Spearheaded by a consortium of companies, nonprofits and academic institutions, Maryland is campaigning to become one of the country’s three biggest hubs for “blue tech” innovation, an up-and-coming industry sector focused on the maritime and water industries.
The Maryland Technology Development Corporation, or TEDCO, announced the initiative, which will be called BlueTechMD, last week. It will aim to attract both climate technology investors and blue tech entrepreneurs to the state in an effort to grow the state’s climate technology footprint and to address some of the state’s most pressing climate challenges, like stormwater runoff and flooding.
The state has a number of features that are attractive to blue tech investors and entrepreneurs alike, including its proximity to the Chesapeake Bay, the Port of Baltimore, and governmental agencies like National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA.
But up to this point, Maryland’s blue tech companies — which include offshore wind, flooding management, bay and ocean restoration and more — have been siloed from one another, said Claire Broido Johnson, managing director of the Maryland Momentum Fund, which is a member of the consortium.
“Offshore wind folks don’t think about aquaculture very much. And aquaculture people don’t think about oyster restoration every day,” she said. “The purpose of the consortium is to get everyone in a room together.”
Bringing together large companies, startups, academic organizations, nonprofits and others in the blue tech sphere will hopefully open up opportunities for new partnerships, new companies, new jobs and new solutions to climate issues in Maryland. Currently, the consortium is composed of 14 organizations, companies and state agencies, including the University System of Maryland.
Maryland’s disconnected blue tech ecosystem isn’t abnormal, though; even the term “blue tech” itself is relatively new to the United States, having emerged within the past five years, Johnson said. While the state is also not a hotbed for climate technology more broadly (Silicon Valley and Boston, Massachusetts, dominate that area), blue tech could help Maryland emerge as a player in the sector, which has become especially profitable and popular among investors in recent years.
BlueTechMD will host its inaugural kick-off event on Nov. 16 at the University of Baltimore. The event, which will be in a hybrid format and is free and open to all, will outline what, exactly, blue tech is and why Maryland would make a good home for a thriving blue tech cluster.
Speakers will also discuss existing blue tech strengths in Maryland, such as the recent growth of the offshore wind industry, aquaculture in Maryland and how the state’s world-famous seafood industry plays into BlueTechMD’s goals.
The event aims to build a community of people and organizations interested in advancing blue tech in the state and find people who are willing to serve as mentors for blue tech startups. The consortium also hopes that, through the event, they will begin to get a sense of what early-stage companies in the industry need to succeed, beyond funding.
After the initial event, BlueTechMD has plans for future programming, including meetings and informational events to help teach the community about relevant topics, like hydroponics and invasive species in Maryland’s waterways.
“This is just the very beginning,” Johnson said.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Austin, Texas, was one of two cities leading the climate tech industry. The two cities leading the industry are Silicon Valley and Boston, Massachusetts.