In the midst of the global pandemic, when it seems the world is standing still, people and businesses are still focusing on the future.
One group is playing a big role to help companies and entrepreneurs build ocean-based business ideas that will create jobs and bring new money to the economy.
Canada’s Ocean Supercluster, born in 2018 from a marriage of private investors and government funding and based in Atlantic Canada, is setting out to increase the value of this nation’s ocean economy by $14 billion and 3,000 new jobs over the next 10 years.
Ocean industries in Canada contribute about $30 billion a year to the economy and make up 1.5 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product.
Kendra MacDonald, chief executive officer of the Ocean Supercluster, said the goal is to build ocean enterprises to three per cent of GDP, putting Canada on par with the average for marine industries in other countries.
There’s some serious money at play.
The federal government has $153 million invested. Private companies will also supply funding and in-kind contributions for individual projects.
The Ocean Supercluster focuses on two types of projects, said MacDonald, those that use transformational technologies and those that help improve the ecology of the ocean.
“There’s no question, we will continue to see the automation-digitization of the ocean, whether it is increased data collection or more remote operations.
“I think there will continue to be a tremendous amount of opportunities in ocean tech . . . bringing digital solutions, whether it’s for fishery, aquaculture, transportation and shipping or offshore industries.”
Kraken on a plan
Kraken Robotics is one example of a project boosted with support from the Supercluster.
In 2019, the Mount Pearl company received $5.9 million in federal funding for an $18-million project. Cash and in-kind contributions came from Kraken and some other private-sector partners — fish companies and the oil and gas industry.
Bill Donovan is senior program manager for Kraken, which has offices in St. John’s, N.L., and Dartmouth, as well as in Toronto, Germany and Massachusetts.
The project has two components, he said. One is providing data as a service to the fishing industry, using underwater robots to collect information on things like water temperature and salinity and currents, seabed topography and marine life.
Partners for that component are Ocean Choice International and Nunavut Fisheries.
“Through our project we will do some offshore survey missions to collect data that’s of specific interest to our fishing partners,” said Donovan.
Using remotely operated vehicles underwater, the company will collect information on things like water temperatures, salinity, ocean currents, seafloor topography and marine life within a 5,000-square-kilometre area.
From the data they collect, they will provide analytics, information that will help the companies create efficiencies in their fishing operations.
Kraken already has a strong foothold in the underwater robotics field. Its Catfish vehicle is already being sold commercially, primarily to military and defence operations.
It is working on the creation of an automated underwater vehicle that will solve a problem for companies operating offshore oil rigs.
Regular inspection and maintenance of an offshore drilling platform currently depends on remotely operated vehicles. Transporting the operator and machine by supply ship to a drill site can take days, depending on weather.
And when something goes wrong underwater, that delay could turn a small problem into a bigger one.
Kraken’s idea is an automated vehicle that would be docked permanently underwater at the drill site, ready to get to work as and when needed.
The plan is for a machine that could sit on the ocean floor, at depths of up to 6,000 metres, in a battery-charging docking station, to be available when needed for underwater inspections and surveys.
The vehicle is still the planning stage, says Donovan, but they’ve already got a name for it: Thunderfish XL.
Donovan told SaltWire the company had been working on this idea before the Oceans Supercluster was created.
“It was always on our roadmap. It was a vehicle that we wanted to build.”
It was initially planned as a five-year project, he said, and research and development was already underway. Then along came the funding opportunity through the Ocean Supercluster.
Kraken realized that with this opportunity for additional funding, it could ramp up the timeline. Donovan says thanks to the $5.6 million, the project should be finished in three years.
Work is already creating jobs, he added.
“In 2019 we hired 23 people, in Dartmouth and in Newfoundland, to work specifically or partly on this project. Already in 2020 we’ve hired six more people.
“So . . . we’re very grateful to the Supercluster initiative. It’s allowing us to . . . move this (project) forward.”
Seeking small-scale projects
Most projects funded by the Ocean Supercluster will involve complex, large-scale ventures, developed over several years, said MacDonald.
However, this month the group is taking a different tack.
