Movers & Shakers: Maren Hjorth Bauer on Katapult Ocean accelerator

Ocean
PUBLISHED JANUARY 10, 2019
4 MINUTE READ
BY The Explorer
Ocean
PUBLISHED JANUARY 10, 2019
4 MINUTE READ
BY The Explorer

The oceans are facing multiple threats. Now is the time to find solutions. That is why Katapult Ocean is gathering some of the most promising sustainable blue startups and giving them the tools to establish themselves in the market.

“Plastic waste, overfishing, dying coral reefs, dead zones and disturbances in the oceanic carbon cycle are all pressing challenges. We are nowhere near being able to solve them with today’s technology. But the challenges also open up fantastic business opportunities,” says Maren Hjorth Bauer.

Bauer is the CEO of Katapult Ocean, a Norwegian accelerator for ocean technology. The accelerator’s aim is to cultivate new, sustainable technology for solving the problems facing the oceans, or finding lucrative new opportunities.

“That’s why we bring together the best innovative blue startups in the world for a three-month intensive accelerator programme,” she says.

Twelve companies have been selected from a pool of over 500 applicants to come to Oslo in January 2019. In the course of three months they will receive help from Katapult Ocean’s large, dedicated network of investors and partners to find capital and further develop and scale up their solutions – and ultimately succeed on the market.

Eelume’s Eely 500 robot for subsea inspection, maintenance and repair.

No time to waste

If future generations are to reap the benefits of the oceans, innovative solutions must be developed quickly.

That is why it is essential to support startups, according to Bauer. “It’s not often you see groundbreaking new technology emerging from large established industries,” she points out.

But even if a company manages to turn a good idea into a promising product, it still has a long path to transforming maritime industries. Katapult Ocean seeks to shorten that path.

“We are a buffer between these small companies and the large, rather conservative systems,” she says.

Norwegian starting point, global perspective

Although Katapult Ocean operates in Norway, its primary aim is not to enhance Norwegian competitiveness in ocean space.

“It is important for us to be global. That’s why we have mentors and partners from around the world. We want to work internationally, but from a base in Norway because Norway is the best place in the world to develop maritime technology,” says Bauer.

She names three factors that make Norway an excellent hotbed for cultivating sustainable blue companies. First, the country is a global leader in many of the most important segments of the maritime sector, such as the offshore, shipping and aquaculture industries.

Second, the conditions for startups are generally favourable.

“Norway has a small market where it is easy to test ideas and get pilot customers. It also has a flat hierarchical structure that makes it an ideal place to introduce new solutions,” says Bauer.

And last, but not least, sustainability is the backbone of many Norwegian companies and organisations, as well as the government administration.

“We are known for our focus on sustainability – look, for instance, at the way we manage our USD 1 trillion ‘petroleum fund’ – and we have articulated objectives for caring for future generations.”

Stingray’s solution for controlling sea lice with machine vision and laser.

Katapult Ocean looks at the bigger picture, not just bringing forth the participating companies’ individual solutions.

“We want to build a global network of investors that are ready to invest in this type of company and can help to bring together large companies, startups, research institutions and experts from around the world.”

The companies selected for participation have not been announced yet, but Bauer says the aim is wide global breadth.

“There will most likely be companies from Asia, Africa, and North and South America. They will be here for three months, before returning and helping to build ecosystems of impact companies in the places they come from,” she says.

Impact investment for a better future

Impact investment is the cornerstone of Katapult Ocean’s thinking. This refers to investments intended to turn a profit, while having a positive impact on society and the environment.

“Capital should be channelled into companies that can help to solve some of the major problems and challenges facing the world,” asserts Bauer.

“We believe impact companies are in a position to yield better returns because they have a tendency to attract better and more committed employees,” she adds.

When Katapult Ocean welcomes the first batch of startups in January, it hopes to show that there are tremendous business opportunities in ocean sustainability.

Katapult Ocean has a global team. From left: Scott Smith, intern (UK); Tobias Grande Hansen, intern (Norway); Jakub Pawlak, Head of Scouting and Analyst (Norway); Christopher Butlin, intern (Australia); Maren Hjorth Bauer, CEO (Norway); Naima Islam, intern (Norway). Not pictured: Ingrid Kylstad, COO (Norway); Rikke Hegge Jørgensen, Marketing and Community Manager (Norway); Ross Brooks, Business Development and Finance Associate (Scotland); Erika Heine Montague, Head of Tech Strategy (USA).