk capital, industry and ecosystem partners – intersect with a unified approach to fostering innovation and entrepreneurship: through collaboration. Vibrant, inclusive and globally impactful innovation ecosystems are driven by collaboration that makes it easier for homegrown innovations to reach global markets.
The ocean startup ecosystem alone has had a tremendous boost in recent years with the launch and expansion of partnerships, hubs and support networks nationally. One example of this growth is the Centre for Ocean Applied Sustainable Technologies (COAST); they are championing a collaborative call-to-action from the Pacific region’s marine sector entrepreneurs, corporations, academia, investors and government to leverage ocean opportunities.
In Central Canada, Quebec is quickly emerging as a leader in the Blue Economy. Organizations such as Technopole maritime du Quebec (TMQ), Novarium, Merinov, Innovation Maritime, Centre de Recherche sur les Biotechnologies Marine, and other innovation-focused groups are catalyzing ocean startup activity in the province and Canada, bridging ecosystem gaps, connecting communities and nurturing the development of entrepreneurs.
The Ocean Startup Project’s national expansion is proof that we can achieve so much more by working together to support entrepreneurs at all stages of their development, and nowhere was that more apparent than at Startupfest 2022 in Montreal in mid-July, where creating a supportive ecosystem for entrepreneurs took centre stage.
More than 50 people from various Atlantic Canada-based startups and innovation hubs, like Propel ICT, Volta, Venn, Ignite Atlantic, Startup Zone PEI, Planet Hatch, and more, attended the startup conference under the newly-launched Startup Atlantic brand. As a national project in scope, we were thrilled to be part of that delegation that brought together ecosystem stakeholders from all four Atlantic Canadian provinces, promoting the benefits of building and growing global technology companies in the region – and embodying the spirit of ecosystem collaboration we’re seeing across the country.
As a national startup ecosystem, we must continue to work together to identify and highlight opportunities so that Canadian innovators can win globally.
At the OSP, we believe Canada is the best place in the world to start and grow an ocean technology business, and that’s why we’re working with ecosystem partners across the country to promote ocean opportunities and seed startup ideas. One way we’re doing this is through our third Ocean Startup Challenge, a competition that supports idea and early stage teams as they develop solutions to ocean industry problems. This year, we’re collaborating with several partners to highlight ocean innovation opportunities. We’ll showcase these opportunities leading up to our September 1 application deadline to inspire Canadian innovators to implement their ideas, technologies or research to solve industry challenges.
Since 2020 when the OSP was launched through Canada’s Ocean Supercluster, it has provided more than $2.2-million in funding and programming support to 43 early stage teams through the Ocean Startup Challenge, four teams through the Ocean Idea Challenge, and another 39 teams through Lab2Market Oceans. Those early stage teams have made an impressive impact in a short time by creating more than 100 jobs and raising $7.5-million+ in non-dilutive funding and nearly $8.5-million in equity investment since working with us.
But we couldn’t have accomplished this without strong partnerships and support from ecosystem collaborators. Every meeting invite accepted, collaborative event hosted, founder referral provided, competition application reviewed, and mentor session attended have enabled us to support more than 83 ocean founders so far.
We’re always learning and drawing inspiration from our ecosystem partners as a Project. Startup Atlantic, the Blue Innovation Corridor and other collaborative ecosystem initiatives are excellent reminders of what combined efforts and a purpose-driven, founder-focused mission can achieve for startup communities and the broader Canadian innovation ecosystem.
The OSP wants to connect startup communities across the country with resources that can help early stage ocean businesses grow. We’re always open to collaborating with organizations and community groups interested in shining a spotlight on ocean startup opportunities. For more information about the Ocean Startup Project and to connect with our team, visit www.oceanstartupproject.ca