Tampa Bay Wave’s BlueTech|X Accelerator: Riding the Tide of Innovation in Florida’s Ocean Economy

Tampa, in a significant boost to the growing ocean-based technology sector, Tampa Bay Wave, Inc. (Wave), heralded as Florida’s leading startup accelerator, has been awarded a $250,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This grant positions Wave at the forefront of “Catching the Blue Wave: Accelerating America’s Ocean Economy,” an initiative under NOAA’s 2023 Ocean-Based Climate Resilience Accelerators funding program. This initiative is part of a broader effort by NOAA, which has distributed 16 grants totaling $3.9 million nationwide, aimed at fostering small businesses and entrepreneurs who are pioneering ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes-based climate solutions.

In partnership with the University of South Florida (USF) and the St. Petersburg Innovation District, Tampa Bay Wave will channel these funds into crafting the BlueTech|X Accelerator. This groundbreaking program is set to energize the blue economy by supporting entrepreneurs through technology development, capability demonstration, market introduction, and investment acquisition, particularly in the vital regions of Tampa Bay and the Florida Gulf coast. Leaning on over a decade of expertise in running top-tier accelerator programs, Wave, alongside USF and the District, will integrate vast networks and resources, including access to maritime technology firms, customer connections, unique data sets, and highly desired in-water testing/demonstration capabilities.

“The impacts of climate change are visible in communities across America every day,” said NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad, Ph.D. “This ocean-based accelerator program connects the government, the private sector, academia, tribes and stakeholders to innovate and produce new ocean, coastal and Great Lakes technologies at a pace that supports the urgent need for resilience nationwide.”

Linda Olson, CEO of Tampa Bay Wave, expressed excitement about the new venture: “As a lifelong resident of Florida, I am deeply committed to preserving our region’s invaluable coastlines and beaches. This generous NOAA grant allows us to expand our decade-long collaboration with USF, launching an innovative accelerator focused on ocean-based climate resilience. The BlueTech|X Accelerator is not just a step towards safeguarding our natural resources but also a move to bolster Tampa Bay’s innovation ecosystem, creating high-value tech jobs in the process.”

Echoing this sentiment, Dr. Sylvia Thomas, USF’s Vice President for Research and Innovation, stated, “USF is poised to make a substantial contribution to the BlueTech|X Accelerator, leveraging our Gulf Coast research facilities, faculty expertise in oceanography and environmental and marine sciences, and strong ties with Tampa Bay’s entrepreneurial community.”

“Tampa Bay has one of the southeast U.S. largest concentrations of blue economy professionals with a long history of working together to solve critical issues. I am excited that this grant will provide the opportunity to deepen our work with innovators who seek bold solutions to important questions facing our coastal community”, said Alison Barlow, Executive Director, St. Petersburg Innovation District. The Innovation District is home to both the Ocean Team and the Maritime and Defense Technology Hub, two maritime sector collaborations that will benefit from products, services and talent generated by the BlueTech|X Accelerator.

The NOAA Climate Resilience Accelerator Program, with its structured two-phase approach focusing on initial development and subsequent expansion of accelerators aligned with NOAA’s climate resilience mission, serves as a catalyst for collaborative innovation. By fostering partnerships among federal, state, and local agencies, NGOs, industry groups, and academia, the program identifies and addresses specific regional and sectoral climate resilience needs. Phase One awardees like Wave are poised to play a pivotal role in shaping innovative solutions across various domains, including ocean renewable energy, coastal and ocean carbon sequestration, hazard mitigation, and ecosystem services. Wave’s extensive legacy and mission-driven approach, demonstrated through successful management of numerous accelerator cohorts since 2013, underscore its significance in nurturing tech startups and fostering economic growth in Florida. Through programs like TechDiversity, CyberTech|X, FinTech|X, LatinTech, TechWomen Rising, and the CORE program, Wave has provided invaluable mentorship, investment training, and networking opportunities, supporting over 500 startups, facilitating more than $870 million in funding, and creating over 5,000 jobs, thus solidifying its pivotal role in the state’s economic development.

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