US-Canada Collaboration Needed to Create a Strong Marine Innovation Corridor

US-Canada Collaboration Needed to Create a Strong Marine Innovation Corridor

The Atlantic Northeast region of the United States and Canada has a deep connection to the ocean, with a history of shipbuilding, fishing, and trade routes. Today, the region is leading global marine technology advances focused on energy, ocean health, and shipping to advance sustainability goals. This innovation will be on display the week of February 26th when hundreds of marine innovators gather in Rhode Island for the Blue Innovation Symposium.

A recent study conducted by COVE, a world-leading marine innovation center in Nova Scotia, found a 31% increase in Canadian ocean enterprise companies from 2020 to 2022, with a concentrated cluster operating in Atlantic Canada. Similarly, along the Northeastern United States, ocean enterprise companies are seeing significant growth as the world recognizes the immense potential of the blue economy.

This growth, coupled with the historical significance that binds this region, poses a new opportunity for a leading global partnership in ocean tech innovation and commercialization—the Atlantic Northeast Innovation Corridor. Spanning from Newfoundland to Virginia, this corridor presents a remarkable and timely opportunity that holds the potential to advance ocean industries, drive economic growth, and address critical environmental challenges.

The Atlantic Northeast Marine Innovation Corridor combines diverse assets, each contributing a unique layer to the collective ambition. In the thriving harbour of Halifax, COVE acts as a hub where innovation and commercialization converge, fostering growth and groundbreaking ideas supported by academia, industry, shipbuilding, incubators, and more. Newfoundland and Labrador, with their strong offshore oil and gas industry, bring a wealth of experience in resource extraction and exploration. The Launch and TechNL further bolster this collective effort through innovation and research. The expertise in cybersecurity at the University of New Brunswick helps to safeguard the digital frontier of this maritime innovation ecosystem. PEI is well on its way to becoming a billion-dollar bioscience industry with solid growth in the cluster of larger companies and the commercial success of earlier-stage companies.

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) in Massachusetts is the world’s leading independent non-profit organization dedicated to ocean research, exploration, and education. The ocean tech industry cluster in Rhode Island, further solidifies this corridor’s commitment to innovation, offering a hub for cutting-edge developments. Maine’s fisheries innovation and agricultural prowess reflect a steadfast dedication to sustainable resource management.

Our region is home to many top-rated academic institutions, including MIT, Boston University, Dalhousie University and Memorial University of Newfoundland, contributing to innovation and research and providing a talent pipeline for this sector.

Renewable energy initiatives mirror the region’s commitment to environmental stewardship, with the first large offshore wind farm in Massachusetts starting to produce electricity last month and other states and provinces having similar aspirations. Atlantic Canada has one of the fastest-growing clean energy sectors on the continent, with multiple green hydrogen and ammonia projects in varying stages of development. The concept of the proposed New England – Maritimes Offshore Energy Corridor (NEMOEC) is an example of cross-border collaboration that could environmentally and economically benefit residents throughout the Atlantic Northeast.

The Atlantic Northeast Marine Innovation Corridor would create an ecosystem of cross-border collaboration that brings together the collective strengths of these areas, including academia, industry, government agencies, and research institutions. This united front would encourage knowledge exchange, shared resources, and joint initiatives, propelling the development of cutting-edge ocean technologies and solutions.

Private and public investments are fueling the growth of the blue economy. Governments, research institutions, and venture capitalists are directing funds toward marine technology startups, renewable energy projects, and sustainable fisheries and aquaculture management, among other initiatives. As a region, we find ourselves in a favorable position to capitalize on this growth, but it will require cooperative collaboration to reach our potential.

Together, we can advance offshore wind projects along the coast, create more sustainable aquaculture and fishing practices, and contribute to broader ocean conservation and restoration projects.

Our efforts also play a crucial role in supporting defence and security innovation. The Atlantic Northeast region is home to some of the world’s most vital military assets, such as General Dynamics Bath Iron Works in Maine and Irving Shipbuilding in Nova Scotia, both building the next generation of combat ships for their respective navies. They have shared knowledge, expertise, and personnel to build vessels efficiently.

Additionally, the interconnectivity of our marine sector means that marine innovation typically benefits civilians and military users—known as dual-use technologies. For example, Glas Ocean Electric is focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the maritime sector with funding from the United States Defence Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) and Canada’s Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEaS). These cross-border investments to advance innovation will benefit navy and civilian marine operations and enhance sustainability globally.

The Atlantic Northeast Innovation Corridor presents a unique opportunity for cross-border collaboration in ocean technology and innovation. We can drive economic growth, advance sustainability goals, and address critical environmental challenges by bringing together the collective strengths of the region’s academia, industry, government agencies, and research institutions.

Alexander Graham Bell, credited with patenting the first practical telephone, invented and advanced his transformational work in Massachusetts and Nova Scotia. National borders were not a barrier then and cannot hinder innovation and advancing technology today.

Governments and investors in the US and Canada must answer the call to work across borders, invest boldly in this industry, and propel it to new heights. The foundational pieces are in place, the expertise is abundant, and the possibilities are endless. With strong cross-border collaboration and a shared vision, we can create the most robust innovation corridor in the world.

Melanie Nadeau is the CEO for COVE, an industry-led innovation centre and global tech hub located in Nova Scotia, focused on ocean tech commercialization.

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