Category: Blog Post

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

By: Ralph Eldridge, Indigenous Engagement Lead, Canada’s Ocean Supercluster


National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
By: Ralph Eldridge, Indigenous Engagement Lead, Canada’s Ocean Supercluster

As a child, through the eyes of innocence, it was hard not to associate the term “holiday” with warm fuzzy feelings of celebration and togetherness; holiday celebrations that closed out the year and began a new one, summer vacations that seemed to go on forever, or even just a single day off school that allowed for one more day of weekend slumber. Sure, there was November 11th, but the reaches and effects of past wars and fallen soldiers offered up, at most, a brief reflection of my generation’s privileged space. Even as a Mi’kmaq person growing up in Newfoundland, struggling to find my place and connect with my culture that had been all but erased through generations of policies that forced assimilation, my struggle pales bleakly in comparison to those impacted by the legacy of Canada’s residential school system. Given the churches’ role in administering these schools, no irony is lost in referencing this week’s commemorative day as a “holiday.” [Holiday, Old English hāligdæg or ‘holy day’]

A year ago this week, Canada officially marked the first federal statutory holiday to honour the lost children and survivors of church-run, government-funded residential schools. Again, this year, as we recognize the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, we take time to remember those that, for too long, were forgotten and those that continue to experience the impacts of intergenerational trauma.

The federal statutory holiday comes in response to recommendation #80 of the Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) Commission’s 94 Calls to Action. The TRC Commission came about as an element of Canada’s largest ever class-action lawsuit. It spent nearly 8 years speaking to witnesses and survivors of abuse at residential schools and summarizing their findings within a 6-volume report in 2015. The report outlined 94 specific measures that could be implemented to acknowledge the painful history of the residential school system, and to create systems to prevent future such atrocities.

Choosing September 30th to mark this day was a very deliberate decision, as the date also coincides with Orange Shirt Day, a day Indigenous people set to recognize of the harm the residential school system did to children’s sense of self-esteem and well-being and also to affirm that, indeed, every child matters. This movement was born out of Phyllis Webstad’s poignant story, recounting how she was stripped of her clothing on the first day of mission school, including her orange shirt. Symbolically, of course, Phyllis’ favourite orange shirt represents much more than an article of forbidden clothing. It characterizes how family, culture, and hope have sytemically been ripped from Indigenous people for generations and how that loss permeates so many aspects of Indigenous life.

Sadly, it took six years to move forward on TRC report recommendation #80. Last year, revelations of an estimated 200 burial sites at a former BC residential school on the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation and further evidence by the Cowessess First Nation of an additional 750 unmarked graves at a former residential school in Saskatchewan played a part in expediting the 2021 holiday announcement. Since that time, even more discoveries have been made, primarily in western Canada, with an estimated 2,300 grave sites now revealed – 2,300 untold stories.

Indigenous people are often asked what can be done to support reconciliation. The first thing I would recommend is to show your colours and support Orange Shirt Day. Please skip the temptation to buy your orange shirt from a box store; rather, buy directly from an Indigenous organization, artist, or community. Secondly, read and seek to understand the 94 Calls to Action. They contain the roadmap to reconciliation and concrete measures to help Indigenous people in their journey to healing. Actionable recommendations are targeted toward primary conditions such as child welfare, education, healthcare, language and culture, and justice. Yet, despite the well intentions of each of these 94 recommendations, seven years have passed, and only 13 recommendations have been implemented. As Canadians, we have a moral responsibility to do better than this. Every Canadian should understand the true history of how Indigenous peoples were treated by the church and government. We need to push this agenda to the fore and make our parliamentarians commit to implementing the 94. We need to understand that being Indigenous in Canada has been no holiday.

