The Ocean Startup Project, an initiative helmed by Canada’s Ocean Supercluster, is accepting applications for a competition in which would-be entrepreneurs can compete to solve problems faced by oceans companies.

Donald Grant, the project’s executive director, said in an interview that his team hoped to develop a shortlist of 15 to 20 individuals or teams that will compete for ten $25,000 prizes in the Ocean Startup Challenge.

The Ocean Startup Project’s funders include Creative Destruction Lab, Innovacorp and the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, among others. Its 24-month mandate is to double the number of “high-quality” oceantech startups in Atlantic Canada.

“This is an unprecedented collaboration, trying to come together right now to take advantage of all the opportunity in the ocean sector,” said Grant.

The problems that competitors will aim to solve in the Ocean Startup Challenge were chosen by panels of industry experts, based on consultations with the private sector.

“What we wanted to do was create challenge statements that we know are issues, and that give startups a bit of a head start if they can solve those issues,” Grant said.

In addition to the $25,000 prizes, winners will share access to $18,000 of in-kind services from the competition’s sponsors. According to a press release, they may also qualify to compete for additional prizes of $100,000.

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Before developing an idea based on the challenge statements, competitors will take part in one of the Ocean Startup Project’s bootcamps, which aim to help entrepreneurs develop the skills they need to commercialize their ideas, as well as offering networking opportunities with industry professionals.

Because of COVID-19, the bootcamps have been moved online, with dates yet to be announced.

Grant said that project staff will also work with founders to help match them with Atlantic Canadian incubators and accelerators that are well-suited to their needs.

“Where we can support them, we will support them,” he said. “Where there isn’t the opportunity to offer them what they need, we will work with our partners and some of the other incubators that do such a great job of helping these companies.”

The competitors will be evaluated by a panel of industry experts and judged based on criteria such as the quality of the teams involved, whether their ideas are defensible in the marketplace and whether they have credible plans for scaling their potential businesses.

Entrepreneurs can apply from anywhere in the world, but the winners will be required to register as businesses in Atlantic Canada before receiving funds. Existing companies can also apply if they have been in business for less than five years and have fewer than 15 staff.

Canada’s Ocean Supercluster – the Ocean Startup Project’s parent organization – partners with private companies to fund commercial R&D activity. In May, it began a search for companies to receive a combined total of $35 million to be spent on accelerated research projects to help stimulate economic activity during the COVID-19 crisis.

The deadline for applications in the Startup Challenge is Aug. 14, and shortlisted competitors will be contacted on Sept. 14 before publicly pitching their ideas between Sept. 22 and 24.

An application portal is available here.