Blog: Achieving Canada’s ocean-climate solutions ambition

May 30, 2023

This story was originally published by Canada's Ocean Supercluster.

Ocean innovators, investors, scientists, and the Canadian government are aligning to position Canada as the global leader in ocean-climate solutions.  

Earlier this year, the department of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada (ISED) committed $125 million for Canada’s Ocean Supercluster (OSC) to grow Canada’s ocean economy.

More recently, ISED announced $154 million in funding to the Transforming Climate Action (TCA) research initiative through the Canada First Research Excellent Fund. Led by Dalhousie University in collaboration with Université du Québec à Rimouski, Université Laval and Memorial University of Newfoundland, the research will be the most intensive investigation into the ocean’s role in climate change and ocean-based climate mitigation ever undertaken.

Additional investments from national and international industry, research, and government partners bring the full project value to $400 million. This represents a globally significant investment to position Canada as a leader in ocean-climate science, innovation, climate solutions, and equitable adaption.

TCA is much more than a university science project. In addition to driving global research and innovation leadership from Canada, the initiative has a mandate to facilitate commercialization of the research to support economic growth and social innovation.  

Driven by a robust innovation and commercialization strategy, and in collaboration with our many industry partners, TCA will advance the ocean science, technology, and innovations to start new ocean ventures and grow the existing cadre of excellent Canadian companies. TCA will deliver value to the OSC members and the other industry partners by co-funding world-class industrial postdoctoral fellows to work in partner companies, spur innovation through co-funded Seed Fund projects, and appraise the OSC and other industry associations with updates from frontline research.  

And this is just the beginning of partnerships and innovation – TCA welcomes new relevant, strategic partnerships.

The time is right to make these strategic investments in Canada because the economic and climate mitigation opportunities are epic. The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) asserted that all pathways to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C require carbon dioxide removal (CDR).

The amount of CDR required, depending on how quickly emissions are reduced, ranges from 5-16 gigaton CO2 per year by mid-century. With a forecast future value of $100/ton of CO2 removal, this would create an annual market value of between $500 billion to $1.6 trillion USD. Because the ocean stores 20 times more carbon than all forests and soils combined, and 50 times more carbon than the atmosphere, the ocean holds great promise of providing safe, responsible and durable carbon sequestration.

Canada has the potential to become the global leader for ocean-climate solution industries in the same way we have seen other regions transform into international hotspots. Think of how Austin, Texas became a tech hub, how Ontario become global leader in automotive manufacturing, or Aberdeen, Scotland’s transition into a global leader in offshore oil and gas technology.  

Canada is already advancing towards this goal with world-class ocean industries working across most of the relevant sectors. Substantial Canadian non-dilutive funding and tax incentives are available from the likes of the Industrial Research Assistance Program, Sustainable Development Technology Canada, and Scientific Research and Experimental Development to support early and growing companies.

There is a well-aligned ocean innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem in Canada, including Novarium, The Launch, COAST, COVE, Ocean Startup Project, and Creative Destruction Lab Oceans, and the OSC is continuing to support strategic innovations and collaborations to grow Canadian ocean companies. The TCA project will further advance science, technologies, and regulatory innovation to enable scalable ocean-climate ventures.

An identified gap in Canada is the dearth of risk capital focused on investing in massively scalable Canadian ocean-climate technologies and services. The U.S. has Propeller, a $100M venture capital fund focused on ocean-climate solutions, and Norway has Katapult Ocean, a $50 million USD venture capital fund focused on ocean-climate and ocean-energy solutions. There is not an equivalent private venture fund in Canada with the right people in the right places to identify, support and scale early-stage ocean-climate ventures.  

Based on Canada’s strengths and momentum in ocean-climate innovation, a private fund would attract additional private money into the ocean sector and substantial foreign direct investments into the country, thereby growing investment resources across Canada.

The time for climate mitigation is short and the economic and impact rewards are enormous.  Advances through OSC, TCA, and the many other people, programs, and companies working in Canada are aligned to be successful.  This is the decade to advance science, innovate technologies, take risks, and make calculated and informed investments.  Now is our time to put Canada on the map as the global-leader in innovative ocean-climate solutions.