BY JAMES CARELESS

COVE recently launched its first Naval Technology Innovation Challenge program in partnership with Thales Canada

The Future of Maritime Technology

If you’re seeking cutting-edge marine technology, COVE will be number one on your list. Launched in 2018, the innovation centre and tech hub has propelled Nova Scotia and Canada as a global leader in marine technology. Canada’s defence sector, including founding investor Irving Shipbuilding Inc., has been vital in developing and supporting COVE, and the benefits are evident. 

CEO, Melanie Nadeau, outlined COVE’s latest initiatives on the CDR Radio Podcast in conversation with CDR’s Ottawa Bureau Chief, James Careless. The full conversation can be heard on the CDR website www.CanadianDefenceReview.com/Podcast, with an abridged version of the interview available here. 

CDR: How does COVE foster marine innovation and get it to market? 

Melanie Nadeau: From a facility perspective, COVE is located on the Halifax Harbour, a mid-size port with naval, commercial, research and recreational activities in a constrained physical harbour space. This makes it the ideal location for companies to test and validate their technology from our wharf or connect with one of the many marine service companies at COVE to test in deeper waters. We also have an on-site resident machine shop, Precise Design Engineering Solutions, to support businesses in their prototype development. With over 65 companies based at the facility, many in the global supply chain, COVE is the only place with everything a marine tech company needs to grow—including in-water labs and co-working space. 

From a programming perspective, COVE provides market readiness initiatives to accelerate venture growth and advances technical projects to enable commercialization using on-shore and off-shore infrastructure. We also work closely with academic and public research to enable industry adoption of marine-based technologies and processes. On top of all that, we are creating a talent pipeline to support the sector with our skill development initiatives—from youth to post-secondary, mature workers and underrepresented communities. To summarize, COVE is where ideas become solutions, technologies become ventures, and opportunities become careers.

NAVAL TECHNOLOGY INNOVATION CHALLENGES 

CDR: One of the interesting programs you’ve been working on is the Naval Technology Innovation Challenges project with Thales. What is it all about? 

Melanie Nadeau: We have been working withThales Canada who has a significant program for in-service support for the Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships and other naval vessels to identify innovations that support the delivery of their program. This included defining challenges and finding companies that could directly work with Thales on solutions for the Royal Canadian Navy. 

In partnership with Thales came the development of two challenges. One focused on assessing condition-based maintenance, and the other on creating a digital dockyard that digitizes operations while managing assets and reducing costs. Two successful companies — one for each of those challenges — were selected as a result of­ this work. 

CDR: Dual-use products that have commercial and defence applications are popular in the marine market these days. What is COVE doing in this area? 

Melanie Nadeau: As I mentor companies that identify defence as their prime customer, I always recommend that they think of a commercial angle to their product and, therefore, other customers. 

A company can succeed in the defence sector, but it takes time due to the length of the sales cycle. When building a business, you need revenue in shorter periods, so having a commercial application is important to make this happen. While COVE has defence and security as one of its key pillars, we also work in areas such as offshore energy, marine transportation, fisheries and aquaculture which all provide adjacent opportunities for dual-use applications.

Over 50 global marine technology companies demonstrated at COVE Demo Day

NATO’S DIANA 

CDR: Canada’s lobbying to have NATO’s Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic — DIANA, for short — located in Halifax. Why is this important for our defence industry and for COVE? 

Melanie Nadeau: Halifax is a prime location for DIANA to establish a footprint in Canada, given the strong defence presence, innovation ecosystem and industrial supply chain that exists. As an industry-led innovation hub, COVE is central to all this activity. The premise of DIANA is to develop innovations that support dual-use applications, and COVE is well-positioned to support innovators in delivering solutions that DIANA challenges will put forward. As DIANA is led by NATO, it will provide exposure for companies putting forward solutions to over 30 nations, which could potentially become customers in the future. That is a scaling effect that is rarely made available. Furthermore, DIANA will have an investment fund with over a billion euros to invest in companies and solutions, making for a unique value proposition you rarely see. 

CDR: DEFSEC Atlantic is coming up this October in Halifax. What plans does COVE have for this conference? 

Melanie Nadeau: We have been involved with DEFSEC since COVE’s early days. It is a great opportunity to cross paths with various organizations and institutes interested in defence applications or technologies, so it’s always a great event for us. 

Last year we held a national workforce industry engagement forum that fed into DEFSEC. This past June, we hosted the largest marine technology demo day in Canada, which featured over 50 companies from around the world demonstrating their technologies to a crowd of over 475. We were fortunate to have the HMCS Moncton here, which was a big hit with the attendees. If there was interest, I could foresee another Demo Day-like event happening down the road in combination with DEFSEC.

LOOKING AHEAD 

CDR: Finally, what are COVE’s plans for the future? 

Melanie Nadeau: We are continually expanding our programs and services, finding opportunities for skills development to support the sector, evolving multi-stakeholder technical projects, expanding our accelerators, and growing our COVE community. We strive to better understand how we can serve and amplify demand from companies and organizations from all over the world interested in situating themselves at COVE. 

With our innovation team, we are focused on the role we play in accelerating solutions to complex technology problems. For example, we have embarked on a project called ‘Digital Harbour: Seabed to Space,’ which is creating an ecosystem of on-shore and off-shore infrastructure that collects and analyzes data from satellites, surface vessels, and below the waterline to deliver commercially relevant data-based solutions. The environment in Halifax Harbour will provide an in-situ test environment and connectivity to multiple stakeholders, including the research community, governments and industry. We are working on various user cases that are quickly finding commercial value. It’s a very exciting project that uses different data forms to enable commercialization in a well-monitored physical environment. 

Propelling innovation and spurring commercialization in the sector keep us going, and we’re excited to continue developing partnerships like the ones we have with Thales and Irving Shipbuilding. There are more opportunities to deliver challenge-based events and innovative projects, and we look forward to connecting with more organizations within the sector to generate solutions to build the best defence innovation ecosystem in the world.

James Careless is CDR’s Ottawa Bureau Chief