Foresight is building Canada’s largest cleantech innovation network, the Community of Innovators. This series showcases some of those inspiring individuals, who are creating change in cleantech.

Julie Angus is the Founder and CEO of Open Ocean Robotics, a Foresight-supported company that is making waves with their solar-powered robot boats. You may recognize Julie as the “Industry Icon” award winner from our 2021 BC Cleantech Awards. Or as the first woman in the world to travel across the Atlantic in a rowboat

Not one to back down from a challenge, Julie is directing her formidable energy to cleantech solutions for our oceans. She explains why collaboration and networks are so important to her and her business.

Photo credit: Jeffrey Bosdet/Douglas magazine.

Q: What is your connection with Foresight?

A: I’ve been working with Foresight for the past two years, getting support from EIRs and various programs. I like that EIRs meet me where I’m at, providing really helpful advice for Open Ocean Robotics.

Q: What excites you about the work you’re doing?

A: Open Ocean Robotics has developed uncrewed surface vehicles – solar-powered robot boats that help us understand the ocean. Being out on the ocean is very costly and dangerous. Innovations like ours can overcome those barriers. We see this as being a really great tool in a number of areas, but we’re focused primarily on the offshore wind industry. 

We were just part of a project called the Offshore Wind Challenge. We have labs where we use our boat to listen for whales, especially in the north Atlantic. It’s really important to protect endangered whales during construction of off-shore wind farms as well as operations. We provide a method that is affordable, non-intrusive, flexible, and safe. 

Q: What are the key challenges and opportunities related to cleantech in Canada?

A: Technology has a long development cycle. It takes a lot of resource investment to develop a clean technology and then deploy it, get traction with customers, and scale it. For us with Open Ocean Robotics, we’re at the stage where we’re starting to deploy it in pilot projects so we can validate the value we offer to customers and find a way to scale – that is also challenging. 

At the same time, the opportunities in cleantech are remarkable. It’s such a crucial area for us a world to succeed in. And especially for Canada – it aligns with our values as a nation. When you think of Canada, you think of beautiful pristine wilderness. Canada has the world’s longest coastline. So it’s great that we are leaders and that BC is a leader in cleantech.

Q: Why is a Canadian cleantech network like the Community of Innovators important?

I believe strongly in the value of collaboration and networking. We can do more together than apart, whether it’s developing technology together, meeting challenges or finding challenges we can solve.

On a global scale, the more that we can knit together our communities, present a unified presence for our cleantech community, and create more linkages with more countries and clusters, there are endless opportunities. And we need to work together. We’re tackling challenging issues, and it’s not easy to build a company. So we need the support of one another. And we can unify and rally around issues that we all face. There are so many reasons why it’s important that organizations like Foresight bring us together.