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Learning from the Best: India-Canada Cooperation in Ocean Technology

Research vessel navigates Halifax Harbour.

Canada is a leader in the ocean technology sector. By 2030, Canada’s ocean economy, built upon ocean technology, is estimated to accumulate $3 trillion revenue for the country. India too possesses a huge ocean sector, and consequently, the two nations of Canada and India have much to exchange and many opportunities to cooperate in the sector of ocean technology development

Canada has the longest coastline and the fourth largest ocean territory in the world; surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean in the east, Pacific Ocean in the west and the Arctic Ocean to the north. In the marine sector, traditional fishing and marine transportation remains of prime importance. In recent times, several other activities including aquaculture development, oil and gas exploration and development, recreational and commercial fishing, and eco-tourism have emerged as an essential part of the marine sector. Canada’s largest food commodity exports are fisheries products; Canada shipped worth $6.9 billion seafood products in 2017 to 137 countries. However, Canada has even more to offer. It is a world leader in the ocean technology sector, and it is one that is growing rapidly.

India also has a long coastline with the estuaries and gulfs. India is surrounded by three oceans, the Arabian Sea in the west, Indian Ocean in the south and Bay of Bengal in the east. India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) looks after the development of new technology and considers the various options available to support its deployment. However, in case of India, most of its ocean technologies are currently at pre-R&D demonstration stage or the initial stage of commercialization. Basic R&D is looked after by the Ministry of Earth Sciences (like for instance National Institute of Ocean Technology, Chennai). So, it wouldn’t be erroneous to say that India too, being surrounded by oceans has the potential to grow exponentially in the ocean technology sector. Hence, Canada and India can collaborate in the sector of ocean technology, thereby increasing the contribution to their respective national GDP.

Canada’s Ocean Technology

As per the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), in 2010, Canada’s ocean economy was valued worth $1.5 trillion USD. The OECD has projected that the ocean economy will grow to $3 trillion USD by 2030. Canada is poised to be a large part of that growth, especially with adequate funding and support. It was in February 2018, that the creation of Canada’s Ocean Supercluster (OSC) was announced by the government of Canada with the private sector, with Atlantic Canada as its epicenter. It is believed that this collaboration between the government and the private sector, which represents a combined investment of over $300 million, will help build Canada’s ocean economy into one of its most significant and sustainable economic sectors.

The Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship (COVE) was launched as the region’s collaborative space for applied innovation in ocean technology in June 2018. Through COVE, local and global businesses are invited to take advantage of the region’s notable assets, including a high concentration of ocean related researchers. Altogether, Canada has 160 ocean-based businesses across six industries namely: (1) Marine Energy (extractive and renewables) (2) Shipbuilding and On-board Systems (3) Defence and Surveillance (4) Ocean Science (5) Marine Mapping (6) Fisheries and Aquaculture. 

Atlantic Canada’s ocean industry is garnering international attention for bringing in designers, manufacturers, experts, and innovators to exhibit their latest products and services in fields such as underwater acoustics and imaging, marine communication and navigation, robotics, arctic technologies, and sensors. 

Ocean Supercluster (OSC)

As per the release by Canada’s Ocean Supercluster, “The Ocean Supercluster is an industry-led collaboration that will build Canada’s ocean economy into one of the country’s most significant and sustainable value-creating economic segments. It is built around the critical mass of ocean-based companies in Atlantic Canada; however, the Ocean Supercluster is a national undertaking, with investment from companies in eight provinces and one territory, and linkages already initiated with indigenous groups and international partners.” 

Located in Atlantic Canada, the Ocean Supercluster comprises of universities, businesses, government entities and indigenous groups that are meant to focus on industrial, technical and scientific innovation for the ocean economy. It is expected that in the next 10 years it will have an impact of more than $14 billion on GDP and create more than 3,000 jobs.

However, the end goal of OSC is to make a positive impact on the economy. The main objective of the Ocean Super cluster is to build Canada’s ocean economy into one of the most sustainable and value-creating sectors of the national economy. The primary vision of OSC is to “build an innovation-driven ecosystem in which companies are well-connected across different ocean related value chains, and to suppliers of enabling technologies. This will be accomplished by developing a shared innovation roadmap for technology leadership and through a program of cluster building activity.” These activities will enhance connections between cluster members, which will facilitate more and faster opportunities to build new digital capabilities, “to recruit and develop needed talent pools, and to de-risk solutions to urgent challenges facing ocean enterprises.”

