Growing a Blue Economy Entrepreneur Ecosystem in the LA Harbor Region

By Ann Carpenter, CEO, Braid Theory; and Chief Innovation Officer, City of Los Angeles, District 15

Blue Economy Overview

According to The 2018 Annual Economic Report on EU Blue Economy produced by the European Commission, the Blue Economy includes concepts that encourage stewardship and ocean health within “interlinked established and emerging sectors.” Sectors included within the Blue Economy extend to areas such as shipbuilding and repair, offshore oil and gas, power generation, fisheries, minerals and mining, desalination, marine habitats and coastal ecosystems, ocean garbage cleanup, waste disposal and even carbon sequestration. Bluetech is best described as an emerging cross- and multi-disciplinary ecosystem within the broader Blue Economy, which seeks to solve problems related to the ocean, marine and maritime sector.

Why Us? Why Now?

Every startup needs to answer the questions, “Why us? Why now?” We can apply these same questions to understand why we’re well positioned to grow this Blue Economy ecosystem here in the Harbor area.

Global Momentum

In 2015, seventeen United Nations Sustainable Development Goals were adopted by world leaders. Goal 14, Life Below Water, called out the need to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, sea and marine resources for sustainable development. The first five years were largely dedicated to awareness and stakeholder building. Now through 2030 has been designated as a Decade of Action to “supercharge ideas to solutions.” With scores of newly-established ocean-focused business clusters, accelerators and incubators worldwide it’s clear that we are in “solution mode.” Likewise, there has been an exponential rise in investment in in these clusters as well as the individual startups.

Regional Resources

With rapid technological advancement in many of the industry sectors that dominate LA County – biosciences, aerospace, trade and logistics, food manufacturing, advanced transportation – our region is starting from a strong base. Bluetech broadly encompasses many of the same technologies found in sectors such as agriculture and food technology; water and energy; biotech and life sciences; aerospace; construction and infrastructure; and transportation and logistics. In 2019, the growing investment in science and engineering-based startups in the Greater Los Angeles Area resulted in $2 billion in startup investment and 60 new funds, plus 168,000 biotech jobs – more than San Francisco.

Local Need and Commitment

“As the talk of automation starts to present some new realities… We must put a plan in place to make sure that the next generation is a well-equipped workforce. The Port has long been a job center for the goods movement workforce, but now, with the establishment of AltaSea, the port’s new bluetech incubator, the Port will also become a job center for the technology workforce. AltaSea will be a catalyst to research, the creation of new businesses, new industries, new technologies.”  This quote from Councilman Joe Buscaino, City of Los Angeles, Council District 15 speaking at the 2019 State of The District illustrates the need to transition to the emerging Blue Economy. Designating the first ever Chief Innovation Officer in any district in the City of Los Angeles and allocating resources for entrepreneur programs and activities, demonstrates the commitment.


In summary, if we continue to connect with global innovators focused on ocean solutions, harness the technical resources and domain expertise available in our region, and continue to build out programs for science and engineering-led startups, we will foster the growth of countless entrepreneurs, create jobs, and help sustain the planet.

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