They have opened up an opportunity for businesses to pitch ideas for projects that would involve less funding, and a shorter time frame for development, through an accelerated application process. Companies are encouraged to submit expressions of interest outlining their ideas.
Time is of the essence, though.
The deadline is May 22 at 2 p.m., to be exact.
MacDonald says that while that is a tight timeline, the process is simply to allow companies and entrepreneurs to submit a synopsis of their ideas.
“If the project is determined to be viable, the company would be asked to do a full proposal with more detail and then the funding could flow to start the project.”
She added that all those who file an expression of interest will be informed of the status of their application by the end of May. Only those who are successful will be eligible to submit a full proposal.
MacDonald told SaltWire the Oceans Supercluster has set aside $35 million from its overall budget to help fund the business ideas that are selected from this round of applications.
Based on early response to the call for proposals, MacDonald said, the group expects several businesses to submit proposals.
Full details on how to apply are at oceansupercluster.ca.
Regardless of the business uncertainty created by the pandemic, MacDonald said marine-based businesses in Canada have to keep planning for the future
“We want to have a resilient ocean economy. We want to come out of this with success and keep companies that we know are strong companies. We want to be able to get them through this (pandemic).
“So while we are currently seeing impacts on people and labour globally, there’s still a general view that opportunities in the global economy will continue.
“We want to make sure Canada stays very well positioned to be able to take advantage of those opportunities.”
When it comes to coastline mileage, Canada has bragging rights as the world leader for distance.
If you were to traverse the entire shoreline in Canada, including the coasts of offshore islands, you’d cover 243,042 kilometres, according to Statistics Canada data.
Second-to-fourth-place countries in the coastline competition pale by comparison: Indonesia has just 54,716 kilometres of shoreline; Russia, 37,653; the United States, 19,924; and China, 14,500.
Consider that Canada’s jurisdiction extends to 200 miles from the shore, and that’s a lot of ocean territory.
Criteria for expressions of interest
- Lead applicant must be a private-sector firm.
- Project development timeline of 6-18 months preferred (maximum two years).
- Four project types will be considered: 1. Product-service advancement and commercialization 2. Capacity and infrastructure 3. Process enhancement 4. Innovation ecosystem
- Projects should align with three specific themes: 1. Remote operations 2. Digital-automated technologies 3. Environmental technologies
- Must demonstrate a meaningful collaboration between at least two parties, but only one is required to be private sector.
- Maximum Supercluster funding contribution cannot exceed $2 million per project. No minimum/maximum budget size.
- Reimbursement of 65 per cent overall. Up to 75 per cent reimbursement for certain cost categories like labour. Subject to project cost guidelines.
Final roundtable: Clean economy projects could create 670000 jobs per year – Corporate Knights Magazine
The COVID-19 pandemic represents an opportunity to “reposition” the Canadian economy to take full advantage of the low-carbon transition, the new chair of the Canada Infrastructure Bank said June 3.
The economic crisis resulting from the pandemic has forced corporations and governments to deviate from their standard operating procedures, opening up an opportunity for innovation and creativity, said Michael Sabia, who was recently appointed by the federal government to head up the infrastructure bank.
“We need to seize this moment to be creative about how we reposition the national economy for a world that is going to be different, and a very important part of that [effort] is repositioning our economy to be a significantly lower carbon economy,” Sabia told a virtual roundtable hosted by Corporate Knights.
Sabia said that there is plenty of potential for the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) to participate in clean energy projects but that the federal Crown corporation has underperformed to date.
The CIB has a mandate to invest $35 billion in federal funding by 2027/28 but has been criticized for its slow start.
Sabia said the bank should focus less on traditional infrastructure like roads and ports and more on stimulus projects that accelerate the energy transition, including renewable power, interprovincial transmission, low-carbon transportation and digitalization efforts to ensure all Canadians have access to high-speed internet.
The Corporate Knights roundtable was part of its seven-part Building Back Better project that urged the Liberal government to ensure that any economic recovery plan have a climate-change focus.
Addressing the roundtable, Industry Minister Navdeep Bains said Canada will have to be innovative in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis.
