BlueTech: What is it? Why Now?
Though nearly 40% of humanity lives within 100 km of the ocean, its importance remains largely underappreciated. Our dependence plays out in many ways: the ocean is the source of half the world’s oxygen, used to transport 90% of the world’s trade and for many, a critical source of protein. But it’s easy not to feel any ownership and to disregard what is over the horizon – for most of us, our relationship with the water stops rather close to shore.
The ‘tragedy of the commons’ for the ocean is becoming more acute with the rise of global standards of living combined with a population moving toward 9 billion. Today this stress is seen in effects like ocean warming & acidification, with plastic pollution, over-fishing and the international movement of invasive species. The result is a myriad of new regulations. For instance, the global shipping industry is seeing the implementation of new rules on CO2 emissions, particulates, NOx, SOx and ballast water from a multi-tiered regulatory framework including the IMO, nations, states and at the municipal port level. That regulation is combined with a set of new opportunities being opened by R&D advances, such as the burgeoning offshore wind sector where in the US at least 15GW of new development is expected.
This moment in time demands that we respond to the combined pressures of regulation and new opportunity by implementing the types of technological changes in the ocean that we have already started on land. BlueTech is what we are calling this space and its mandate is large – including bringing Internet-of-Things to the port, data science to an aquaculture farm, advanced marine robotics to an offshore wind farm or developing new maritime cybersecurity business models.
The changes that will occur in the Blue Economy are not happening in a vacuum. They are similar to what we are seeing in other traditional economic sectors, such as Food & Ag and land-based transportation. Large corporations in these industries are responding to an increased pace of change by partially outsourcing innovation. With a concentration in new urban innovation districts, many corporates are creating internal venture arms, backing up incubators and investing in sector-focused venture capital funds; all of which give them access to fresh thinking and faster development cycles.
We at SeaAhead believe the timing is ideal for the marine and maritime sectors to also seek new, cross-silo collaboration with startups, academics and technologists to more quickly move the needle on their core challenges. Bluetech is an under-resourced area of innovation that can create lasting double bottom line impact.
It is for that reason that we launched SeaAhead in May, with the goal of supporting entrepreneurial activity that will improve both ocean sustainability and economic outcomes. SeaAhead has a number of goals, and we will bring you along with us on this journey as we seek to build on them one by one:
- Creating a physical incubator hub in Providence to take advantage of the Southern New England bluetech ecosystem,
- Hosting events that will catalyze ideation and opportunity,
- Working with corporations to identify solutions and engage with the startup community,
- Identifying and corralling financial resources to support the bluetech startup community, including grants and venture funds.
- Alissa Peterson, Mark Huang and Jason Kelly
Co-Founders of SeaAhead