At the Ocean Supercluster, our efforts towards reconciliation are, in part, being realized through our Two-eyed Seeing project. As we embark on a renewed mandate, we are striving to build a better model that breaks down barriers for Indigenous communities to partner on our supported projects and looks towards the generation of community-driven initiatives that focus on Indigenous priorities and opportunities.  Member feedback from our Ocean Ambition sessions across the country has been tremendously supportive of the Two-eyed Seeing model, with a strong desire to be part of the initiatives, training and workshops. Stay tuned for opportunities in the very near future.
Ralph Eldridge
Indigenous Engagement Lead,
Canada’s Ocean Supercluster


Canada’s Ocean Ambition: Shaping the next phase of Canada’s Ocean Supercluster

By: Kendra MacDonald, CEO, Canada’s Ocean Supercluster

Almost four years ago, I made a significant change in career direction to be able to be part of Canada’s Ocean Supercluster journey. As I reflect on the last four years, it has been an amazing journey so far.

We set out with a big ambition, to change the way ocean business is done in Canada, to build an ocean economy that was more collaborative, digital, sustainable, inclusive and world-leading.

The journey has been both a rewarding and challenging one with a few bumps along the road as we built the team and processes while we were working to build the membership and project pipeline; lots accomplished in a short period with help and patience from our members and our stakeholders and I hope you share in my excitement as we reflect on where are today: a fantastic team of OSC employees that are passionate about the future of our country, our planet and the ocean economy and a tremendous membership that is working hard across the country and increasingly around the world to build solutions that are tackling climate change, decarbonizing shipping, increasing worker safety, providing more sustainable seafood and better monitoring our environment.

The world is paying attention to what we are doing in Canada, and we had an amazing opportunity to stand on the world stage at the United Nations headquarters in New York, where we participated in a panel on revitalizing our ocean economy on World Ocean Day with Whitney Johnson (Ocean Sustainability, Salesforce), Andrew Hudson (Water and Ocean Governance, UNDP), and Martin Koehring (World Ocean Initiative, Economist Impact). We also spoke in Portugal as part of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. I talked about our story to tell in my blog in June and the need for us to continue to increase our ambition, and that is what gets me incredibly excited about where we go from here.

As you are aware, the overall rebranded Global Innovation Cluster program was renewed in the April 2022 budget. We have worked hard all summer, pulling together our renewal application for submission on September 29th.

As Canada continues to develop the Blue Economy strategy, we as a Board and OSC stakeholders have been thinking about our ambition for the future size and potential of the Canadian blue economy and what the OSC’s role is in helping to achieve this. How do we continue to grow companies, increase collaboration, stay connected, increase our pool of skilled and diverse workers, and make sure the world knows about our impressive capabilities in Canada? How do Canadian companies continue to play leadership roles in the future of energy, transport and seafood? How do we continue to increase our data sharing to ensure we are making the best decisions for our country and world? How does the ocean economy make a much more significant contribution to our Canadian GDP than it does today?

We also look forward to getting our artificial intelligence programming started as part of the pan-Canadian AI strategy. Combining Canada’s strengths in artificial intelligence with our knowledge of the ocean will provide many opportunities for companies to build solutions that leverage the power of AI and data.

I hope you will take the time to join us at one of the six locations we will be visiting in the month of September to talk more about the OSC’s ocean aspiration for Canada and our programming areas and role going forward. The OSC was built based on member input, and we want to continue to make sure we are supporting our members. We would love to hear from you as we think about the role the OSC can play in the future of our Canadian ocean economy and our planet.

I hope you had a wonderful summer. My daughter was celebrating her 13th birthday this summer, so it has been a busy one for us, making her transition to being a teenager as memorable as possible.

Please do not hesitate to reach out at any time with questions or feedback, and I look forward to seeing many of you in September.

Kendra MacDonald
CEO, 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)NovariumMerinovInnovation MaritimeCentre 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 ICTVoltaVennIgnite AtlanticStartup Zone PEIPlanet 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

Canadian and Global Community Unite Around Ocean in June

By: Kendra MacDonald, CEO,                                  Canada’s Ocean Supercluster

June has been a very busy ocean month. It has been so amazing to get out and meet people in the ocean community all over the world after many, many months of zoom calls and virtual connections. A virtual coffee chat does not compare to the ability to sit outside next to the water in Lisbon and talk about the future of ocean. The past few weeks have had many highlights: World Ocean Day at the United Nations in New York, the H20 conference in Halifax, the Green Marine conference in Montreal, the Global Innovation Summit in Estoril, and the United Nations Decade of Ocean conference in Lisbon, just to name a few – and that is just June. I wanted to share some takeaways although given the many activities, it was hard to narrow it down to just a few.

