Canada’s Ocean Supercluster on Friday announced funding for three projects with a total value of $6.6 million led by innovation-driven groups based in St. John's.

The Atlantic Canadian group dedicated to funding ocean-related R&D projects in marine industries held a press conference in St. John’s to unveil the three initiatives. The Supercluster’s Accelerated Ocean Solutions Program will pay $4 million, with the balance coming from the other parties involved in the projects.

The largest project is the $2.8 million CoLab Enterprise Project, while the Supercluster also announced the $2.1 million Marine SAR Helicopter Mission Simulation Project and the $1.2 million Inclusive Workforce for Arctic Ocean Technology Project.

“I am thrilled to see Canada’s Ocean Supercluster building such momentum, adding three new and highly innovative projects to its Accelerated Ocean Solutions Program,” Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science, and Industry, said in a statement. “By investing in Made-in-Canada technologies and solutions, like the CoLab Enterprise Project, Superclusters are energizing the ocean sector ecosystem, which is really exciting for Canada.  This kind of cross-sector collaboration is what will make the difference in pushing Canada further in ocean technology market.”

Read about the 14 Winners in the Ocean Challenge

The Ocean Supercluster is one of five Canadian innovation “superclusters”, which bring together government, business and academia to create international centres of excellence in specific technologies. In announcing the five winners in 2018, the federal government committed to spend $918 million through the superclusters over five years, and other partners (mainly private companies) aim to match that with $1.09 billion in spending.

The CoLab Enterprise Project

The CoLab Enterprise Project gets its name from CoLab Software, the St. John’s startup that allows industrial designers and manufacturers to collaborate on 3D models online. The company attended the prestigious Y Combinator accelerator in Silicon Valley last year and leveraged that experience into a $2.7 million financing round.

CoLab is now leading this $2.8 million project in partnership with Genoa Design, Kraken Robotics and Petroleum Research Newfoundland and Labrador. The Ocean Supercluster is providing $1.6 million of the funding. Together, they aim to further develop CoLab’s cloud-based collaboration platform, which can be used not just in ocean industries but other sectors as well.

“Strong relationships with industry leaders such as our AOSP partners make all the difference in being able to innovate and iterate quickly during the unprecedented challenges of 2020,” said CoLab CEO Adam Keating. “Executing this . . . project will position CoLab to become the global industry leader and provide a mission-critical solution for the design and manufacturing sector."

The Marine SAR Helicopter Mission Simulation Project

The $2.1 million Marine SAR Helicopter Mission Simulation Project aims to deliver a new device and techniques to help train search and rescue operators working in marine environments, often in harsh conditions.

With the Ocean Supercluster providing $1 million of the funding, the project will be led by St. John’s-based Bluedrop Training and Simulation, a leading provider of training devices and material for the Canadian military and other customers. The other partners are Cougar Helicopters and the Marine Institute of Memorial University of Newfoundland.

With nearly 70 percent of search and rescue occurring in marine environments, this project hopes to improve the safety, decision-making and operational intelligence of marine operations. The goal is to develop the first training device to provide realistic simulation of performing a hoist over oceans with art virtual simulation that uses data analytics and artificial intelligence.

The Inclusive Workforce for Arctic Ocean Technology Project

The third project is the $1.8 million Inclusive Workforce for Arctic Ocean Technology Project, which will draw $1.2 million in funding from the Ocean Supercluster. The project aims to develop technical skills for Indigenous people in Inuit Nunangat, the Inuit homeland in Canada’s North, stretching from the border with Alaska to the northern tip of Labrador.  

St. John’s-based SmartICE – which has developed a climate change adaptation tool to help understand the melting of sea ice – will lead the project in partnership with Pinnguaq Association, Nunavut Fisheries Association, Ilitaqsiniq Literacy Council, and Social Research and Demonstration Corporation.

As a social innovator, SmartICE works with Indigenous women and men – especially youth – to employ technology and traditional knowledge to encourage sustainable employment, economic development and wellbeing. The OSC project, which will create 14 direct jobs, will address the barriers faced by Inuit in remote northern communities and help them to work in the ocean economy.

“Building a workforce that draws on diverse knowledge, experiences, and perspectives is critical to realizing our full potential for inclusive, sustainable growth in Canada’s ocean economy,” said Ocean Supercluster CEO Kendra MacDonald. “This project will help remove barriers to opportunities in ocean [industries] and increase the participation of Inuit living in remote northern communities, helping us grow a well-connected ocean network that is rooted in partnerships and collaboration.”