The Global Startup Ecosystem Report Blue Economy Edition

Meet GCE Ocean Technology, the Norwegian Cluster Helping Startups Unlock the Potential of the Blue Economy

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

“As a nation that relies heavily on the sea for its livelihood and economic growth, Norway’s future depends on the careful stewardship of ocean-related industries.”

Home to one of the world’s longest coastlines, Norway depends on the ocean for its economic livelihood. According to the Norwegian Government Security and Service Organisation, approximately 225,000 Norwegians work in the petroleum, seafood, and maritime industries, which generated approximately $66 billion in revenue in 2019. Together, Norway’s ocean industries account for 70% of the country’s export earnings. Norway’s reliance on the ocean’s natural resources places it on the forefront of the effort to protect them. The country is home to an ecosystem of pioneers in sustainability that partner with traditional oil and gas companies to transition to cleaner energy.

At the center of this dynamic economic environment is GCE Ocean Technology, a Bergen-based, industry-driven ocean technology cluster of 140 partners and members. An industry-government co-investment initiative, GCE Ocean Technology is the connective tissue that links corporations, startups, research environments, academia, public players, and venture capital. “We receive funding from the Research Council of Norway, Siva and Innovation Norway based on the amount of financing we receive through our partners and members,” explains CEO Owe Hagesæther. GCE Ocean Technology is the driving force behind innovative advancements across a range of applications. Cluster members cover the entire offshore value chain from the renewable energy, subsea oil and gas, marine food, and marine mineral industries.

Fostering a Community through a Five-Stakeholder Model

GCE Ocean Technology is committed to an ecosystem model developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which consists of five groups of stakeholders:

  • The corporations that comprise the industry
  • Entrepreneurs (startups and scaleups)
  • Risk capital providers
  • Academia (research, development, and education)
  • Government and public agencies

Through this ecosystem, GCE Ocean Technology produces a wide range of events, cluster projects, and programs — from one-on-one match making to large conferences and everything in between — to create a hub for networking and collaboration within the industry. “We speak with all of our members frequently, and we find and finance projects that have commonalities among them,” says Hagesæther.

Unlocking Growth through the Ocean Tech Scaling Program

The Ocean Tech Scaling Program is a growth and internationalization initiative offered by GCE Ocean Technology for selected companies in two areas. As Hagesæther explains, “First, the program is for successful startups in the position for international growth, like offshore tech companies transforming into renewables. The other group consists of companies born and raised in the oil and gas industry that are now transitioning to renewable energy.”

Transitioning from traditional to renewable energy industries is especially risky, requiring great effort and resources. Fortunately, GCE Ocean Technology, in concert with MIT, Kongsberg Innovation and BI Norwegian Business School, supports member companies through this transition by providing mentoring and education, based on the current best practices. This focus of this world-class program on scaleups and companies in transition is unique. “There are plenty of startup programs around Norway and most of the western world. But there is less support for scaleups and other proven energy companies that are shifting into offshore renewables as part of the global energy transition. This is a difficult process, but it’s important for us to help them move from fossil to non-fossil energy,” says Hagesæther.

Cluster Members Make Waves in the Blue Economy

With 140 partners and members, GCE Ocean Technology has played a significant role in countless success stories. Eelume — a company defined by its eel-like robot for subsea inspections, maintenance, and repair — received pre-project funding from GCE Ocean Technology to develop autonomous functionality. This support enabled the company to mature the project and earn nearly $300,000 in additional funding from Innovation Norway, the government’s most prominent instrument for fostering sustainable growth and exports for Norwegian businesses.

Green Minerals, a pioneer in the sustainable offshore mining of minerals and rare earth elements, benefits from the collaborative nature of the cluster. “The GCE Ocean Technology cluster is a great arena for knowledge sharing and collaboration, to get support and inspiration, and of course, to meet potential partners working on similar or related topics to Green Minerals,” says CEO Ståle Monstad.

Cluster member Monviro is a prime example of technology transfer and the viability of Norwegian-born technology exports. Monviro leverages technology originally developed to safeguard seabed oil and gas installations to monitor seismic activity in earthquake-prone regions. By developing tools to better understand the processes leading up to earthquakes and tsunamis, Monviro technology has the potential to save countless lives in earthquake-prone nations throughout the world. In fact, Monviro is presently collaborating with the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) in this capacity. Monviro represents the global potential of Norway’s ocean industries and embodies the “invest where we can be best” philosophy that permeates GCE Ocean Technology.

An Ocean of Possibilities

As a nation that relies heavily on the sea for its livelihood and economic growth, Norway’s future depends on the careful stewardship of ocean-related industries. GCE Ocean Technology plays a critical role in this mandate by weaving together corporations, public agencies, universities, entrepreneurs, and capital providers to ensure that Norway thrives economically and environmentally. Norway’s ocean industry lies at the intersection of opportunity and sustainability, and GCE Ocean Technology can help Norway-based startups and scaleups make an impact, both at home and abroad.