1. We have a story to tell:  The world is interested in what’s happening in Canada. We have created incredible momentum in the last few years and the well-attended Canadian conferences the OSC team has participated in this past month has been a great indicator of that energy. As an example, there were so many companies with so much exciting work on display at booths at H2O followed by a sold-out showcase event at the Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship’s (COVE) Demo Day. These are the kinds of activities that help feed into the momentum Canada is building, and a demonstration of what is possible when we work together. It is this approach that got us invited to speak at the World Ocean Day event in New York alongside Salesforce and the United Nations, sharing Canada’s contribution to the revitalization of the ocean economy.  While there, I had the opportunity to listen to Sylvia Earle, the first woman to become Chief Scientist of the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), share her perspectives and reinforce the message that there is no green without blue – something we certainly believe at the OSC. We were also chosen as one of fifty global Ocean Titans as part of a new World Ocean Council docuseries featuring the amazing projects of some of our member companies, and launched on June 29 by Reuters. It was with a whole lot of pride and optimism that I shared Canada’s ocean story at several panels over the last month on topics ranging from innovation to climate to coastal communities.

2. We need to increase our ambition: While we should be proud of all that we have accomplished, our ocean economy in Canada remains a small contributor to our overall GDP. While listening to the many announcements and reconnecting with stakeholders around the world, it was evident that the rest of the world is also moving fast and, in many cases, with more investment and more focus. Hydrogen, small modular reactors, carbon capture, storage and use, wave energy, seaweed products, regenerative marine tourism and the list goes on – there were many stories of cutting-edge technologies and solutions being built around the world and an increasing number of programs to make those solutions more accessible. What was clear at the UN Decade events, and in listening to speakers like John Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate of the United States and Peter Thomson, UNSG’s Special Envoy for the Ocean is that we need to move faster if we want to be leaders in the blue economy, and save our ocean and our planet. We need to continue to build awareness of Canada’s ocean opportunity; engage everyone in the ocean conversation including bringing Indigenous knowledge and Western knowledge together; connect coastal communities; attract more technology companies to the ocean economy; and scale solutions.  And, we need recognize that in order to achieve emissions reduction targets on land, we must achieve them in the ocean.

3. There is much more opportunity for global collaboration: We are getting increasing interest in building partnerships as are other organizations in Canada’s ocean ecosystem: Oceans Advance signed a memorandum of understanding with nine clusters around the world in Portugal; COVE signed an agreement for a scale up program with Innovate UK; and both the OSC and Marine Renewables Canada signed agreements with the European Leaders in Blue Energy consortium – all in the month of June. How do we maximize the value of these partnerships to the benefit of our member companies? How can member companies leverage international relationships to scale more quickly?

It is an exciting time for Canada’s ocean economy and I am thrilled to be a part of it.  The OSC team works tirelessly every day to continue to change the way we do business in the ocean across Canada and build an ocean economy that is increasingly digital, sustainable, and inclusive. These themes resonate around the world. It is, however, a time where the ocean is also facing unprecedented challenges and our ability to tackle those challenges quickly and in a coordinated way around the world is tied to the quality of our future life on the planet and the health of the planet itself. If in your work you are looking for a way to make the world a better place, I would strongly encourage you to explore opportunities in the ocean, if you haven’t already.  I am re-energized with the level of conversation and interest in the work we are doing and look forward to the next steps on the OSC journey.

Careers in Canada’s Ocean Economy

The Opportunity for Rewarding Contributions to Canada’s Sustainable Development of the Ocean

Submitted by: Melody Pardoe, Chief Engagement Officer, Canada’s Ocean Supercluster

When Canadians think about the ocean, what comes to mind? Unique and rewarding careers that span everything from robotics to data analysis to clean energy, or do they think of whale watching, sea kayaking, fishing and surfing? In addition to recreation and nourishment, we hope that more and more people think of the ocean as a place for economic prosperity and a source for a rewarding career.

