Climate change / Environment

Maryland innovation leaders see an ocean of opportunity in blue tech

A new consortium called BlueTechMD is forming to make the state a hub for technology at the nexus of water, energy and sustainability. It's seeking to bring different efforts together, and create climate-focused economic growth.

Maryland leaders want to grow a blue tech hub. (Photo by Jason Pischke on Unsplash)

Aquaculture and oyster restoration in the Chesapeake Bay. Fisheries and ocean research at Inner Harbor’s Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology. Energy entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland College Park. Offshore wind in the Atlantic. Flood management. Growth at the Port of Baltimore. Government agencies working on environmental tech.

They’re all areas where technology-based businesses are being formed to support environmental work, and many are becoming increasingly important in Maryland as solving climate change becomes more urgent. A group of innovation leaders see it all coming together under a single umbrella:

Blue tech.

It’s an area of tech that includes innovation around the ocean, the Bay and its watershed, the harbor, city waterfronts, energy, floodplains and even labs.

To bolster it, a group of 14 for-profits, nonprofits, and universities is coming together to form a new consortium, called BlueTechMD.

“The vision is to try to make Maryland one of the top three blue tech innovation hubs in the country,” said Clarie Broido Johnson, the director of the University System of Maryland’s Momentum Fund and an entrepreneur who cofounded the solar energy company SunEdison.

Maryland’s economic anchors and centers of research concentrated around the water are a key ingredient. As with many things in innovation, the path to becoming an innovation hub relies just as much on growing the ecosystem that sustains entrepreneurs.

Various entities are making strides on their own, but there is a need for these entities to communicate and work together more, Johnson said. That’s where economic growth comes from.

The key work will be: “How do we connect all of the pieces to be more interactive and more coordinated with the express goals of building more companies and creating more jobs in Maryland?” Johnson said.

It’s also a global concern. Earth is facing increasingly dire predictions about the effects of climate change. To take news that came out this week as an example, new data showed that precipitation, sea level and flooding have all increased in Maryland over the last 20 years, as the Capital News Service reported.

When it comes to climate, many of those closest to the problems see technology as one part of much bigger solutions. As shown with the infrastructure bill moving through Congress, climate will also be a major part of policy conversations that touch all aspects of public life.

It’s in this context that leaders want to unite startups, bigger companies, institutions, policymakers and key infrastructure players around efforts to be part of the solution, and help grow the local economy in the meantime.

The consortium will host its inaugural event on Nov. 16 at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. It will include a closer look at blue tech, information on entrepreneurship advantages in Maryland, and investor discussion.

IMET, TEDCO, the Maryland Momentum Fund, Early Charm Ventures and Ferry Cove Shellfish are partnering on the event. Offshore wind company Ørsted is a sponsor.

Here’s a look at the groups coming together in the consortium:


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