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Ocean of Innovation

SOCAP Global August 20, 2013

Contributed by David Helvarg
In my new book ‘The Golden Shore – California’s Love Affair with the Sea’ I write about how the Pacific has contributed to Californians’ innovative and entrepreneurial spirit.  Being a pioneering ocean culture, California combines the Pacific’s limitless horizons with structured thought (necessary for survival on this fetch of ocean) in a way that has given it world leadership in the development of computational, biomedical and other technologies.  In other words, ‘catch a wave and you’re sitting on top of the world.’ A few examples of how a healthy ocean can keep blue businesses afloat would have to include the Meistrell twins, Bill and Bob, who made their own wetsuits out of neoprene insulation from the back of a refrigerator 60 years ago, before going on to found the Body Glove corporation out of their southern California dive shop. Hobie Alter was another ocean lover who redefined surfboards with foam and fiberglass and supercharged sailing with his Hobie Cat sailboat, the original catamaran template for today’s multi-million dollar America’s Cup yachts and teams including California’s Team Oracle.  J. Craig Venter, a pioneer in sequencing the human genome, has been working for years sampling and cataloging life in the ocean.  Among his ideas, modifying marine microorganisms to create clean fuels.  This has led to a $600 million collaboration with Exxon to develop the next generation of biofuels.  Others, like Mark Holmes of Newport Beach, want to leapfrog the old corporate structures.  His Green Wave Energy Corporation is looking to harness offshore clean energy using new and radically simple wave turbine technologies.  Newer California-based corporate titans like Google are looking to create the smart offshore power cables needed to bring wind turbine energy ashore while also mapping and making the ocean more transparent through its online Ocean portal.  I could go on and do (in my book).   But what’s key to understand is how much of this innovation is driven by California having learned to live well with the sea and become its steward, using the best available marine science to set policy and enhance collaborative approaches.
In California problems associated with ocean health are addressed through a combination of private and public investment in the state’s massive blue economy.  With a multiplicity of marine interests in recreation, transportation, trade, energy, fishing and National Defense, California has also become the world’s leading innovator in coastal protection, climate adaptation, marine parks, green ports, ocean observation and science systems and other cutting edge technologies and consumer trends that offer huge opportunities for investors and innovators alike.  For more on California’s ocean leadership see my article from the San Francisco Chronicle’s Insight section on Aug. 11.
Or join me and panelists from Google, Doer Marine and the National Ocean Economics Program for the ‘Making Waves in California’s Blue Economy’ session: 10:30 AM Wed. Sept. 4 in the Money Tent at SOCAP13.

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