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Supercluster on a mission to increase value of Canada's marine economy – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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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.

Kendra MacDonald, executive director for Oceans Supercluster. – Contributed

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.

The first official Ocean Supercluster project was announced in 2019 at Kraken Robotics in Mount Pearl, NL. Left to right are: Karl Kenny, President and CEO of Kraken; Seamus O’Regan, Minister of Natural Resources; Dave Shea, Senior Vice President of Engineering of Kraken; Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry; Susan Hunt, Chief Technology Officer Canada’s Ocean Supercluster and Nick Whalen, Member of Parliament. - Contributed
The first official Ocean Supercluster project was announced in 2019 at Kraken Robotics in Mount Pearl, NL. Left to right are: Karl Kenny, President and CEO of Kraken; Seamus O’Regan, Minister of Natural Resources; Dave Shea, Senior Vice President of Engineering of Kraken; Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry; Susan Hunt, Chief Technology Officer Canada’s Ocean Supercluster and Nick Whalen, Member of Parliament. – Contributed

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.

Source.


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.

More details. 

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Economy

Opinion: Tokenization, not crypto, is the future for Canada's digital economy – The Globe and Mail

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Mining rigs on display at the Thailand Crypto Expo in Bangkok, Thailand, on May 14.Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images AsiaPac

Mark Wiseman is a Canadian investment manager and business executive serving as a senior adviser to Lazard Ltd., Boston Consulting Group and Hillhouse Capital, and the chair of Alberta Investment Management Corp.

The dual threats of inflation and further financial downturns are real and require immediate action from policy makers – and they arise at a time when a litany of disruptive global events have darkened the economic outlook.

In order to be effective, both monetary and fiscal policy must be surgical, centralized, based on data and implemented with accountability. We must also be cautious when the likes of Conservative leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre advocate to “opt out” of inflation and create economic value with bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. The political appeal of such voices ignores both economic reality and the larger opportunity in this digital space: tokenization.

Having been an investor for more than two decades, including many years spent managing the pension investments of millions of Canadians, I care about the principle of intrinsic value: pricing assets based on their underlying attributes and, in turn, generating a reasonable risk-adjusted return from those assets.

Unlike traditional investment alternatives, cryptocurrencies have been – and are – extremely volatile, with their value tied to speculative activity as opposed to intrinsic worth.

While one can envision how central-bank digital currencies or stablecoins could change our financial system and create significant efficiency value down the road, the real benefit that exists today is in the blockchain and distributed-ledger technology behind cryptocurrencies.

Tokenization is a tool created by such technology and has the potential to immediately create and redistribute value for everyday Canadians. It allows owners of assets with intrinsic value – ranging from real estate, to securities, to commodities, to fine art (or the digital equivalent) – to tokenize their assets into a form that is usable on a blockchain application. In practical terms, it enables asset owners to sell fractional ownership of their asset akin to a publicly traded company issuing equity, but in a much more accessible way.

Tokenization leverages smart contract functionality (the same technology that supports many cryptocurrencies) that has the potential to unlock immense value and liquidity for many investors, big and small. This is the aspect of the blockchain and distributed ledgers that our political leaders and regulators should be focused on.

The tool is incredibly attractive because it can provide investors with easier ways to purchase, hold and trade assets that have real underlying value, including digital assets such as the NBA’s incredibly successful TopShot – a platform that allows fans to trade collectible NFTs of past plays (think of them as digital trading cards).

Cryptocurrencies, which have no clear intrinsic value, are an impressive demonstration of the power of blockchain. But like the early BlackBerry products, it turns out that the software that underlies many cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, is far more valuable than the initial application.

Tokenizing and selling part ownership of one’s assets can improve liquidity and increase the transparency of the value of their assets, allowing them to borrow against them more easily. Valuing an artwork is notoriously difficult, but if a sculpture is tokenized and a liquid market in those tokens develops, price discovery for the object as a whole becomes far easier. After the tokenization of a skyscraper, a token holder would be able to secure financing against their tokenized portion of the building, as opposed to having to mortgage the entire structure to gain funding.

