Canada’s Ocean Supercluster on Friday unveiled a $6.8 million program that will support the creation of more and better oceantech startups in Atlantic Canada.

The Ocean Supercluster – a private-public partnership formed with the support of the federal government’s supercluster program – held a media reception in St. Johns on Friday announcing its first Ocean Startup Project. It will help to steer ocean-focused entrepreneurs into programs and offer financial support to companies and the programs that support them.

The project will be delivered in collaboration with six other funding and support organizations from around Atlantic Canada: St. John’s-based Genesis; Halifax-based Innovacorp; Fredericton-based New Brunswick Innovation Foundation; Charlottetown-based PEI BioAlliance; and two pan-regional groups, Springboard Atlantic and Creative Destruction Lab-Atlantic.

“The Ocean Startup Project represents an unprecedented collaboration and investment to grow more ocean companies in Atlantic Canada,” said Ocean Supercluster CEO Kendra MacDonald in a statement. “This is an incredibly important part of building capacity, expanding our capabilities, and setting ourselves up for success as we embark on what we know will become a $3 trillion global ocean opportunity by 2030.”

The federal government announced in 2018 that Atlantic Canada’s Ocean Supercluster was one of five projects that would split $950 million over five years to develop innovation “superclusters” across the country. The goal is to foster economic growth by building centres of excellence with an international reputation in key industries.

The growth of oceantech industries in Atlantic Canada has started to spur more startups in the past few years. The Entrevestor Databank, which lists all startups in Atlantic Canada, featured 47 oceantech companies as of December 2018, and 23 of these were no more than two years old.

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Now the Ocean Supercluster and its partners want to spur more of these companies through the Ocean Startup Project. The Supercluster is providing $3.9 million of the funding for the project, with an additional $535,000 coming from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. There will also be as much as $2.4 million in contributions from the Atlantic Provinces and the six project partners.

The project has begun already with “Engage Cafés” – which are information sessions on forming oceantech startups – taking place around the region, including in smaller communities. These have already been held in Corner Brook and Sydney and more are planned.

“Additionally, we are creating tools like Engage Café Playbooks, which can be used for Atlantic Canadian communities to repeat some of our activities for startups in the years ahead,” said an email from Ocean Supercluster spokeswoman Nancy Andrews.

The innovation project will support cohort-based programs through various partners. For example, it is working with CDL-Atlantic, a six-month accelerator that is offering a cohort for ocean-related companies as well as a general stream. About 25 oceans companies are expected to start the program in the coming year.

Another “activity stream” is the new Lab2Market program, which will pilot two ocean-related cohorts for marine researchers in the next two years. These cohorts, comprising a total of up to 40 teams, will be offered at Memorial University of Newfoundland.

The new innovation project also hopes to encourage early-stage startups through pan-regional bootcamps and a new Ocean Startup Challenge Competition. The organizers are trying to develop programs for companies in all parts of the region, but believe some companies will have to travel periodically to take part in events.

The innovation project will include several funding vehicles for companies in various stages of development.

“In addition to funding provided to companies for development through the Ocean Startup Project, there will also be grants awarded at the end-of-the-funnel development, acceleration and incubation periods to 10 to15 companies valued at approximately $100,000 each,” said the email.