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New local program aims to encourage sustainable ocean innovation

The COAST Venture Acceleration Program will connect entrepreneurs with mentorship and resources

By Jolene Rudisuela
November 1, 2022
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

New local program aims to encourage sustainable ocean innovation

The COAST Venture Acceleration Program will connect entrepreneurs with mentorship and resources

Milen Kootnikoff via Open Ocean Robotics / Submitted
Milen Kootnikoff via Open Ocean Robotics / Submitted
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

New local program aims to encourage sustainable ocean innovation

The COAST Venture Acceleration Program will connect entrepreneurs with mentorship and resources

By Jolene Rudisuela
November 1, 2022
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New local program aims to encourage sustainable ocean innovation
Milen Kootnikoff via Open Ocean Robotics / Submitted

A Victoria innovation hub is working to help entrepreneurs make their ocean sustainability ideas float atop the rising blue economy tide. 

The Centre for Ocean Applied Sustainable Technologies (COAST), in partnership with VIATEC, has launched the COAST Venture Acceleration Program to connect early-stage tech entrepreneurs with mentorship, guidance, investors, workshops, and more.

The venture acceleration program is a tried and true program that’s been helping entrepreneurs for nearly a decade in BC, said Emilie de Rosenroll, CEO of the South Island Prosperity Partnership and interim CEO of COAST. But this new program is only open to COAST members and is focused specifically on the blue economy: a term describing businesses involved in the monitoring, sustainable use, and preservation of the marine environment. De Rosenroll said the program’s aim is to help create opportunities for those that are looking at different ways to create sustainable oceans and coastlines by transforming existing industries—or creating something entirely new. 

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Successful applicants could be doing anything from looking at decarbonization of shipping to sustainable aquaculture to carbon capture in the ocean

Currently, the ocean and marine industry makes up almost 10% of the province’s GDP. The provincial industry includes transportation giants like Seaspan and global marine and aviation engineering specialist Babcock Canada, as well as more than 100 firms in the ocean science and technology space, like Open Ocean Robotics and MarineLabs

Three quarters of the ocean tech companies in the province are on Vancouver Island, and the majority of those are in the South Island. Victoria in particular is a world leader in ocean data collection, headed up by UVic-based Ocean Networks Canada, which  operates ocean observatories that gather real-time ocean data for changes in salinity, nutrients, and other ocean properties. 

The global ocean economy is set to double from 2020 to 2030 to hit $3 trillion. This outpaces the projected growth of the broader economy by 20%.

“It is a massive opportunity,” de Rosenroll said. “But also, as climate change becomes increasingly a problem that nobody can be ignoring, the ocean is really at the forefront of a lot of the climate solutions that the world needs.”

That’s why the innovation hub was formed to begin with, to create a thriving local startup ecosystem centered around creating a more sustainable marine environment. But there are still challenges to get ideas off the ground.

“Historically, investors have thought about ocean tech as being a riskier area of investment because it’s predominantly affiliated with hardware, and people think about the very uncertain and volatile sort of conditions of the ocean,” de Rosenroll said.

Hardware, however, is becoming less of a challenge as much of the technologies that are transforming the marine sector are technologies that BC excels at creating—like remote operated vehicles, remote sensors, AI, and machine learning. 

The accelerator program will also not only connect entrepreneurs with investors, but help make sure the idea is solid and less risky. 

“The program helps companies that are early stage really go through a rigorous process of testing their assumptions,” de Rosenroll said.

Economists have predicted a five-to-one return on investment for the next 30 years in the blue technology world. 

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