Nearly 30% of the world’s population lives along ocean coasts. With the longest coastline in the world, Canadians have the option to live in hundreds of coastal communities, all with unique cultures and economic opportunities.  Living and working close to the ocean is extremely rewarding, something I personally recommend everyone try if they have the opportunity.

Canadian ocean companies are developing new technologies that are at the forefront of mitigating climate change and modernising traditional industries such that we are learning more about the ocean and lessening the harmful impacts on our shared aquatic global ecosystem. These solutions will allow us to sustainably meet the increasing demand for protein, decarbonize marine transportation of goods and people, transition to clean energy to power the world, and collect the data we need to monitor and operate in our ocean environment with a reduced footprint. It is through technology, collaboration and respectful relationships with Indigenous peoples that we will enjoy a thriving sustainable ocean economy. It’s exciting to know that the hundreds of small (and growing) businesses involved in Ocean Supercluster projects are leading the way with ocean innovation globally, and these companies are hiring – there are thousands of available jobs being created in ocean industries.

Our team recently took a deep dive into the jobs currently advertised by our member companies, and the range of opportunities are vast. We found that more than half of these roles required technical competency (e.g. engineer, technician, software developer, etc.) and just over 25% were senior management positions. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) anticipates that by 2030, the world’s ocean economy will double to $3 trillion (USD) outpacing the general global economy by a factor of nearly 20%. If you have never worked in an ocean industry, I encourage you to consider a new adventure, contributing to this momentous growth.

Please get in touch with us to become a member or follow us on social media to hear about the amazing things OSC members are building. In addition, here are a few places to start exploring ocean careers:

Canada is an ocean nation; how will you get involved? I’m always open to connecting, please feel welcome to reach out on LinkedIn.

Two-Eyed Seeing for a Sustainable Blue Economy

Ralph Eldridge, Indigenous Engagement Lead, Canada’s Ocean Supercluster
Leah Beveridge & Shelley Denny, Two-Eyed Seeing Advisory Committee Members

Canada’s Ocean Economy is experiencing transformative growth. It has never been so essential to balance ocean health and productivity into a single priority, and as we look to sustainability models, we must use both eyes.

A priority for Canada’s Ocean Supercluster is to adopt a “Two-Eyed Seeing” (Etuaptmumk in Mi’kmaw) approach to bring together Western science with Indigenous Knowledge. To embed this in the Supercluster’s initiatives, an advisory group is currently working on policy and program recommendations to guide ocean activity that better aligns with Indigenous community priorities. Shelley Denny was an early supporter of the advisory group. Denny, Director of Aquatic Research and Stewardship, Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources, explains, “Two-Eyed Seeing recognizes the equality of different knowledge and the strengths of knowing through multiple perspectives.”

Two-Eyed Seeing is an inherently different way of considering knowledge because it is based on the concept that there are different ways of seeing the world. “From the Western eye, the world can be divided into compartments (disciplines), work can be divided among experts, and through teamwork, then put together to form a more comprehensive picture of the whole because each individual can dive so much deeper into their area of expertise. But from a (generic) Indigenous eye, you just can’t divide the world, therefore you can’t divide biology from physics,” said Leah Beveridge, advisory group member and PhD candidate at Dalhousie University. “For example; you can’t divide environmental from social from cultural from spiritual from physical; the world is a whole and we are all a part of it, living in it, influencing it, not as outsiders looking down upon it. Two-Eyed seeing asks us to see the world in both ways.”

There is no one Indigenous worldview. There are First Nations (plural), Inuit and Metis, each with its own unique culture and worldview. 

Indigenous Peoples have unique perspectives and relationships with water. Canada’s three oceans have been their homes and have played an important role in sustaining and defining them. Many Indigenous communities have a heightened knowledge of our oceans, the interrelationships between marine species, and their ecosystems.

