Standing on the beach in southeastern Connecticut, or on the bridge overlooking where the Thames River runs into Long Island Sound, the ocean seems a peaceful, empty place. But Connecticut’s oceans and rivers are home to both its oldest and newest technological hotbed, as our long-time maritime industry flourishes and the explosion in “bluetech” drives the birth of new businesses across the state.

Connecticut’s long and close partnership with the U.S. Navy has grown even stronger in recent years, as work continues on three new Virginia-class nuclear submarines as well as the expansion of several other sub classes. At the same time, two young companies, ThayerMahan and Exocetus, are designing and manufacturing state-of-the-art autonomous undersea vehicles that carry complex sensor technology for use in academic, business and government research.

New companies are working in every aspect of bluetech – aquaculture, shipping, maritime propulsion, pharmaceuticals and more. The nation’s largest offshore wind farm sits in Long Island Sound not far from our shore. The dozens of supply chain manufacturers that have served the defense industry for almost a century in Connecticut are turning more and more to creating products and solving problems across all aspects of marine tech and development.

The greatest opportunities currently emerging are in making maritime and sea-based technology more sustainable – dramatically reducing negative environmental impact and ensuring the ongoing health and existence of the oceans and their wildlife. For example, UConn’s Department of Marine Sciences is conducting ongoing research on offshore wind and educating the next generation of scientists and engineers focused on greater sustainability in ocean-based energy.

Aquaculture has been part of Connecticut’s economy since the state’s Native American tribes farmed shellfish in Long Island Sound centuries ago. Today, aquaculture plays an important role in producing domestic seafood as well as supplying ornamentals such as corals, fish and invertebrates that would otherwise be harvested from fragile reef ecosystems. Connecticut is a leading U.S. producer of oysters and clams and boasts large natural oyster beds along its coast. Aquaculture farms occupy over 50,000 acres in Long Island.

The crew for the Stella Mar Oyster Company in Stamford, CT, farm oysters in the Long Island Sound off the Connecticut coast aboard their oyster boat, the Paige Lane. Steve Schafer of Stella Mar, shows off some of their premium oysters from their farms.

The state has three aquaculture-focused high schools located in Groton, New Haven and Bridgeport, as well as many Vo-Ag centers that offer aquaculture instruction. The University of Connecticut has a longstanding commitment to supporting the aquaculture industry. For example, its latest initiative is a coral research and demonstration farm located in New London.

Much of the support for Connecticut’s bluetech companies comes from the state’s Naval & Maritime Consortium, an association of businesses, government agencies, labor and higher education that collaborates on long-term projects that will help the economic growth potential of bluetech business for the foreseeable future. The Consortium promotes economic development among undersea and maritime supply chain companies across the region through targeted activities in business development, strategic partnering, workforce development and industry representation.

CTNext aggressively supports southeastern Connecticut’s bluetech development through funding for the Thames River Innovation Place, the Naval & Maritime Consortium, and by providing SBIR/STTR training for bluetech companies seeking funding through the federal government. For more information, visit our SBIR/STTR page.

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