Ocean Frontier Institute, Canada’s Ocean Supercluster, and Innovacorp work together to provide seed money for innovative, ocean-related research projects

Posted on October 08, 2019

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Ocean researchers in Atlantic Canada can now apply for a fourth round of seed funding thanks to a new collaboration among Canada’s Ocean Supercluster, Innovacorp, and the Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI).

OFI launched the first round of Seed Funding in March 2018 and provided financial support to ideas with the potential for advancing research, commercial or social concepts relating to the ocean. While the available funding isn’t large—typically ranging between $10,000 and $30,000—it will help early-stage projects get started. Funds can be used to conduct feasibility studies or develop prototypes, undertake pilot studies, collect and analyze early stage data and validate new research methodologies or approaches.

“This new synergy will help link OFI with our critical industry partners, allowing our researchers to commercialize their work like never before,” says Dr. Anya Waite, OFI Scientific Director, who helped forge the partnerships. “Our aim is to encourage innovative ideas that help us better understand the ocean and its complex challenges, while identifying solutions that will help us bring economic and social benefits to the ocean sector, in Atlantic Canada and beyond.”

The Ocean Supercluster is fostering new partnerships with industry, post-secondary, non-profits and indigenous communities, to accelerate commercially focused multi-sector ocean innovations and to drive increased sustainable economic growth for Canada’s ocean economy.

“Collaboration is at the forefront of everything we do at Canada’s Ocean Supercluster. Partnering with the Ocean Frontier Institute and Innovacorp to support researchers as they explore the commercial potential of their projects is extremely important for sustainable development of our ocean resources," remarked Kendra MacDonald, OSC CEO. "Helping innovative ideas flourish is a key element to building a stronger ocean ecosystem.”

Innovacorp is Nova Scotia's early stage venture capital organization. In addition to risk capital, Innovacorp gives entrepreneurs access to world-class incubation facilities, expert advice and other support to help accelerate their technology companies.

“We know there’s a tremendous amount of research with great market potential at our region’s post-secondary institutions, especially when it comes to ocean-related innovations,” said Malcolm Fraser, Innovacorp’s president and CEO. “Innovacorp is pleased to be part of the effort to advance those opportunities.”

Representatives from both the Ocean Supercluster and Innovacorp will sit on the selection panel. The funding supports projects that will be completed within 12 months.

To qualify, applicants must be current faculty, staff, and students at Dalhousie University and/or Memorial University of Newfoundland. (Please note: due to university regulations, successful applications submitted by students must be supervised by a current faculty member who would be identified as the grant holder and assume responsibility for distribution of finances and terms of the deliverables.)

Applications are now being accepted. The deadline is October 28, 2019 for Dalhousie projects. Candidate projects from Memorial University must consult with their unit’s Grants Facilitators to determine internal deadlines per the institute’s procedures. A complete list of Seed Fund recipients, and funding application information, can be found on the OFI web site: https://oceanfrontierinstitute.com/funding/seed-fund

EXAMPLES OF SEED FUNDS:

Christopher Algar, Assistant Professor at Dalhousie University, is examining the potential for microbial electrochemical cells to remediate organic matter in the ocean. His focus? Use science to reduce the amount of organic waste that gathers in fish farms. “If we reduce the amount of waste that accumulates, we can help reduce marine pollution and eliminate the risk of disease,” says Chris.

And that in turn would support the growth of Canada’s aquaculture industry.

“An effective solution to the problem of organic matter loading would greatly increase the amount of coastline that could support aquaculture facilities in an environmentally sustainable manner,” said Chris. “That means we can put more people to work, responsibly farming the fish the world needs.”

Allison Chua, a Ph.D student at Dalhousie University, is using her Seed Fund award to test the viability of new technology that she hopes will allow scallop harvesters to farm with less of an impact on the ocean floor. Invented and constructed by Marcel Boudreau, a welder fabricator from St. Andrews, Nova Scotia, the equipment requires further analysis to ensure it can deliver what both the fishing industry and government regulators require: a low-cost technology that equals or exceeds current harvest rates while minimizing seabed disturbance.

“It could be a game changer,” says Allison. “To the best of our knowledge, there is currently no alternative harvesting method available that succeeds in mitigating the destruction caused by scallop draggers yet matches present-day catch rates.”

Allison’s role is to use the Seed Fund to work with the engineering and scientific community to validate the concept, building on the invention created by Marcel.

SEED FUND WORK AT MEMORIAL UNIVERSITY:

Brad deYoung, professor, Department of Physics and Physical Oceanography at Memorial University, is using a Seed Fund award to evaluate the feasibility of using underwater gliders to monitor for hydrocarbons in Placentia Bay. “Placentia Bay is one of six regions in Canada that are included in the Ocean Protection Plan, and this work will help us better understand environmental baseline conditions—essential information in the event of a major oil spill,” says Brad.

Natalia Prieto Vidal, a postdoctoral fellow with the Boreal Ecosystem Research Initiative wants to reduce the amount of waste mussels that are discarded and disposed in landfill sites because they don’t meet the aquaculture industry’s criteria for consumer sales. Her work examines the feasibility of extracting oils enhanced with omega-3 fatty acids from the waste mussels which she would then infuse with Newfoundland wild berries extracts with superior antioxidant content.

“This could create high-value secondary products from an aquaculture industrial waste product, which will contribute to a sustainable exploitation of mussel aquaculture. This innovative high-value product could be marketed as specialty products in fine dining applications.”