Canada’s Focus on Ocean featured at Spain’s Transfiere Conference

Transfiere is a meeting of science, technology and innovation in Malaga, Spain. Canada was the guest country this year which means a special focus on the relationship between Spain and Canada. It also means I had the opportunity to participate in the Canadian delegation which highlighted our innovation capability and ocean technology.

It is worth noting that Canada also highlighted the strength of its female leadership. My travel partners included Alice Aitken, the Vice-President of Research at Dalhousie University, and Maria Aubrey, Vice-President, Business and Professional Services at the National Research Council. Hosted by the Canadian Embassy, the Canadian presence also included internationally-known companies such as Bombardier and CGI, and Canadian emerging companies leveraging technologies like AI and blockchain including Mindbridge and OARO, an organization with offices in Halifax and Madrid.

Malaga is in the south of Spain. While St. John’s was -20C, Malaga was +20C all week. Our hotel was only five minutes away from the boardwalk along the water. The city is beautiful and so are the people. We were very well taken care of while there and explored many restaurants and local sights in the evenings – although I did have trouble adjusting to going out for dinner at 9pm! Luckily the time difference worked in my favour.

Our first night, the opening reception was at Malaga City Hall, a spectacular building, where the Canadian delegation had the opportunity to meet the Mayor. Our third night, we had the opportunity to enjoy local cuisine and drinks at El Pimpi, while also hoping for a glimpse of Antonio Banderas who lives nearby, but no such luck.

I was kept very busy throughout my two days at the conference with many meetings including companies, research institutions, funders and clusters. I participated in two panels – the first on innovation in Canada and the second on the Blue Economy. I learned of the many, many projects where research institutions in Canada and Spain have collaborated together. There was a pre-announcement for a new call for proposals for the Eureka program  between Canada and Spain. This will be formally announced in early March – something to watch for those who may be interested! I also had a chance to meet CDTI, an organization with whom the OSC has signed a letter of intention given our shared interest in collaborative ocean opportunities. Canada’s Ocean Supercluster was of high interest both in these meetings and at the conference, where there was much interest in further building relationships, exchanging ideas, learning from each other, and identifying potential opportunities for follow-up and collaboration.

My three takeaways:

(1)   We cannot underestimate the effort it will take to achieve our goals for the ocean economy in Canada. The marine cluster in Spain, the Cluster Maritimo-Marino de Andalucia started over five years ago. Although I have said this before, this reinforced for me that we are behind and need to be innovative in our approach to catching up as other maritime clusters continue to grow and broaden their reach. The time is now to take full advantage of Canada’s ocean opportunity.

(2)   The theme of collaboration is everywhere. There is lots of interest in Spain in working with Canada but also in working with each other. Both SeaEU, the European University of the Seas and Ceimar, international campus of excellence on the seas, have been established to promote cross-institutional collaboration. Horizon 2020 is also a significant program to encourage European collaboration and secure Europe’s global competitiveness, but also has an opportunity to create collaboration links between Spain and Canada. Many of the themes we are encouraging at the OSC have global applicability.

(3)   We need to understand the world beyond our borders, the similarities and the differences. I was part of a great panel with representatives from organizations in Spain and Portugal. It was the first Spanish/English panel I have ever participated in with simultaneous translation, so all my facial expressions were delayed by at least 15-30 seconds as I waited for the translation. Despite feeling slightly out of sync, I wished the conversation could have continued as we have so much to learn from each other. There was consistent recognition that we are facing a decade full of opportunity for our ocean but also full of challenge as we try to bring our ocean back into balance.