The ocean capital of the world

With a maritime and marine history and unique knowledge environments, Western Norway and Bergen have every opportunity to take a global leadership position in sustainable ocean economy. But capital and knowledge must work together to a much greater extent than they do today. This is the view of investor Johan Odvar Odfjell in Farvatn.

This is the view of investor Johan Odvar Odfjell in Farvatn.

- It is high time to invest aggressively, build strong partnerships and secure the ocean for future generations," he says.

Together with the venture fund Katapult Ocean, Farvatn organized the Sustainable Ocean Solutions Summit in Bergen in April. It brought together top international investors, start-up companies and researchers to discuss the path towards a sustainable ocean. The conference was held in connection with One Ocean Week, and it has been kicked off for a new gathering in San Francisco in 2025.

Top team in Bergen

Frescohallen, Kulturhuset, Vision of the Fjords and Biologen Hotel at Herdla were all used for seminars, workshops, excursions and gatherings during the conference. Farvatn really had the top team in Bergen during the SOS Ocean Summit.

World-famous marine biologist and explorer Sylvia Earle gave a lecture on how much we have negatively impacted the oceans in her lifetime alone. WWF, Espen Barth Eide, Penelope Lea, Grieg, Ferd and the Prince Albert II Foundation also attended the four-day conference.

The SOS Ocean Summit had three main themes:

- Science and technology: Transformation to net zero carbon emissions. What is the current state of the ocean and what actions are required now?

- Policy framework: What are the new rules of the game? How can we move forward with a national and global policy framework?

- Capital: How can entrepreneurs, research institutions and investors use innovations to develop and implement solutions? How can we bridge the gap between research and the necessary capital?

One of the goals of the conference was to connect the marine environments in North America with the knowledge environment in Bergen. It was a success.

- "We had participants from California and Silicon Valley, from Canada, New York and Boston. Here we raised awareness of the skills needed for start-ups, had investor pitches and put solutions on the table to reduce the carbon footprint and how we can create new future-oriented jobs," explains Johan Odvar.

Management from Elon Musk's SpaceX at Kulturhuset in Bergen, in constructive discussion with Jason Thompson, CEO of Oceankind and CEO and Co-Founder of Nomy, Ingrid Dynna. Photo Eivind Senneset, SOS Summit

What's at stake?

The situation for the world's oceans is serious. According to the UN, more than three billion people are directly dependent on the ocean for their survival. One third of all fish stocks are overfished. The number of dead zones in the ocean, where there is not enough oxygen for plants and animals to survive, has increased drastically in ten years.

Climate emissions must be cut sharply to slow down global warming.

- A lot needs to be done if the ocean is not to be destroyed. The responsibility lies with all of us," says Johan Odvar, who wants to use one of the most powerful weapons we have against environmental destruction. It's about knowledge and capital:

- We need to create environments where innovation is met with venture capital. We must also have the right people with the knowledge to scale prototypes into industrial solutions. Then we have built a strong engine for innovation. We can do that in Bergen.

Dr. Sylvia Earle is an American marine biologist, oceanographer, explorer, activist, author and lecturer. She has been a National Geographic explorer since 1998. Earle was the first female chief scientist of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and was named by Time magazine as its first Hero for the Planet in 1998.  Photo: Eivind Senneset, SOS Summit

Bergen must seize the opportunity - now

As a Westerner and investor, Johan Odvar knows what it takes for Bergen to realize its potential as a world-leading maritime capital. According to him, we are facing a window of opportunity:

- The world needs more food and energy, while all maritime activities must become emission-free. No one is better positioned than Norway to develop and scale up sustainable solutions," he says:

- Bergen must seize the opportunity - now.

- This requires academia, industry and the authorities to work much more closely together than they do today. So far, we have only scratched the surface of what Bergen and Norway can achieve as a maritime city and maritime nation," says Odfjell.

Climate activist Penelope Lea in discussion with Espen Barth Eide (then Minister of Climate and Environment in the Labor Party) Photo: Eivind Senneset, SOS Summit

Uniting academia and investors

Johan Odvar cites Canada as an example. Here, the national Ocean Supercluster, with 500 member organizations, has taken a leading role in accelerating ocean innovation.

- They have managed to unite established companies, academia, the public sector and investors across the ocean industries. We can keep this model in mind as we create Bergen as a leading global maritime city," says Johan Odvar, who adds:

- A good start would have been to bring these environments together in a single building where we let venture capital meet research.

In Vestland and Bergen, clusters such as GCE Ocean Technology, NCE Seafood Innovation and NCE Maritime CleanTech, with their dense networks of companies, research institutions and public actors, are already creating groundbreaking solutions within aquaculture and green shipping.

- With outstanding research environments at our universities and research institutions, a huge maritime and marine industry with world-leading companies, and political will in the green shift, we have all the ingredients needed," says Odfjell.

Odfjell believes that the link between research, business and the investor community is key.

- "We also have a well-functioning capital market that can finance the necessary investments. With strong support from local investors, government instruments and access to international funds, we can mobilize the huge sums required to realize our ocean visions," he concludes.

This article was originally published on the One Ocean Week website.