“Indigenous knowledge must be interpreted through an Indigenous lens, meaning that Indigenous peoples must be partners in the process,” added Beveridge. “As a non-Indigenous person, I have long been struck by the concept of Two-Eyed seeing, but also completely at a loss for how to do it. I am not Indigenous, therefore I don’t have an Indigenous eye, so how can I possibly see-through one?! But then an Elder pointed out to me that I can learn to see the world in a different way. I will not hold Indigenous knowledge, but I can practice looking at the world through a different lens.”

At the Ocean Supercluster, we know fostering collaboration with different ideas, insights, and experiences expands the opportunity for innovation. Incorporating Two-Eyed Seeing is securing new ways to partner with Indigenous communities, breaking down barriers, and aligning commercial and community priorities that contribute to healthy and productive oceans.

As published in a special World Water Day feature in the National Post.

Ralph Eldridge
Indigenous Engagement Lead
Canada’s Ocean Supercluster

Leah Beveridge
Two-Eyed Seeing Advisory Committee Member
PhD Candidate
Dalhousie University

Shelley Denny
Two-Eyed Seeing Advisory Committee Member
Director of Aquatic Research and Stewardship
Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources


By: Ruth Mojeed Ramirez, Chief Equity Officer of The Inclusion Project

I recently became a citizen of Canada. During my first few days in Canada, I found many reasons to be grateful to be here. In pursuit of better economic and academic prospects, I left a blossoming career in communications and public relations in my home country of Nigeria and traveled over 7000 miles to Canada to pursue my post-secondary education. My adopted community in Victoria, British Columbia, afforded me a life-changing opportunity to connect, engage and learn about “inclusivity” and what it means for me as a Black woman in Canada. I learned through my own experience as an international student and through the lived realities of others who, like me, came to Canada as international students, immigrants, or refugees seeking opportunities for self-actualization.

These collective experiences have formed the basis for the work we do at The Inclusion Project, in leading change through research, public engagement, and inclusive leadership. Our work in employment equity seeks to engage organizations and key stakeholders in upholding equitable practices for equity-deserving groups across Canada. We do this by developing and strengthening accountability frameworks, roadmaps, and benchmarks for best-in-class practices in intersectional Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (REDI+). Through our audit, assessment, and advisory services, we serve some of Canada’s leading institutions and stakeholders across public and private sectors on standard practices for employment equity.

In my day-to-day role, I have had many opportunities to learn, educate, and advise many organizations and stakeholders on inclusivity and what it means to me as a Black woman in Canada. The reality for many like me is that these opportunities do not abound. For many Black women, there are fewer opportunities for self-actualization through economic or social access, and in many cases, representation in policy or leadership positions. Sometimes, numbers tell the story:

  • Despite growth in Labour Market Availability, in 2016, less than 10% of Black Canadian professional candidates at a Canadian University were hired for middle-management positions and above. Instead, Black hires were overrepresented among service positions, and female candidates were overrepresented in administrative positions.
  • In 2016, approximately 70% of Black women and 63.6% of Black men had at least post- secondary or Apprenticeship or trades certificate or diploma (StatsCan). About 1 in every 7 working women in the top 1% belonged to a visible minority group, compared with 1 in 5 in the working population (StatsCan).
  • A 2021 study by the Diversity Institute shows that the unemployment rate for persons who identify as non-Indigenous and non-visible minority was 9.3%. The rates of unemployment were much higher for those who identify as South Asian (17.8%), Arab (17.3%), Black (16.8%), Southeast Asian (16.5%), Latin American (16%), Chinese (14%), and Filipino (13.2%).

While numbers do not capture all of the multi-layered, overlapping and intersectional experiences of Black people in Canada, it starts to show us where we are as a society and if we follow the prompt of the data, it also tells us what we need to do to move the needle on racial equity. To do so, we must begin by collecting and analyzing race-based disaggregated data and engaging with lived experience and expertise to help chart the course for equity in our policies, process and practices.

I hope that as a society we will find some shared imperatives to do better to respond to the needs of our own First Peoples, and as well, Black, Asian, and all other equity-deserving groups in Canada. As we work toward equity, my hope is that it will be equity for all.

Canada’s Oceans sector should not be left behind in catching up to the change that is already on the horizon. To move forward, we will need to create and strengthen opportunities for cross-sector collaborations and partnerships.

