Ocean Startup Challenge

Since 2020, we’ve provided more than $1.4-million in funding to 43 teams
building innovative solutions to ocean industry challenges

The Ocean Startup Challenge helps turn entrepreneurial ideas or technology into a wave of opportunity! With the world’s longest coastline, globally-renowned experts, research facilities, a steady flow of talent, and ample government programming and supports, Canada is the right place to start and grow a successful ocean tech company. For 2022, the Ocean Startup Challenge is focusing on idea/early stage ocean startups with a TRL of 4 and below, and supporting innovators who are leveraging Canadian ocean assets and capabilities to develop technologies that can be applied to global ocean problems.

Winning teams will receive up to $40,000 in awards, with invaluable business development supports with programming, mentorship, one-on-one sessions with our Executives-in-Residence and industry experts, networking opportunities and more, as part of the program, which runs until March 2023. They will also join an impressive roster of our more than 80 cutting-edge, innovative ocean technology companies we have funded since our launch in 2020. 

New for 2022: we shared Innovation Spotlights – ocean sector challenges identified by leading industry partners, outlining specific areas of opportunities for innovation!

Applications for the 2022 Cohort are now closed.

 

Here’s what previous Ocean Startup Challenge winners have accomplished to date

73+ jobs created nationally (and counting!)

$7.5-million+ in non-dilutive funding

*raised collectively by past winners

$8.5-million+ in equity investment

*since working with OSP

6 continued onto CDL-Oceans

Program Timeline:

– Applications open: Wednesday, June 22
– Program Information Sessions (French and English): Multiple dates, June 29 to August 31
*These virtual sessions will occur by Zoom; specific dates will be shared on our Eventbrite page
– Office Hours: August 22 to August 31
– Application deadline: Thursday, September 1
– Shortlist announced: Tuesday, October 3

– Shortlist preparatory session: Wednesday, October 5
– Shortlist interviews: October 14 to October 21
– Winners announced & Virtual Awards Gala: Thursday, October 27

Executives-in-Residence work closely with participants, providing expert guidance & feedback

Eric Siegel has worked at the intersection of ocean science, innovation, and international business for twenty years. He has held director and founder positions in global ocean technology companies leading teams in product development, business development, sales, marketing, and advanced manufacturing.  Eric has extensive experience living and working in North America, Europe, the UK, and Asia.

Eric’s early ocean research focused on shelf-slope interactions of the Loop Current on the West Florida Continental Shelf and expanded into bio-physical interactions in West Coast estuaries and the Puget Sound.  Eric helped support the first ECOHAB and iron fertilization studies in Florida and developed the first profiling CTD with water bottle rosette deployed from sea planes in the Puget Sound.  He moved into industry to enable more innovative ocean observations including novel current, wave and turbulence measurements from ADCPs, with applications in renewable energy, offshore aquaculture, global ocean observing, coastal processes, and hydraulic laboratories.  He helped develop and install the first ADCPs on ocean gliders, high-performance CTDs on Argo floats and ocean gliders, and more accurate subsea navigation systems on AUVs and ROVs.  Eric developed and led several graduate student innovation programs including a decade of the Nortek Student Equipment Grants and the RBR 2020 Cohort.

Eric serves on the UN Ocean Decade Technology & Innovation Informal Working Group, sits on the Board of Directors at Sustainable Oceans Applied Research and Sail Nova Scotia, and supports the Creative Destruction Lab Oceans stream as the Executive in Residence.  Eric is trained in physical oceanography, naval architecture and marine engineering, and earned an MBA with a focus on leadership, innovation, and global business.  When not helping ocean scientists and companies, Eric is an active sailor, having crossed both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans on his small boats, and is now racing Bluenose Class Sloops with his family in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Dr. Shannon Bard has more than over 30 years experience in innovation and R&D in climate solutions, environmental sustainability,  ecosystem & human health. Shannon was previously the global Director of Innovation for the environmental consulting firm Hemmera and parent engineering company Ausenco. She developed and launched a global corporate Innovation Program for >2000 staff to undertake industrial-academic-government R&D collaborations to develop and commercialize new science and engineering services to solve sustainability issues. She oversaw a Board-directed innovation incubator to invest in applying new technologies and approaches, including AI, automation, data analytics, clean tech, VR/AR & digital solutions, biological and genomic tools to reduce the environmental footprint of industry activities. Formerly, Shannon was a professor of Environmental Science at Dalhousie University, Director of the Marine Ecotoxicology Laboratory and co-winner of the Senate Environmental Award.

Challenge Statements

Industry and thought leaders have identified top pain points across these areas:

Fisheries & Aquaculture

We’re looking for innovative solutions to help improve water quality, fish health, waste management, pathogen recognition, remote sensing, data collection, autonomous control, inspection and maintenance, and address other industry challenges.

Challenge Statements

Shipping & Marine Transportation

We’re looking for innovative solutions to help increase efficiency, enhance marine security, optimize maritime traffic management, improve yard operations, optimize truck turnaround times, reduce environmental impact on local communities, and address other industry challenges.

