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 info@canadacoast.ca.