Five years ago, when Canada’s Ocean Supercluster was just a glint in the eye of government and industry, the importance of the global ocean in crafting solutions to climate heating was rarely discussed.
Today, as the supercluster nears the end of its inaugural phase, that topic is an integral part of the thinking. And not just in Canada, but around the world, says Kendra MacDonald, the supercluster’s chief executive. All of a sudden, the ocean is acknowledged as a main player in the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced.
“What I’ve found this year is that the conversation is becoming much more mainstream,” MacDonald says.
The Ocean Supercluster is a not-for-profit set up in 2018 by the federal government with a promise of $153 million to spark the development of innovative commercial solutions for the blue economy. (Four superclusters in other areas were established at the same time.) Steered by industry, the Ocean Supercluster’s first phase ends next March .
When it began, the supercluster was aimed mainly at building Canada’s economic heft: growing the marine sector by $14 billion by the end of this decade and adding 3,000 new jobs.
But the means were novel: attracting investment from the private sector into new inventions and technology, getting them to market, encouraging collaboration among isolated small businesses and startups and nurturing a more diverse workforce to harness greater creativity across the marine sphere. Main areas of innovation were to be digitization and ecologically sustainable solutions.
And while a parallel goal was to make sure the ocean was not further harmed by these new activities or was even made healthier, now, the focus has widened. The powerful role of the ocean in removing carbon from the atmosphere has taken on a new urgency as climate heating intensifies and as scores of countries, including Canada, pledge to get their carbon emissions to net-zero.