The Global Startup Ecosystem Report Blue Economy Edition

Making Canada the Best Place to Start and Grow an Ocean Company

The opinions expressed in this sponsored article do not necessarily reflect the views or position of Startup Genome.

“Canada is now a country whose ocean incubators, accelerators, and innovation hubs are bursting at the seams.”

You may know Canada as the friendly neighbor, a vast land known for its beauty, and home to the world’s longest coastline. From its earliest days, Canada’s identity as an ocean nation has been built around an abundance of marine resources that helped sustain communities and people in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic who endured harsh conditions and uncertain waters to build thriving ocean sectors such as fisheries, offshore energy, transportation, and others.

Today, these sectors and other emerging ones are thriving in new ways, leveraging advancing technologies across expanded areas of focus reflective of the world’s attention on the Blue Economy. The expansion of Canada’s ocean sectors, however, is not the story here. Rather, it’s the way in which this business is being done, the culture of collaboration that has helped drive progress, and the made-in-Canada innovation that is helping address some of the most urgent global challenges. The result is one that brings ocean health and wealth together as one, with accelerated growth, new market opportunities, and increased investment. Canada is now a country whose ocean incubators, accelerators, and innovation hubs are bursting at the seams. And there’s much more to come.

Collaborating to Create Globally Competitive Solutions

Ranked among the top 10 global leaders for its blue technologies, Canada is doubling down on getting more of its research to market. Canada’s Ocean Supercluster (OSC) was established in 2018 and has a membership of more than 500 diverse organizations and a growing roster of ocean innovation projects currently valued in excess of $360 million. Every one of these projects involves at least one SME, and 97% of projects are led by one. Meant to be transformative in nature, the OSC projects bring collaborators from coast to coast to coast across different ocean sectors to work together, in many cases for the first time.

The OSC builds consortiums that include academia, industry, government, investors, and regional hubs, as well as both early-stage and mature companies. Together, they are commercializing their solutions — whether to better understand what’s happening in our ocean, or help shape the future of food, energy, transportation, or carbon reduction, or to create solutions that help keep workers safe. Canada is creating the right conditions for ocean companies in both the smallest of communities and the largest urban centers to start, scale, and compete globally.

Just over two years ago, Canada’s Ocean Supercluster announced the Ocean Startup Project with the objective of making Canada the best place to start and grow an ocean company. Newfoundland and Labrador-based Genesis joined with incubators and accelerators across the country, and this collaborative partnership made ocean company development its focus. The results are clear: incredible early success and momentum, over-subscribed programming, and more Canadian innovators zeroing in on ocean-focused solutions. The project’s open challenge calls have drawn significant international participation, with hundreds of competitive ideas submitted. As a result, more than 100 new ocean companies have already been founded. And with the Ocean Startup Project’s support, including staged funding and mentorship, they are quickly growing. In many cases, the project is acting as a gateway to Canada’s Ocean Supercluster core projects, which have demonstrated scaleup potential for SMEs. Through the OSC, startups and scaleups have access to partnerships, large corporations, investors, and market opportunities that otherwise may not have been available.

Building on Established Strengths

Canada has a long history of ocean-related activities, and several well-established startup hubs have a deep connection to the marine industry — Vancouver, Halifax, and Calgary are just three examples. As the global Blue Economy continues on its trajectory of rapid growth, there is opportunity not just in areas of focus but in geographic reach and impact. More Canadian innovators and their investors are looking to start, scale, and grow an ocean company in Canada.

With game-changing ideas that will service sectors including fisheries, aquaculture, offshore energy, marine renewables, transportation, defense, ocean technology, and others areas, Canada’s ocean startup ecosystem is quickly growing stronger. In Rimouski, Quebec, there is significant activity happening in a blue innovation corridor. Victoria, British Columbia is now generating more applications for the Ocean Startup Project than any other region, and St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador was responsible for 17% of the early-stage ideas submitted to the Ocean Startup Project this year. Many other areas across the nation are also establishing and growing active ocean innovation hubs.

There is tremendous momentum building in the Blue Economy in Canada. Through the work of the OSC and its ambition to see 5x growth in Canada’s Blue Economy by 2035, there has never been more opportunity for new ideas, new investment, and new companies related to the ocean. Want to build or invest in an ocean company? Put Canada on your list.