The Cape has no shortage of entrepreneurs who work in the Blue Economy today; from charter captains to shellfishing operations, they’re all entrepreneurs who took a vision of something they want to do and customers that need to be served and made it a reality. As a region, we’re entrepreneurial by nature, since the days of first schooners that were built here to the latest underwater autonomous vehicle that launches from Hydroid.
The next generation of blue innovation entrepreneurs are out there. Some are working in the many blue companies on the Cape and some are toiling away in their own labs and workshops. The Cape Cod Chamber and the Blue Economy Foundation, along with its partners the Cape Cod Commission, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and UMass Dartmouth, have been designing a new program to help these innovators get their work out of the lab and into the marketplace.
The Blue Innovation Wheelhouse will take a proven methodology of technology transfer and commercialization used by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and scale it to a regional level. The concept is to have innovators submit their research prototypes along with some basic market research to the Wheelhouse for possible commercialization. The Wheelhouse uses a panel of experts who can quickly evaluate the innovation for its commercial potential and the cost of building a commercial prototype. If the panel of experts decides that the innovation meets the criteria for funding commercialization, it will move to round two for further evaluation. If not, the innovator will be given feedback on how to make the submission better for future rounds. If the innovator is selected to move to phase 2, the innovation will go through a commercialization process which includes manufacturing a commercially viable prototype, validating marketing and sales aspects and the licensing and commercial details to either license the innovation to an existing company or a newly formed startup.
The goal of the Wheelhouse is to incentivize the innovator to get these smaller market products to market and provide a process by which the licensing and royalties can generate a self-sufficient program that can continue to grow the blue economy one innovation at a time. This project is currently being reviewed for funding by the U.S. Economic Development Administration through its Regional Innovation Strategies grant program.
When we get this program off the ground, we’ll be looking for innovators to submit their ideas, experts to help evaluate and the community to support this next generation of blue entrepreneurs on their journey.
A Remote Environmental Monitoring Unit with an autonomous docking station from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is lowered into the water pierside during the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Fest in 2007. AUV Fest is the largest in-water demonstration of unmanned underwater, surface, air and ground vehicles. [U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams]