Sustainable Ocean Growth is One of the Greatest Opportunities of our Time

By: Kendra MacDonald (c) 2021

Our Ocean SuperCluster is a world-leading initiative that can help Canada lead in the rapidly growing field of “blue technology” – cleantech for oceans

Canada, and the world, are in a race against time to combat climate change. This is a defining moment for our generation and the stakes have never been higher. We hear about changing weather patterns, rising ocean temperatures, and impacts on the quality of the air we breathe daily and as a global community, we can’t deliberate or delay – the time is now. The ocean has helped shape who we are in Canada, providing a source of food, transport, energy, recreation, and a way of life for generations upon generations. Now on the path to net-zero carbon emissions, green solutions, and a sustainable economy, the ocean plays a far more significant role than many might realize. The development of Canada’s blue economy is one of the most important opportunities of our time, where ocean health and productivity go hand-in-hand and made-in-Canada solutions can help lead the way to global decarbonization.

Protecting water and aquatic ecosystems is one of the most important steps to achieve a sustainable economy

A bold approach to ocean growth

In 2018, Canada decided to take a new approach to accelerate innovation and commercialization in five areas of strength. It was this forward-thinking policy that saw Canada’s Superclusters come to fruition, of which the Ocean Supercluster is one. Focused on changing the way ocean business is done, the idea of the Ocean Supercluster was bold and has since become an important catalyst for the digital, sustainable, and inclusive growth of Canada’s ocean economy – collectively helping drive forward a new “blue” opportunity. 

With almost 450 members from coast-to-coast-to-coast, the Ocean Supercluster is building momentum, breaking down silos and bringing together Canadian researchers, innovators, investors, incubators and regional hubs, and companies across ocean sectors to accelerate the development and commercialization of new sustainable products, processes, and services that will solve some of the world’s biggest challenges in the ocean. This, so far, has yielded more than 50 cutting-edge projects approved with a total value of more than $290 million that will fundamentally help transform how we interact with our oceans so they will continue to provide for generations to come. 

Solving some of the biggest ocean challenges

The Ocean Supercluster identified environmental technologies as a specific area of focus in its Accelerated Ocean Solutions Program launched last year. While all Ocean Supercluster projects support a more sustainable ocean economy, the response to that particular program, in addition to the supercluster’s ongoing core Technology Leadership Program intake, has enabled the launch of many projects that directly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, provide alternative industrial solutions, and support Canada’s net-zero targets. Marine transportation is an example of one area of focus for a number of Ocean Supercluster projects. Recognizing it’s one of the world’s most efficient methods for the movement of goods and people, it also generates significant carbon emissions and presents a global opportunity for change. Through the development of innovative solutions for energy transition, vessel coatings and maintenance, and access to better data to help inform decision-making, it’s these kinds of Canadian projects led by SMEs and companies of all sizes that are garnering the world’s attention. 

Golden hour in one of Canada’s coves.

Energy transition

The Alberta-led Project ORCA provides a transitionary “greener” fuel for vessels requiring no retrofitting with significantly reduced emissions, intended to support the decarbonization of the industry while technologies are advanced for longer-term, carbon-neutral solutions. An example of this is the Energy Storage System project led by a BC consortium that will see the further development and testing of electrification of large vessels including ferries, or hybrid solutions such as the split diesel-electric split motor project from a Newfoundland and Labrador and PEI SME partnership.

Vessel coatings and maintenance

A new graphene-based nanotechnology project led from Nova Scotia provides a revolutionary coating for vessels that results in reduced fuel consumption, non-toxic coating protection for vessels, and reduced underwater radiant noise. Meanwhile, leveraging digital technologies, the coast-to-coast Digital In-Ship Service Support Project is bringing a 3D digital twin capability to market that will better manage vessel maintenance and predict maintenance issues thereby reducing the potential for environmental risk.

Access to better data

Using technology to monitor and gather information on marine species movement and subsea structures, Ocean Aware is a project with almost a dozen Atlantic-Canadian partners and collaborators that helps us better understand the ocean environment and make decisions around smart fishing, vessel activity and reduced carbon footprint. With an egg-to-plate solution, the Integrated Operations and Real-Time Analytics project provides the kind of connectivity and environmental monitoring out of an aquaculture operation in Marystown, Newfoundland and Labrador, that was previously not available in the region and will act as a demonstration project for other parts of the world.

Better data and advanced technology is one of the best ways to advance our knowledge of our oceans

The future is blue

The role of our ocean is at the heart of the opportunity to decarbonize our economy. This year marks the first year of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, and Canada is playing a leadership role as one of the fourteen countries participating in the High-Level Panel for the Sustainable Ocean Economy. In addition, the federal government has committed to a blue economy strategy that will pave the way for both ocean protection and sustainable growth – an opportunity that intersects with the momentum that is building through Canada’s Ocean Supercluster and the solutions our members are bringing to the world. In the development of these transformative projects, we are not only taking a leadership role to help combat climate change and achieve Canada’s targets but also contributing to shaping Canada’s blue economy.

Our home is worth protecting.