He said hundreds of Canadian businesses have responded to the need for medical equipment by changing their operations to produce new products. “That’s the same mindset we have to have when it comes to confronting the climate crisis.”
In a white paper released Wednesday, authors Ralph Torrie, Céline Bak and Toby Heaps said the federal government should allocate $106 billion over the next 10 years for a host of clean energy projects that would create the equivalent of 670,000 full-time jobs per year. More than a third of the federal government investment, $40 billion, would be frontloaded in the first two years (with half dedicated to grants to finance a green renovation wave). Over 10 years, the white paper estimates, the federal investment and complementary policies would crowd in a further $730 billion in mostly private sector investment.
All told, the investments would reduce greenhouse (GHG) emissions by 236 megatonnes annually by 2030, from 2018 levels of 729 megatonnes. That scale of GHG reductions would put the country on track to meet the Liberal government’s target of net-zero emissions by 2050, Bak told the roundtable.
Proposals have included support for a major retrofit program to improve energy efficiency in buildings, planting an additional 800 million trees a year for 10 years, and investments in coast-to-coast electric-vehicle (EV) infrastructure, as well as interprovincial transmission lines to deliver low-carbon electricity and a $40 billion Energy and EV Innovation Fund to help create Canadian champions in fast-growing low-carbon markets where Canada has strong assets, including bitumen-derived carbon fibres, green hydrogen, renewable jet fuels, batteries and EVs.
Other speakers suggested that a green stimulus plan should have goals beyond job creation and emission reductions.
Canadians are now confronting a triple whammy of the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis and the vivid reminder of the systemic racism embedded in the country’s attitudes and institutions, said Catherine Abreu, executive director of Climate Action Network Canada.
Any green stimulus programs must be based on a “just recovery” Abreu said. Her group was one of 150 civil society organizations that released a document this week proposing “Six Principles for a Just Recovery” for a more equitable and sustainable future.
“This moment is forcing us into confrontation with the vulnerabilities that are built into our economic and social systems,” she said. “There are ongoing crises that lurk behind the current health and economic emergencies . . . So if we are going to tackle issues like climate change, we have to come at them fundamentally as a fight for justice.”
The federal government can pursue reconciliation with Indigenous communities by partnering with them on clean energy projects that deliver health, economic and social benefits to the people, said Terri Lynn Morrison of the Indigenous Clean Energy network.
Morrison said Indigenous people are already major developers and partners in clean energy projects across the country. “They’re ready to seize the opportunity,” she added.
Some economists have questioned whether stimulus spending on clean energy infrastructure is the optimal way to respond to an economic slump precipitated by a health crisis that has forced Canadians into social isolation. Sectors like retail, restaurants and tourism have been hit hardest with job losses, and it’s not clear they would benefit from traditional – or even non-traditional – stimulus spending.
In a blog post last month, economists Dale Beugin and Mike Moffatt argued that green stimulus spending should target areas such as infrastructure, while government should continue to rely on regulation and carbon price to drive climate policy.
Trying to meet the requirements of both recovery and emissions reductions would result in an approach that fails to do either efficiently, they argued.
“Climate considerations should be less constraint and more a radar to help identify non-traditional but job-rich investment opportunities, such as deep retrofits and flood protection for homes and workplaces,” Heaps said via email. “Climate can also be a tiebreaker where two recovery options offer similar economic benefits.”
“In addition to the large investments in green infrastructure, the ‘shecovery’ will likely require significant investments in eldercare and childcare,” he added.
During the roundtable, Ivey Foundation president Bruce Lourie noted that countries like Germany and South Korea have succeeded in providing support for key clean energy sectors. The refrain that “governments shouldn’t pick winners” is a “tired and misguided refrain for us to be using,” he said.
As an example, he cited the promising opportunities for Canada to be a global leader in the emerging market for hydrogen-powered buses and trucks.
Environmental economist David Sawyer said proponents of green stimulus plans should emphasize “co-benefits” that come with investment in emission-reduction projects. They can include not only more jobs but also health benefits from reduced fossil-fuel pollution and greater resiliency to withstand the severe weather impacts of the climate crisis.
