Interim board announced for Centre for Ocean Applied Sustainable Technology (COAST) ocean hub and cluster.

Photo of Emilie de Rosenroll and Craig Norris
Emilie de Rosenroll, CEO of South Island Prosperity Partnership, and Craig Norris, Interim CEO of COAST. Photo by Jeffrey Bosdet.

The newly formed Centre for Ocean Applied Sustainable Technologies (COAST) has announced its Acting CEO and Board of Directors for the South-Island-based ocean and marine innovation hub. 

It’s the culmination of a year’s worth of work for a dedicated group of volunteers. They have been creating momentum, under the South Island Prosperity Partnership (SIPP)’s wing, and with funding from Western Economic Diversification, to complete a business case for the Centre for Ocean Applied Sustainable Technology (COAST) ocean hub and cluster. 

“We need to turn that into a business,” says newly appointed COAST interim CEO Craig Norris, who envisions that momentum will continue to build as the interim board starts working together to create new opportunities. “Those are the three main things we are looking at: funding, getting membership in and then what we’re delivering; something that’s going to make their lives incredible.”

The interim board brings together expertise from the public and private sectors, nonprofits and education, with SME businesses, to solve tough challenges faced by the region’s ocean and marine sector. It will strengthen their ability to coordinate and compete for major national opportunities in the coveted $3-trillion global ocean and marine space.

SIPP will continue to incubate COAST in this launch phase. Their CEO Emilie de Rosenroll thinks that Victoria is at a crossroads, and sees COAST as part of a new phase of change and transformation. The ocean sector was identified by SIPP for its potential to “produce the kind of prosperity in our region that will be providing opportunities, not just for ourselves, but for future generations; clean jobs that are generating high wages, jobs that we can prepare the talent for now,” according to de Rosenroll, envisioning a future pipeline where graduates have a new scope of opportunity for innovative work. “It’s honestly tremendously exciting and we’ve definitely never seen the community rally together in such a profound way.”

There is no shortage of expertise in the sector and Norris emphasizes that, with the 16 person interim board in place, “there are still opportunities to contribute.” 

The current group will combine its networks and business reach to attract investment that will close the gaps for some of the smaller innovative companies and startups that are looking for venture capital and market opportunities usually tied to large enterprises with global marketing strategies in place, while scaling the collective impact of a fast-growing sector.  

In the next year Norris says $250,000 is a conservative estimate of what they would like to raise to get things going. Success and the scope of possibility is tied to how much of an impact the board wants to make. 

“We’ve got a lot of capability and a lot of backlog in this community that we could actually probably handle three to four fold that,” says Norris. “If there was a million dollars of startup sort of funding from different groups to put into a pool, there would be no problem in executing on that.”

Existing infrastructure in Victoria and the sector are what makes COAST, and its expectations for the sector, viable. This scale of ambition has been compared to ocean industries in both Eastern Canada and in Norway. 

The big difference is how reliant the success of those ocean economies in those regions is on oil and gas. The South Island doesn’t have oil and gas, nor does it have the history of shipbuilding like Eastern Canada, or the big business that have continued to secure bigger investments. 

“We have a significant digital technology advantage that’s becoming clearer and clearer,” says Emilie de Rosenroll. “And we’re very connected to the Cascadia mega region, which is dominated by the biggest players: Amazon, Microsoft and so on. We’re able to apply that technological savvy to the ocean space. The goal is to leapfrog the region forward.”

“Talking with these groups around the world, they fully expect Canada to be able to rise to the challenge,” says Norris. 

Norris and de Rosenroll agree that now is the time: the economy needs a reboot and it’s going to be a race to the finish line for sectors that the government sees as potential for long term recovery. “We have a massive opportunity,” says Norris. “And it’s ours to take if we want to.”

The interim board of directors for COAST is:

Acting CEO, Craig Norris

Board President, Ken Armour

Board Vice-President, David Fissel Senior Scientist, ASL Environmental Sciences

Board Treasurer, Emilie de Rosenroll, CEO, South Island Prosperity Partnership

Board Secretary, Lisa Helps, Mayor, City of Victoria

Director, Captain Jamie Marshall, Vice President Shipbuilding, BC Ferries

Director, Michael Whalley, President, Babcock Canada Inc

Director, Alex Rueben, Executive Director, Association of BC Marines Industries (ABCMI)

Director, Donald Grant Executive Director, Ocean Startup Project

Director, Julie Angus, CEO & Co-founder, Open Ocean Robotics

Director, Kate Moran, President and CEO, Ocean Networks Canada

Director, Justin Manley President, Just Innovation Inc.

Director, Chief Gordon Planes T’Souke First Nation

Director, Anthony Utley, President, Raven Marine

Director, Rick Rasmussen, Industry Fellow, UC Berkeley

Director, Melody Pardoe, Chief Engagement Officer, Canada’s Ocean Supercluster

You can find more information, including the recently released business case for COAST, at