In order to advance its vision, the Ocean Supercluster has set key objectives for the first five years:
• “Accelerate the development of innovative capabilities across ocean industries by strengthening links between ocean-based value chains and providers of enabling technologies

• Develop, deploy, and export innovative technology platforms applicable to multiple ocean industries

• Fill capability gaps in the innovation ecosystem through the attraction, recruitment, training, and retention of diverse, highly qualified personnel in science, technology, and management

• Extend the global reach, attraction, network and market opportunities for Ocean Supercluster partners

• Address global challenges related to sustainability, reducing carbon foot-print and improving energy efficiency.”

Further development of the Ocean Supercluster innovation roadmap will be achieved through Technology Leadership Projects. The OSC is determined to work towards the development of the ocean sector and increase its contribution towards the economy of the country.

The Canada- India Connect

Activities in related industries such as defence and security, energy, marine transportation, ocean science and observation and food and tourism, the ocean technology sector in Atlantic Canada has evolved on a parallel basis. A long history of ocean-related economic activity has been enjoyed by the Canada’s Atlantic region and over the last few decades, ocean technology clusters have formed in the region gradually which comprises of ocean technology firms, governments, and scientists who drive innovations in this sector.

Asia on the other hand, has a growing demand for ocean technology products and services. Regional tensions with North Korea, disputes in the South and East China Seas, and increasing military expenditures in the region, rationalise for some of the growing demand for defence and security subsector ocean technologies.

India is one of the world’s largest weapons importers, which recently approved expenditures of US$16B to construct advanced surface and subsurface combatants. Thirteen Companies associated with naval vessel supply chains may have opportunities to participate in these Indian projects. Besides Atlantic Canada’s recent experience in preparing to revitalize its domestic warship building capacity may help in that regard.

India’s National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) employs over 500 staff (HQ in Goa) and operates regional research centers in Kochi, Mumbai, and Visakhapatnam. NIO’s fleet includes three mid-sized research vessels. The Indian Navy also operates research facilities under the Naval Research Board, part of the Defence R&D Organization (DRDO). Several dozen Indian universities offer programs in ocean-related topics. Even though being a large and growing ocean technology user, India has been unable to rationalise the very slow, complex nature of its government procurement. Atlantic Canadian ocean technology firms are interested in investing in India. Government of both the nations should collaborate towards the development of the ocean technology, with sustainable development approach.

In India the growth of a sizeable and educated middle class, has resulted in increase in awareness towards ecological issues pertinent to its own demography. This again opens new avenues for technologies and services relating to marine environmental monitoring and remediation.

The Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau paid a State Visit to India in February 2018. At the invitation of the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi a Memorandum of  Understanding (MoU) between the Department of Atomic Energy of The Republic of India and The Department of Natural Resources of Canada concerning co-operation in the fields of ‘Science, Technology and Innovation’ was signed. The Vice President of India Venkaiah Naidu has laid emphasis on the development of the ‘Blue Economy’ in order to achieve higher economic growth. Addressing scientists at the CSIR-National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) he stated, “I strongly feel that focused approach in some of the areas such as minerals and energy from oceans can make India a global leader and serve our national goals.” He added, “India should tap the enormous potential of ‘blue economy’ to

achieve higher economic growth and initiate programs for sustainable harnessing of ocean resources.” Shri Naidu also pointed out that India was meeting most of its oil and gas requirements through imports and urged the scientists to step up their research in areas such as ocean energy and marine energy. The Vice President said that a focused approach in some of the areas such as minerals from the ocean, energy from ocean can make India a global leader and would serve national goals. Keeping with the reality of global warming, resource degradation and marine pollution in mind, the need to conserve and sustain the oceans is imperative as time is running out and were duly emphasized by Shri Naidu and advised CSIR-NIO to play a major role through its ocean observation studies in understanding different ocean processes due to climate change.

Even with geographic distance, language, political and cultural differences, lack of awareness of how to accessmarkets effectively working as barriers in increasing engagement with countries like India, there are a lot of similarities that are shared by both Canada and India on the ocean front. For example, both the countries are surrounded by three oceans, fisheries account for much of their marine revenue, followed by offshore oil and coastal tourism.

Several efforts are being made by the Government of Canada in order to develop its ocean sector and technology. As a result, the Canadian government launched a US$240 million Ocean Supercluster (OSC) programme, in November 2018. In this regard, India may have a lot to learn from Canada’s OSC programme as both the countries’ interests are quite similar even though one operates in cold waters while the other operates in the warmer ocean. By 2030, Canada’s Ocean Economy built upon ocean technology is estimated to accumulate $3 trillion revenue for the country, likewise, India can benefit from a similar programme in developing ocean technologies.