Thriving Oceantech Industry in Atlantic Canada Drives Growth of Start-Up Yard

Posted: March 21, 2023

When imagining what a well-rounded and supportive oceantech start-up incubator would be like, you’d likely envision it to have the standard offerings of funding, mentoring, and expertise. You’d also see it as a place that would help accelerate your start-up and help you achieve your dreams. This is precisely what Start-Up Yard has been aiming at for half a decade.
The Start-Up Yard incubator at the Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship (COVE) helps early-stage oceantech companies commercialize their technologies and gain traction in global marketplaces. What makes Start-Up Yard unique is its wharf access to Halifax Harbour via COVE, its influential partnerships throughout Atlantic Canada and beyond, and its strong community of oceantech companies.
Start-Up Yard, run by Invest Nova Scotia, opened its doors in October 2018 and has been working to support oceantech companies since then. 

It now occupies about 8,000 square feet at COVE. It has nine startup tenants with a total of 40 employees and 14 virtual clients with about 20 employees. In addition, co-located within Start-Up Yard are two post-secondary institutions, Dalhousie University and the Nova Scotia Community College. 

Atlantic Canada as a hub for oceantech

In 2022, Startup Genome ranked Atlantic Canada as the 10th best blue ecosystem in the world. Startup Genome is the world-leading innovation policy advisory and research firm based in Silicon Valley.
“In the past five years, the ecosystem of oceantech companies in Atlantic Canada has been thriving with momentum,” Shelley Hessian, Manager of Start-Up Yard, said in an interview. “The Startup Genome report confirms the momentum and interest in this area. Atlantic Canada really is a hub of oceantech, and we’ve got a great cluster here.”

“We really have something special here in Atlantic Canada,” said Hessian. “People are now thinking that there is a real opportunity i.the oceantech sector. There are challenges and problems that Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada companies can solve.”

And the companies in the oceantech sector solve problems best through innovation and collaboration, which is why many institutions have been formed or have evolved in  recent years. They include Creative Destruction Lab, the PIER, Canada’s Ocean Supercluster, Memorial’s Oceans Holyrood Initiative, Volta, Emera IdeaHUB. “Our ecosystem is becoming more mature, and our community has become extremely collaborative,” said Hessian.
“We’re all very involved in the ecosystem, and our focus has always been on supporting the companies who are a part of our incubator.

“Companies will start here and we help them commercialize their idea and take it to market. We’re with them from idea all the way through to helping them become investable.” 

Start-Up Yard is also around for the long haul. “Even though companies may graduate and move out, we’re always around to help them make connections and linkages. Sometimes I consider us a bit like concierge navigators to help companies make connections in the ecosystem,” she added.

Start-Up Yard offers many benefits

Start-Up Yard is well-connected regionally and globally as part of Invest Nova Scotia. Invest

Nova Scotia offers programs, services, advice and other resources that Nova Scotia companies

need to grow. Start-ups are a key focus area for the organization, supporting them through

venture capital, incubation facilities, expert advice, and other acceleration initiatives. Oceantech is one of the agency’s target industries, and providing an incubation facility like Start-Up Yard is one of the ways it supports the sector.
Companies that are a part of the Start-Up Yard incubator receive many benefits, such as opportunities to apply for funding through programs, such as Invest Nova Scotia Accelerate, GreenShoots, and Early Stage Commercialization Fund, to name a few.
Lately, companies have also accessed Mitacs Entrepreneur International to assist with travel costs up to $5,000. The fund helps start-ups housed in an incubator linked to an academic institution. Companies in the current Start-Up Yard cohort were able to apply to the Mitacs Entrepreneur International program, which helped cover their travel to premier events such as the Blue Innovation Symposium, Oceanology International Americas, and Ocean Business. 

Market research is another area where Start-Up Yard assists. Companies in the incubator have access to the Atlantic Market Intelligence program in partnership with Venn Innovation. “The work we do with the start-ups in our incubator is very custom to their needs,” said Hessian. “Our approach is very tailored, and we can truly connect innovators and bring them together at Start-Up Yard.”



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