It’s ten years today since the The Iceland Ocean Cluster first opened its doors in a former net loft by the Reykjavík quayside. Over the past decade Cluster has seen a remarkable series of successes in its role in building collaborative networks between industry, R&D, startups and investors.
According to the Cluster’s founder, Dr Thór Sigfússon, the IOC has been an active accelerator and investor in the blue economy, providing fertile ground for cross-pollination that has generated tremendous value for Iceland’s marine economy.
‘This is an industry not previously known as a dynamic hub for startups,’ he said.
‘Ocean Cluster House at the Reykjavik harbour is the innovation incubator of the IOC providing space for startup companies in seafood or whatever else the ocean provides. This ecosystem has received various rewards for creating a community of entrepreneurs determined to maximise value from the seafood industry.’
He commented that it has functioned as a spin-off factory where the cluster has often taken an active role as an investor in new startups. These startups have since become leaders in areas such as ocean proteins, co-working space, education and food halls.
The cluster has also expanded its network by opening five sister clusters in the US. The IOC cluster model has also been used as a prototype by new ocean clusters in South America, Europe and the Pacific. The first co-working space outside of Iceland, The New England Ocean Cluster House in Portland Maine, opened its doors in 2020 and has been very well received, he said, adding that The IOC’s list of successes in the last decade includes generating a 150% growth in blue startups in Iceland in the last decade as well as being at the core of this fast-expanding network of global ocean clusters.
‘We can claim credit for an increasing interest among young people and entrepreneurs in Iceland’s blue economy in Iceland and five of the most successful startups from the IOC ecosystem are now worth $600 million,’ he said, commenting that the Iceland Ocean Cluster looks forward to continuing to be a world leading cluster and accelerator in seafood.
‘The IOC has set the agenda for the next decade and the four main themes are to take bold steps in the circular seafood economy, to inspire and train global fisheries to do more with less, to coach and nurture a large number of blue startups both domestically and internationally and to use all necessary steps to safeguard the ocean environment in our arctic region, as well as assisting other countries in building ocean ecosystems in ports worldwide through the establishment of ocean clusters,’ Thór Sigfússon said.