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An ocean of opportunity

- February 26, 2018

The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Canada’s minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, pictured, visited Dal's Steele Ocean Sciences Building last fall to announce the finalists in the Government of Canada’s Innovation Superclusters Initiative. (Danny Abriel photo)
The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Canada’s minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, pictured, visited Dal's Steele Ocean Sciences Building last fall to announce the finalists in the Government of Canada’s Innovation Superclusters Initiative. (Danny Abriel photo)

Canada took its next big step to becoming a global leader in the knowledge-based ocean economy this month when the federal government announced its support for a new industry-led collaboration.

The Ocean Supercluster was one of five successful initiatives across the country to attract substantial federal funding to match private-sector investment in a proposed new approach to fostering innovation and economic growth in Canada. The result will see hundreds of millions of new dollars invested in ocean-related research and development and commercialization.

“This successful result recognizes that Atlantic Canada’s ocean strengths and capabilities can be leveraged to accelerate the sustainable development of the ocean economy for the benefit of all of Canada,” says Richard Florizone, president of Dalhousie University — one of the supercluster’s founding post-secondary partners.

More than 70 organizations have committed more than $200-million in cash and in-kind investments as part of the proposal. Companies from different ocean sectors — including fisheries, renewable energy, aquaculture, oil and gas, shipping, and defense — will co-invest to adopt and commercialize technologies to solve shared challenges.

While the private sector is leading the charge, Dal and other universities are critical to the supercluster’s success. Universities are the key suppliers of talent, perform research and development, and offer state-of-the-art facilities.

Dal played a key role in the development of the ocean supercluster proposal and will continue to lend its expertise in the coming months and years as new collaborative projects take shape, says Dr. Florizone.

“As one of the world’s leading ocean universities, Dal will be a key collaborator in the supercluster,” says Dr. Florizone, noting the skills and talent coming out of the Ocean Frontier Institute, MEOPAR, the Ocean Tracking Network among other Dal-based research networks.

Boosting economic benefits and sustainability


Canada has the longest coast line and among the vastest ocean resources in the world, but currently squeezes comparatively less economic benefit from those assets than other ocean nations. Norway, for instance, has only about one-seventh the population of Canada, yet its ocean economy is nearly seven times larger. Ocean-based clusters have played a key role in the development of the Norwegian ocean economy. The impact of the advanced ocean economy may be seen in the significantly larger Norwegian GDP per capita, a common measure of prosperity across population.

Partners in Canada’s Ocean Supercluster aim to enhance the sustainable growth of Canada’s ocean economy, particularly through science and technology-driven productivity gains.

“Canada currently underperforms and it isn’t because of a lack of resources or assets, but rather a lack of collaboration and integration,” says Matt Hebb, Dal’s assistant vice-president of Government Relations and Economic Development and the university’s lead on the supercluster partnership.

“The Ocean Supercluster will result in a very different approach because innovation will be driven by cross-sectoral requirements and shared needs for common capabilities in the ocean.”

Hebb says the supercluster will significantly intensify the amount of private-sector, ocean-related R&D in key areas like environmental sensing and monitoring, autonomous vehicles and robotics, big data, and many different aspects of marine engineering.

“These collaborations will require highly qualified personnel, research and fundamental scientific insights into the changing ocean, all in great supply at Dal,” says Hebb.

The supercluster will also result in improved sustainability outcomes, including a lower carbon footprint, better energy efficiency and improved resource management.

Next steps


A new, not-for-profit entity will be incorporated to manage the supercluster under direction from a board of directors that will include representatives from the investing companies and other partners.

Working groups and committees will be established in the near future to refine technology leadership projects and other cluster building activities, with the aim of having new projects up and running as quickly as possible.

Visit oceansupercluster.ca for more information.

 


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