Ruth Mojeed Ramirez is the Chief Equity Officer of The Inclusion Project. She brings extensive lived experience and grounded expertise to her work in racial equity, diversity and inclusion. Her research, engagement and solutions design focus on an intersectional and inter-generational approach to address complex issues of race, decolonization and gender equity. She leads organizational REDI strategy development and coaching among multi-level stakeholders in public and private sectors. You can read about some of her work through the Employment Equity Partnership & the Racial Equity, Diversity & Inclusion.

Canada’s Ocean Startup Ecosystem can lead the world in the Blue Economy

By: Don Grant, Executive Director, Ocean Startup Project &
Richard Egli, Managing Director at Alacrity Canada 
Rife with disruptive and transformative technologies that are reshaping the way we interact with our oceans, Canada’s ocean startup ecosystem is quickly emerging as a leader in the Blue Economy. Innovators across the country have awakened to one of the most consequential opportunities of the century, leveraging experience, knowledge and an entrepreneurial spirit to create profitable ventures that improve ocean health while elevating Canada’s role in a more sustainable, cleaner future.

Despite the magnitude of the opportunity, some confusion still exists around what blue tech actually entails. Let’s simplify it using an analogous term that has gained prominence in public discourse: blue tech is cleantech. Cleantech can be defined as any technology, product or service that uses fewer materials or energy, generates less waste, and causes less negative environmental impacts than the industry standard – and that is precisely what blue tech is on the ocean. Let’s look at some real-world, regenerative ocean startup examples.

Newfoundland and Labrador-based 3F Waste Recovery, purchases cod skins and bones, which are traditionally considered a costly waste, and uses them to develop the first “beyond food grade” collagen to be used in, among other things, beauty products and pharmaceuticals. Recognizing that the circular economy is good for business, people and the planet, the company is on a mission to develop a line of products from fish waste that are actually more valuable than the fish flesh itself. So 3F is not disrupting a traditional industry, but rather, embracing a new vertical which creates more economic opportunity while reducing waste.

Both British Columbia-based Cascadia Seaweed and Nova Scotia-based Seachange Biochemistry are respectively growing and processing one of the most underutilized and high value resources in the world – seaweed – to create robust and environmentally regenerative ocean startups. Seaweed offers huge opportunities for growth in multiple verticals and these companies are leveraging the opportunity in very different manners. What is common though, is that these startups, at their foundational core, maintain a commitment to building massively scalable companies with environmentally and socially-conscious principles. Canada will lead the world in this sector.

Another British Columbia-based startup, a2o Advanced Materials Inc., is developing a new polymer-based marine coating technology that has the potential to significantly mitigate the environmental impact of the marine transportation industry – creating cleaner marine environments and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Their blue tech replaces traditional anti-fouling paints that release toxic compounds into the marine environment with a non-toxic coating system that reduces drag. Reducing drag enables greater vessel efficiency, which directly translates to reduced fuel consumption and therefore enables the technology to directly reduce GHG emissions; the venture has projected a 10 per cent reduction in GHG/CO2 emissions using their friction reducing coating relative to a clean hull with a standard anti-fouling paint.

The ocean sector is exploding with opportunity and the ocean startup ecosystem has incredible momentum. Other significant developments in blue tech include the electrification of marine propulsion, ocean-based carbon capture and sequestration, increased use of autonomous operations, including USV’s and AUV’s, and so many more. The Ocean Startup Project, in partnership with Canada’s Ocean Supercluster, is currently working with 40 ocean startups, which were paired down from 140 Canadian applicants, and Alacrity Canada is seeing more interest and more ocean innovation being proposed on a daily basis.

Something special is happening in the ocean sector in Canada; it’s transforming our economy, regenerating our oceans and climate future, and further confirming this country as a global leader in sustainability. As innovators and global citizens, we all have a role to play in the Blue Economy, and with the world watching, what better time is there to turn innovative ideas into thriving, sustainable businesses?