Challenge Statements

Offshore Energy

We’re looking for innovative solutions to help increase energy efficiency, enhance marine security, monitor disruptions to marine habitats, optimize maritime traffic management, improve sustainability and increase profitability, and address other industry challenges.

Challenge Statements

Marine Bioresources

We’re looking for innovative solutions to help identify bio-active compounds in marine life, characterize biodiversity in marine environments, repel and exterminate sea lice naturally, enhance the microbiome in common fish species to improve fish health and performance, and address other industry challenges.

Challenge Statements

Naval & Defence

We’re looking for innovative solutions to help improve ocean monitoring, enhance communications and data telemetry systems, reduce strain on human resources, increase cybersecurity for marine assets, provide low-logistics underwater measurement and surveillance, and address other industry challenges.

Challenge Statements

We’ve partnered with industry experts to highlight Innovation Spotlights!

These are areas for entrepreneurs to explore solutions for real-world ocean problems

General Eligibility for the 2022 Cohort

  • Entrants must be the majority owners of the company.
  • Winners must have a registered business in Canada (see below for International Applicants) 
  • Existing companies must have been in business for less than three years, and have less than five full-time employees
  • have a TRL of four or lower

International Applicants

  • Entrants may apply from around the world, but must establish a presence and partnership in Canada
  • Any funds received from the Ocean Startup Challenge must be spent in Canada (e.g. equipment, materials, consultants).
  • Must demonstrate how you will leverage Canada to advance your venture through one of the following:
  • Have a letter of support from a Canadian incubator or accelerator 
  • Have a Memorandum of Understanding with a Canadian facility, organization, partner, or customer that can support the development of your technology
  • Entrants need to incorporate their company (or be a registered business) in one of the Canadian provinces or territories before funds will be released
Learn more

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Ocean Startup Challenge?

The Ocean Startup Challenge is a competition seeking innovative solutions to ocean industry problems. The Ocean Startup Project launched the Challenge to support innovators who are developing technologies with large market potential in the ocean economy.

For 2022, we will distribute $750,000 CAD to entrepreneurs and startup teams that are developing solutions to major ocean industry challenges.

Who is eligible to apply for the Challenge?

We encourage individual/teams of all backgrounds and experiences to submit an application, providing they are in the idea/early stages of developing an ocean technology company.

Specifically, we are looking for companies with a TRL of 4 and below for the 2022 competition.

Applicants must also be:

  • pre-revenue
  • pre-institutional investment
  • have no sales prior to the application deadline

Innovators, entrepreneurs and companies from across Canada and around the world may apply for the Challenge, but winners must register an entity in a Canadian province/territory, or federally.

Applicants from an existing company must be the majority owner(s) of the company.

How do I apply for the Challenge?

Before applying, we recommend you review the Challenge’s information kit; it is available in both French and English.

You may apply online through our application page. We recommend writing your answers to the questions using a Word or Google document, and then copying and pasting your answers into the web form. Please note, you are not able to save and continue at a later time.

Applications for the 2022 Cohort are now closed.

How does the Challenge work?

Key dates program application and selection:

  • Office hours: August 22 to 31, 2022
  • Application deadline: Monday, September 1, 2022
  • Shortlist announced: Monday, October 3, 2022
  • Shortlist interviews: Friday, October 14 to Friday, October 21, 2022
  • Winners announced & Virtual Gala Awards: Thursday, October 27, 2022
Who will review and evaluate applications?

Applications will be reviewed by an evaluation committee that includes Ocean Startup Project representatives and industry experts who are knowledgeable about the specific sectors and technologies highlighted in the challenge statements.

How will my application be evaluated (e.g., evaluation criteria)?

In selecting the competition winners, the quality of the idea/technology, the strength of the management team, and the clarity and persuasiveness of the written plan and oral presentation, all influence the judges’ decisions.

Key criteria for evaluation include:

  • People: The team, background and entrepreneurial (or business) track record of key individuals, ability to execute, demonstrable ambition and commitment to the venture’s success
  • Pain point: a clearly defined problem that prospective customers of your business are experiencing
  • Solution: Description and quantification of the market problem/pain, uniqueness and significance of product, current stage of development, proprietary position
  • Competition: High barrier to competitive entry
  • Market: Large, growing international market
  • Execution: Credible plan to reach key milestones
When will I know if I’m a successful applicant?

All entrants will be included in Round 1, and teams selected for Round 2 will be notified Tuesday, October 3, 2022.

What is the intellectual property policy for the Challenge?

Applicants will retain ownership of any intellectual property associated with their application. All applications will be treated confidentially. Only those individuals directly involved in managing or judging the competition will view your submitted documents.

What kind of support will I receive if I’m selected as a finalist?

Winners will receive in-kind support from our program partners. Stay tuned for more details.

How long would I have to use the funds to develop my solution?

Successful applicants will have until March 17, 2023 to submit expenses related to achieving pre-determined milestones.

Is there an information package with all the Challenge details available?

Yes! You can find all the information related to the Ocean Startup Challenge in both French and English.

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