The Global Startup Ecosystem Report Climatetech Edition

The Blue Economy is Critical in Reaching Global Climate Goals

This contributed article was prepared in collaboration with Canada’s Ocean Supercluster. The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views or position of Startup Genome.

It will take a collaborative, global approach to achieve our climate goals, and working with innovators and startups is key to reaching Ambition 2035 in Canada and growing the Blue Economy while the ocean community around the world works to reach its climate targets.

Jennifer LaPlante  undefined
Chief Growth and Investment Officer, Canada’s Ocean Supercluster

For Canada’s Ocean Supercluster (OSC), the imperative is clear: without the Blue Economy, the world will not achieve its climate goals. OSC, with close to 600 members and a project portfolio valued at $420 million, is supporting the delivery of more than 120 new ocean products, processes, and services that serve to accelerate the digital, sustainable, and inclusive growth of Canada’s ocean economy. It is also bringing together the global ocean community to foster collaboration and build a broader movement. 

By co-investing with industry in key growth areas, harnessing global connections, bringing together Indigenous and Western knowledge, and supporting innovative startups and projects led by companies of all sizes, OSC aims to both grow the Blue Economy and transform the Climatetech ecosystem to help reach global climate goals. 

“The Ocean Frontier Institute is undertaking important work as we better understand the role the ocean plays in regulating the planet where the North Atlantic has the most intense carbon sink in the world,” says Nancy Andrews, Chief Engagement and Communications Officer at OSC. “The Paris Agreement has a goal of limiting the global temperature increase by 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and reaching net-zero emission levels by 2050. Thirty-five percent of that objective could be met through the ocean.”

Ambition 2035

OSC has set a broader ambition for the Canadian ocean sector to sustainably grow its ocean economy from CAD$39 billion in 2019 to CAD$220 billion by 2035. The objective, called Ambition 2035, is driven by high-growth potential ocean sectors and informed by stakeholders in ocean industry, Indigenous rights holders, technology and innovation, research, economics, government, and the wider community to place Canada at the forefront of global ocean markets.

To achieve this target and in support of the Paris Agreement climate target, OSC has defined specific goals: a regulatory and policy framework that supports accelerated development must be built; organizations must focus on inclusive talent development, attraction, and retention; common data standards that support better information sharing must be adopted, and government, research, industry, and Indigenous communities must work together towards common goals and sharing knowledge. OSC also aims to strengthen international relationships to generate new market opportunities and attract new investors and clients, and to engage invested parties in delivering a common message about ocean opportunity.

OSC posits that these efforts would result in the foundation of new ocean companies and the scaling of existing companies, as well as increased participation and collaboration with Indigenous Peoples and the creation of innovative solutions that address the accelerated impacts of climate change for rural, northern, and coastal communities in Canada. OSC also anticipates that Ambition 2035 will increase competitiveness and significant commercial opportunities for Canadian ocean companies in global markets, creating tens of thousands of new jobs and an ocean workforce that is diverse, well-skilled, and champions a healthy, prosperous ocean future.

“Ambition 2035 gives members of Canada’s Ocean Supercluster and throughout the entire ecosystem in Canada something to rally behind and strive for when they’re building their own strategies and investments,” Andrews says. “The global economy generates 3% of GDP from the ocean economy, but in Canada that number is 1.6%. As an ocean nation, we have a huge opportunity for growth that can be transformational, helping tackle climate change globally and creating significant growth for communities in the process. Ambition 2035 and its CAD$220 billion goal creates an important platform to help realize this significant growth potential through the Blue Economy.”

Key Investment Areas

OSC aims to achieve these goals by investing in four key areas: developing Canada’s renewable ocean energy industries; increasing the provision of sustainable, secure food from ocean-based sources; transforming vessel powering, autonomy, and control; and accelerating the delivery of innovations that help tackle climate change. Its programming includes creating cross-sectoral solutions to generate new economic growth; supporting small- and medium-sized businesses to scale and realize new market potential, commercializing made-in-Canada ocean innovation, connecting ocean communities, and building Canada’s diverse ocean workforce.