Dianne Saxe, Ontario’s former environment commissioner, said Canada needs to find a way to maintain long-term climate-change policies so businesses and consumers have confidence that investments made today are not undermined tomorrow.
“The biggest challenge is how to have stable policies that survive government changes,” she told the roundtable. Canadians need to be active, she said. “Fundamentally, to get durable public policy, we need strong, loud public demand for it.”
Eurozone in fresh emergency action to boost economy – BBC News
The European Central Bank has taken further dramatic measures try to boost the eurozone economies, amid their biggest recession since World War Two.
Just months after emergency measures, the central bank said it would increase the size of its bond buying programme by €600bn (£546bn) to €1.35tn.
The programme will run until June 2021, six months longer than planned.
The move will keep borrowing costs low for countries and firms as they face huge budget deficits and recessions.
The purchases support “funding conditions in the real economy, especially for businesses and households,” the ECB said.
The central bank also decided to hold its interest rates at record lows.
The extra bond buying “is likely to push European government bond yields even further into negative territory, and investors in search of positive returns will be forced to take more risk,” said Rachel Winter, associate investment director at investment firm Killik & Co.
The bond purchases are often referred to as Quantitative Easing (QE). When central banks buy bonds with printed money, the value of the bonds rise and borrowing costs drop.
Some market commentators wonder how much money can safely be printed without causing the value of money to decrease.
“Although inflation is currently very low, these levels of asset purchases are causing some concern about inflation further down the line,” said Ms Winter.
“Economic theory tells us that that inflation is linked to the supply of money in the economy, and if the money supply is being drastically increased to fund quantitative easing then long-term inflation ought to rise too. These fears of long-term inflation have stoked demand for gold recently.”
Gold is trading at about $1,717 (£1,368) an ounce, down from highs of $1,766 earlier in the month, but up compared to a price of $1,324 one year ago.
In many ways, the ECB is playing catch-up with other central banks, said Neil Williams, senior economic adviser at US-based money manager Federated Hermes.
“After lagging the US and UK, the fiscal box is now opening, he said. The planned spending works out at about €100bn a month, higher than the €80bn spent in the wake of the European sovereign debt crisis, he points out.
Impact of new social unrest on the US economy in two charts – Yahoo Canada Finance
In the charts — which you could see below — it’s clear that social unrest as measured by real-time user comments about the economy on Twitter is beginning to weigh on consumer confidence.
<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Consumer sentiment (left chart) had begun to stabilize in early to mid-May with states reopening and people returning to work after months of COVID-19 lockdowns. But then came the senseless killing of George Floyd by Minnesota police in late May and rampant protests and looting, and a plunge in consumer sentiment per Twitter data analyzed by Goldman.” data-reactid=”20″>Consumer sentiment (left chart) had begun to stabilize in early to mid-May with states reopening and people returning to work after months of COVID-19 lockdowns. But then came the senseless killing of George Floyd by Minnesota police in late May and rampant protests and looting, and a plunge in consumer sentiment per Twitter data analyzed by Goldman.
Meanwhile, negative sentiment on the economy (right chart) as measured by tweets not mentioning coronavirus has spiked over the past week. Some strategists have pushed back on a chart like this one, noting it’s part of a larger issue holding the economy back.
Great charts, although I would challenge the causation.
Social unrest reflects hopelessness – it is a consequence of extremely low confidence – the same low confidence that is likely to impact the economy, too. https://t.co/h5mjPWvn8X
— Peter Atwater (@Peter_Atwater) June 4, 2020
Ultimately it’s hard to determine if weakening consumer confidence over the past two weeks has seriously derailed a U.S. economy already in a sharp recession due to COVID-19. But for those on the Street betting for a V-shaped economic recovery later this year (stat: the S&P 500 is only 7.8% below its February record highs), the data presented by Goldman hints that is far from a sure bet as social unrest is sustained, weighs on consumer psyche and spending decisions.
<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and co-anchor of The First Trade at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.” data-reactid=”25″>Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and co-anchor of The First Trade at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.
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