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MELANIE NADEAU: Shipbuilding buoys Nova Scotia’s ocean-tech hub, marine environment

The Centre for Ocean Ventures & Entrepreneurship (COVE) at sunset. "With investments from Irving Shipbuilding and the federal and provincial governments, we’ve transformed an abandoned coast guard base in Dartmouth into the only place that has everything an ocean technology company needs to grow — wharves, deep-water piers, workshops, in-water labs, co-working space, programming, testing capabilities, and access to talent," says CEO Melanie Nadeau.
The Centre for Ocean Ventures & Entrepreneurship (COVE) at sunset. "With investments from Irving Shipbuilding and the federal and provincial governments, we’ve transformed an abandoned coast guard base in Dartmouth into the only place that has everything an ocean technology company needs to grow — wharves, deep-water piers, workshops, in-water labs, co-working space, programming, testing capabilities, and access to talent," says CEO Melanie Nadeau.

MELANIE NADEAU • Guest Opinion

Melanie Nadeau, P.Eng., is CEO of the Centre for Ocean Ventures & Entrepreneurship (COVE) in Dartmouth.

In the current discussion about the costs associated with building new ships for Canada’s navy, we shouldn’t lose sight of the broader context for the National Shipbuilding Strategy (NSS) and its impact on our economy.

The NSS is designed to generate economic benefits for Canadians and to provide important investments into targeted areas. Nowhere is the success of this strategy more evident than at the Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship (COVE).

Nova Scotia is surrounded by the sea. It has shaped our culture and defined us. It feeds us, entertains us, connects us, inspires us and powers our lives.

Today, the sea needs our attention. The global “High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy,” in which Canada is a participant, estimates the asset value of the ocean at US$24 trillion. To protect this asset, the panel says we need significant global investment to ensure we have a healthy, sustainable ocean — for food, energy, transport, and new industries.

This is a global imperative and Atlantic Canada is better positioned than most other places in the world to lead the development of knowledge and technology in response to this massive ocean challenge.

And the work has already begun. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in ocean-related research at Dalhousie and Memorial universities, and other regional research centres. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been committed to Canada’s Ocean Supercluster to drive innovation and growth in our ocean economy. And hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent by the private sector on research and development. In other words, thousands of Atlantic Canadians are already working on the challenges identified by the panel.

With more than $3.4 billion in spending across Canada today, the impact of the shipbuilding programs underway at Irving Shipbuilding is much greater than the cost of the ships being built.

At COVE, we’re doing our part.

With investments from Irving Shipbuilding and the federal and provincial governments, we’ve transformed an abandoned coast guard base in Dartmouth into the only place that has everything an ocean technology company needs to grow — wharves, deep-water piers, workshops, in-water labs, co-working space, programming, testing capabilities, and access to talent. Our location, partnerships, and community make us the best place in the world to bring ocean research, business, and technology together. We are looking to expand our programs and facilities to solidify our position at the forefront of the global ocean technology sector.

We have over 50 tenants representing a mix of local and global ocean technology business and institutes who export their products and services around the globe. We have over 40 partnerships, have run programs nationally inspiring our country’s future workforce, and are building collaborative ways to drive innovation. We are part of a burgeoning ocean innovation ecosystem in Atlantic Canada that is being recognized worldwide.

It’s fair to say we wouldn’t be having the impact we have today without the Royal Canadian Navy’s new fleet being built in Halifax. The doors at COVE opened in 2018 thanks to Irving Shipbuilding’s investment, and without that, it’s uncertain whether COVE would exist.

With more than $3.4 billion in spending across Canada today, the impact of the shipbuilding programs underway at Irving Shipbuilding is much greater than the cost of the ships being built.

These investments are supporting efforts throughout Atlantic Canada to develop knowledge and technology to sustain our oceans. Our youth are being introduced to new career opportunities in shipbuilding and ocean-related sectors that they otherwise wouldn’t have known about. These young Nova Scotians will continue our connection to the sea and rise to address the challenges to ensure we have healthy sustainable oceans.

I agree, of course, that there should be full accountability and oversight of major procurement projects in Canada. But, let’s not forget about the incredible value being generated alongside the construction of the ships. On top of that, Canadian sovereignty and our continued prosperity depends on building these ships in Canada. I, for one, would much rather see the benefits flowing back to Canadians, rather than to some offshore land.

COVE and Canada’s ocean technology sector is a prime example of the benefits of this approach. Let’s not lose sight of that.

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