Don Grant
Executive Director,
Ocean Startup Project
Richard Egli
Managing Director
Alacrity Canada

Holiday Message – Message du temps des fêtes – 2021

Happy Holidays from Canada’s Ocean Supercluster! #OceanNation

Inclusive and sustainable economic growth means changing the way we work in our ocean

By: Kendra MacDonald, CEO, Canada’s Ocean Supercluster &
Perrin Beatty, President and CEO, Candian Chamber of Commerce
As published in Toronto Star on Nov. 22, 2021

As the newly re-elected government prepares to lay out its legislative priorities in an upcoming Throne Speech, Canadians are eager to know how the policies they voted for will be brought to life. As a sense of urgency for the health of our planet increases, Canadians prioritized sustainable job creation during the election, with an eye toward a collective green ambition.

At the same time, Canadians want these priorities to be implemented in the spirt of Indigenous reconciliation. Commitments to bold climate action made during the general election are cause for optimism, and businesses are eager to learn the details of the path the government will take to reach its climate change objectives.

A transformed blue economy must be a central pillar of the government’s strategy to emerge from the pandemic as a world leader in sustainable and robust economic growth. Absorbing more carbon than all the rainforests combined, Canada’s ocean is home to the world’s largest carbon sink, playing a critical climate regulation role.

This week, the MIT Technology Review released its Blue Technology Barometer, which ranked Canada 10th overall among 66 of the world’s coastal countries and territories based on marine activity, innovation, policy, and climate change.

Not a bad showing. But as a nation boasting the longest coastline in the world, a history deeply connected to ocean resources, and home to some of the most exciting emerging blue technologies worldwide, now is Canada’s time to step up and lead a global blue recovery.

Canada’s Ocean Supercluster (OSC) and its almost 450 members from across the country have already begun to lead a much-needed transformation. Bringing together ocean sectors and organizations from coast-to-coast-to-coast, the Ocean Supercluster is a collaborative and industry-led network that is triggering new investment, accelerating innovation, and creating new opportunities in Canada’s blue economy in a way that has never been done before.

In the last three years alone, the OSC has approved 64 projects worth $320 million, where 86 per cent are led by small and medium sized businesses (SMEs). Businesses like Horizon Maritime, a company involved in three projects with partners out of Alberta, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador, two of which are solutions focused on emissions reduction in marine transportation, and the other focused on increasing the participation of Indigenous peoples in ocean sectors. The company’s CEO, Sean Leet, credits the cluster for bringing together partners that would never have considered working together otherwise.

The OSC is early in its journey but is already delivering a direct positive impact in communities both coastal and inland, creating thousands of well-paying jobs and countless others maintained during the pandemic. It also includes programming to increase the participation of Indigenous peoples, women, youth, and other under-represented groups in the blue economy, as well as supporting the growth of forty new ocean companies through its Ocean Startup Project.

As the vital connection between businesses and the federal government, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce is advocating to harness the private sector’s innovative drive in service of the blue economy. One need only consider the resilience displayed over the last two years by the business community to know it must have a role in determining what Canada looks like beyond the pandemic. The ingenuity, innovation and experience which characterizes many small and medium-sized business, will deliver robust solutions, and shape the path to net-zero — if they are empowered to do so.

The creation of a Blue Investments Working Group, as endorsed by chambers across the country last month, and led by the Ocean Supercluster, will support a co-ordinated effort to diversify investment products and strategies. A competitive investment climate will foster innovation and empower SMEs to contribute to the development of blue economy and the jobs that come with it.

We look forward to partnering with the federal government to pursue enabling policies and legislation to advance the blue economy — inclusive of developing infrastructure to support the sustainable development and stewardship of Canada’s oceans, rivers, and lakes.

From national child care to renewed commitments in the fight against climate change, the last federal budget contained much to be celebrated. In building Canada’s economic story and the measures needed to stimulate economic growth, the federal government need to look no further than our ocean for a growth and skills development strategy that is grounded in sustainability, digitalization, inclusivity, and respect for other ways of knowing.

Kendra MacDonald
Chief Executive Officer,
Canada’s Ocean Supercluster
Perrin Beatty
President & Chief Executive Officer,
Canadian Chamber of Commerce