“Our key investments focus on developing and accelerating technologies and projects that will lead to significant, sustainable economic growth, but they’re underpinned by producing a healthier and more productive ocean,” Andrews says. “In support of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, we’re working on immediate and long-term solutions that will put us on the path to contributing significantly to both climate and economic goals.”

Harnessing Global Partnerships and Local Knowledge

For OSC, partnerships are key to developing those solutions and contributing to achieving climate goals. “The collaborative approach helps us encompass something that is bigger than just one specific problem,” Andrews says. “Bringing the broader ocean network together has allowed us to find some great natural partnerships that accelerate the work we’re doing.”

Jennifer LaPlante, Chief Growth and Investment Officer at OSC, shares that one of the greatest strengths of the organization is its work with partners and associations such as the Launch, COVE, the PIER, NovariumCOAST and others to advocate and support new innovation and opportunities by bringing the message of climate goals to various companies. “As an example, working with organizations such as Marine Renewables Canada, which is focused on aligning industry, academia, and government to provide marine renewable energy solutions, gives us an opportunity to share ideas and opportunities beyond our own diverse membership base,” she says. “We can facilitate exposure of ocean opportunities to our members who have products and services that align well to support the overall marine energy supply chain, even if their product wasn’t necessarily developed for marine energy.”

The diverse perspectives and experiences of Indigenous peoples are another key partnership. “We can’t talk about Climatetech and the ocean without also talking about the significant role of Indigenous experiences and knowledge systems,” Andrews says. “It’s not just about Indigenous participation. It’s about Indigenous partnership, their connection to the ocean and bringing their world views to the table in the projects we’re supporting. Applying an Indigenous lens is a crucial component in finding a pathway to climate solutions.”

OSC is also connected with organizations around the world, facilitating opportunities and matchmaking activities to advance ocean innovation. Recently, OSC signed an MOU with an organization in the UK to co-invest in ocean projects on a broad scope. “Our global ocean brand is a connected community and a robust ecosystem that is committed to achieving our ocean and climate ambitions,” Andrews says. “If we’re going to do something transformational, we can’t keep doing things the same way they’ve always been done. We need these partnerships to accelerate our growth.”

The Importance of Startups

That growth relies on a unique combination from the startup ecosystem: innovation that early-stage startups can deliver and the knowledge and funding from seasoned organizations. “We need the nimbleness of startups because they’re the ones bringing solutions to the table,” Andrews says. “Mature companies bring investments and knowledge of challenges. That collaboration provides the kinds of partnerships that are required to come together to achieve what we believe is possible in terms of the climate and the Blue Economy.”

OSC is currently working on several projects with startups that will push ocean innovation forward toward the Ambition 2035 goal. LaPlante shares that some of the projects they’re most excited about are from Ocean Startup Project, an organization that kick starts and nurtures new ocean startups in Canada from supporting ideation through commercialization and encourages existing startups to pursue ocean applications for their technologies.

“Ocean Startup Project (OSP) is now in its third phase and has created more than 90 startups in the ocean space in Canada,” LaPlante says. “The entire OSP portfolio creates an evolution of programming that starts with supporting researchers to take something they’ve developed in a lab and explore commercialization. As these ventures progress, other OSP programs provide mentorship, guidance and access to capital to explore a seed round and beyond. The Ocean Startup Project helps educate young and new founders that have talent and ideas, introduce the ocean to communities that may not have known there’s a potential for their startup in this ecosystem, and support funding and investment so that startups can have the resources, skills, time, and financial capacity available to innovate.”

As graduates of OSP programs, OSC’s latest AI program has invested in Coastal Carbon to develop high quality inexpensive biomass monitoring that has the potential to positively impact seaweed farmers and On Deck Fisheries to develop electronic AI monitoring to manage fishing and sea conservation around the world.

“All of these projects are transformational and a great example of how AI, ocean data, early startup support, and funding can drive innovation and future positive environmental mitigation,” LaPlante says. “It will take a collaborative, global approach to achieve our climate goals, and working with innovators and startups is key to reaching Ambition 2035 in Canada and growing the Blue Economy while the ocean community around the world works to reach its climate targets.”