2020 – Activation and Momentum at Canada’s Ocean Supercluster

Anyone close to me knows that I am a bit of a perfectionist. For me it is always easy to look back at the year gone by and identify the things I might have done differently, but as I reflect on 2019, my first full year with Canada’s Ocean Supercluster (OSC), there is much to be proud of and even more to look forward to in 2020.

As 2019 started, the OSC felt very much like a start-up – which was exciting, incredibly busy, and meant wearing a lot of different hats for a while. We had no full-time staff and the organization was in the process of opening its first bank account. We had signed our contribution agreement with the federal government seven weeks prior to the end of 2018 but we had several other documents to complete for Ministerial approval that were all at various stages of review. We had no systems, processes or policies, and at the beginning of the calendar year any temporary staff we had, including myself, were working on their personal computers. We had an interim steering group and only six board members. There was no formal membership and no projects. What we did have was a tremendous amount of enthusiasm for the journey ahead and anticipation throughout the region for what we were trying to do.

Fast forward to the end of 2019 and there is a great deal to celebrate. We have established most of our infrastructure – our team, which we continue to grow, our processes; including our project selection guidance, IP and data strategy, our first Annual General Meeting and an almost full Board, our membership agreement and by-laws with over 130 members by the end of the year, an active project pipeline for both technology leadership and innovation ecosystem projects and a new member portal, claims management system, and website to come early in the new year. We held our first marquis cluster building event with over 400 people at the Halifax Convention Centre in March followed by our first members-only event at the Cunard Centre in November with 135 people. We have significantly increased the awareness throughout Canada and the world on what is happening in Atlantic Canada and the hard work that is being done to establish this region as one of the key places to build an ocean technology company.

But most of all, we started to see a shift in mindset in Atlantic Canada and across Canada, with the help of the other four superclusters, towards Canadian and regional collaboration and its importance in increasing our global competitiveness. I hear story after story of organizations that had never spoken before or thought to do business together, that after having the opportunity to share ideas at one of our events, are now developing project ideas for the OSC and also seeking out other non-supercluster opportunities together – which is an even more powerful story. The OSC’s objective is to strengthen our ocean innovation ecosystem well beyond the programs of the Ocean Supercluster itself and we have certainly seen an increase in the ocean conversation and ocean activities in 2019 that will position us very well as we head into 2020.

So why am I so excited about 2020? This is a critical year for the OSC, and I believe much of what we have seeded in 2019 will position us to take full advantage of the opportunity in 2020:

  • We will see significant technology leadership and innovation ecosystem projects start to kick-off in the first half of 2020. This will help build the momentum for further project pipeline activity and strengthen the ocean ecosystem.
  • We will deepen the ocean conversation with more frequent, smaller events throughout the region that will take a deeper dive into specific topics of common interest and continue to create opportunities to further build and strengthen relationships.
  • We will identify opportunities to work with organizations throughout the region that are thinking about capacity building with a focus on inclusiveness to develop new approaches to building the skill sets and identifying the resources that we need to deliver on OSC projects now and in the future and grow the overall ocean economy in Canada.
  • We will continue to identify strategic opportunities to profile the OSC internationally including the Oceanology International conference in London and Transfiere in Spain.
  • We will continue to build awareness and momentum around the ocean opportunity for Canadians. You will see lots of information-sharing and communication around our projects and activities to help Canadians understand our role and potential as an ocean nation.

The Ocean Supercluster faced many challenges in 2019 as we got up and running, and we will continue to tackle challenges in 2020. Changing culture is hard work but incredibly important for the future of the region and the country. I firmly believe this change in mindset will be important not only to the growth of the ocean economy but will also have spillover effects in the broader Atlantic Canadian and Canadian economy. I am tremendously lucky and proud to have such a hard-working, dedicated and passionate OSC team as we head into 2020 supported by a strong, committed Board of Directors – together with all of our partners and members, I know we will do great things. I wish you all the very best in 2020!

Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean. -Ryunosuke Satoro