Published: May 9, 2023
Safer uncrewed expeditions, new discoveries on the horizon as bi-country teams leverage AI at sea
Click for video interviews with the ocean tech challenge winners
May 9, 2023 · Halifax, Nova Scotia · Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA)
Exploring more of the ocean – and finding new ways to do it safely – represents tremendous opportunities both at home and in international markets. The ocean is responsible for 30% of Atlantic Canadian exports and 320,000 jobs across Canada. Globally, the ocean economy is projected to reach an overall value of $4 trillion by 2030 – but to date, only about 10% of the ocean has been explored.
Today signaled a big step toward safer, more sustainable ocean exploration, as Canada and the
United Kingdom announced the winning teams in the inaugural ocean tech challenge. They are:
Each team will merge technology from both sides of the Atlantic, developing two different tools that will help uncrewed vessels “see”, sense and move more skillfully in water. eSonar is combining its subsea acoustic sensors with Aquatec’s marine monitoring instruments to create a suite of enhanced sensors that will increase vessels’ awareness. D-RisQ’s verification technologies will be used to build safety monitor software which will use Deep Vision’s perception system to detect and avoid obstacles. The two solutions will help vessels venture farther to collect new, valuable ocean data – while better safeguarding the environment around them. Spearheaded by the Ocean Technology Council of Nova Scotia (OTCNS) and Innovate UK, with support from ACOA, the ocean tech challenge is designed to create industry-advancing solutions, open new markets for innovative companies and grow trade through international partnership.
“In the race to build the clean economies of the 21st century, countries and companies that work together gain an automatic head start. The winners of this year’s Canada-UK ocean tech challenge are demonstrating this powerful advantage, as they combine their respective strengths to advance clean growth in the ocean sector. As we move forward, Canada is committed to making transformative investments to build our clean economies and creating new opportunities for businesses.” – The Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Official Languages and Minister responsible for ACOA
“The biggest impact of the technology we’re working on is expanding the area of safe
navigation for automonous underwater vehicles (AUVs) – so that we can collect more data on the ocean. A good example would be in Canada’s North where many of the bays and inlets have never been surveyed. If we can do that with AUVs that have increased situational awareness, it will add real value to Canada’s North. This has opened up partnership and collaboration opportunities that we wouldn’t have accessed any other way – and this is going to open up new markets for us.” – Gary Dinn, CTO, eSonar Inc. (St. John’s, NL, Canada)
“Partnership is powerful because when we work with other companies, we can draw on their experience so it’s not all coming from one narrow perspective. With eSonar, we can work with their expertise in acoustics and we can bring our communication technologies together. This gives us the opportunity to develop some new instrumentation, and explore new ways of sensing in the ocean.” – Andy Smerdon, Managing Director, Aquatec Group Inc. (Basingstoke, England, UK)
“The potential impact for the environment is very significant. We’ve done a lot of work on the detection of marine mammals, especially the North Atlantic right whale – to be able to automatically detect those via camera systems. What we’re doing is enabling truly autonomous systems, which is edge AI. It’s taking place without remote control and nobody staring at a screen. Something can go off and do its job because it can perceive the environment and the objects within it.” – Alan Parslow, CEO, Deep Vision Inc. (Dartmouth, NS, Canada)
“This has given us the opportunity to work with Canada, with support from the UK and ocean tech partners. This competition is a brilliant way for us to be able collorate and expand into international markets. The biggest impact for industry will be the ability to develop and use autonomous vehicles in air, land and sea sectors much sooner. We’re looking to make sure that people can take on these technologies, enabling others to do fantastic things.” – Nick Tudor, CEO, D-RisQ (Malvern, England, UK)
• The Governments of Canada and the UK launched the ocean tech challenge in October 2022.
• Minister Petitpas Taylor announced a non-repayable contribution of $275,000 for the Ocean
Technology Council of Nova Scotia (OTCNS) to support the competition in Canada, and
Innovate UK provided $275,000 for the competition in the United Kingdom.
• The two winning teams each receive $250,000 CAD to implement and demonstrate their
• OTCNS and Innovate UK hope to develop an ongoing bi-country challenge with a new issue to tackle each year.