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