Were Canada to become a leader in tokenization, retail investors would be able to access assets beyond the public equities and bonds to which they are now mostly limited. Institutional investors – many of whom have already begun to significantly increase their investments in private companies, real estate, infrastructure and other alternative investments – are desperate to find havens for their capital, particularly given the recent fluctuations in equity markets.

Tokenization would allow them to invest in assets that would otherwise be unavailable, creating potential value for both buyers and sellers. With fewer barriers to selling fractional ownership of large infrastructure projects, this class of investor can drastically expand the type of large projects into which they can invest.

Undoubtedly, regulation will be an important consideration. Publicly traded companies have a significant amount of disclosure regulations they must adhere to, which may cause many asset owners to shy away from listing their assets on public exchanges. Regulation will have to ensure adequate information is available about the underlying asset, so that investors purchasing tokens can understand what they’re buying, without being overly burdensome to the point that it dissuades asset owners from participating.

If we want to lead as a country in the blockchain and distributed-ledger technology sector, it is tokenization toward which we should be focusing our efforts – not on the misguided idea that bitcoin can solve the inflationary pressures brought about by an excess of demand over supply in the economy.

In fact, the support for cryptocurrencies by such voices as Mr. Poilievre, driven by criticism of our central bank, shows exactly why we need such independent institutions. Politicians are kept at arm’s length from them for good reason – just look at what happened to the Turkish economy when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ignored and eroded the authority of the country’s central bank in favour of a misguided, politicized monetary strategy.

Instead of political theatre on the steps of a venerable institution, Mr. Poilievre and other cryptocurrency supporters ought to be more responsible and advocate to make Canada the leader in tokenization. That requires investing in the necessary training, technology and governance structures for this revolutionary technology, and building a system of laws and regulations to support it.

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Economy

Sri Lanka's Shattered Economy Awaits New Finance Head, Rate Hike – BNN

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(Bloomberg) — Authorities in Sri Lanka this week are expected to name a new finance minister and raise interest rates as they struggle to stabilize an economy spiraling into chaos by a lack of dollars and surging inflation. 

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, appointed last week, is expected to soon choose a finance minister, who will help lead talks with the International Monetary Fund over badly needed aid. 

Click here for the latest on developments in Sri Lanka

Meanwhile, the Central Bank of Sri Lanka is expected to raise its benchmark standing lending rate by 75 basis points on Thursday from 14.5%, the median in a Bloomberg survey shows as of Tuesday, as it tries to battle Asia’s fastest inflation. 

The decisions come as the South Asian country barrels toward its first official default, with the 30-day grace period for missed interest payments on dollar bonds ending Wednesday.

Read more: Sri Lanka Stumbles Toward Its First Default on Foreign Debt

The prime minister on Monday warned that the country was down to its last day of gasoline supplies, as it doesn’t have the dollars to pay for shipments aboard tankers anchored just offshore. He also said it would need to print money to pay government salaries, a move that will certainly worsen inflation already running near 30%. 

What Bloomberg Economics Says…

“Facing a cratering currency and the risk of hyperinflation, the Central Bank of Sri Lanka is sure to hike rates further — crushing growth. But we think the worst of the inflation storm will pass fairly quickly. The prospect of consumer price gains cooling into 2023 should allow the central bank to limit its remaining rate increases to 400 basis points.”

— Ankur Shukla, Economist

For the full note, click here

Sri Lanka is suffering a shortage of food, medicine and energy while its currency has been in a free fall, fueling protests and violence that pushed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to resign last week. His brother Gotabaya, the president, appointed long-time opponent Wickremesinghe in a bid to calm the situation and restore order. Central bank Governor Nandalal Weerasinghe had earlier threatened to resign if political stability wasn’t established.  

The country’s monetary authority has raised interest rates by 850 basis points so far this year. Meanwhile, the currency has lost more than 40% against the dollar since the end of February, while its foreign exchange reserves dipped 4.7% in April to $1.8 billion. Officials, however, warned earlier this month that the country has about $50 million in usable reserves. 

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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Fuel prices, labour challenges point to recessionary economy: CargoJet CEO – Financial Post

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Watch: Ajay Virmani, CEO of Cargojet, speaks about the state of supply chains and Cargojet’s business two years into the pandemic

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