In a continuation of MTR’s “View from the Top” interview spot, this month we speak with Greg Murphy, Executive Director, The Maritime Alliance & TMA Foundation, which has been instrumental in forwarding the blue tech business in Southern California and beyond.
For readers not familiar with The Maritime Alliance, can you give a brief on the organization and its reach in the subsea sector.
The Maritime Alliance (TMA) is the nonprofit industry association and organizer of the largest ocean and water technology cluster in the United States. Its tagline is Promoting BlueTech and Blue Jobs with a focus on economic development, ecosystem development and international outreach. TMA brings together 16 sectors of the Blue Economy that include, aquaculture, defense and security, desalination and clean water technology, marine recreation, maritime robotics, ocean energy and resources, and very large floating platforms under a common Blue Voice represented by academia, government and industry. While physically located in San Diego, TMA is active both nationally and internationally and is spearheading the creation of an international BlueTech Cluster Alliance to promote collaboration. Together with its sister nonprofit organization, TMA Foundation, TMA advocates for sustainable, science-based ocean and water industry.
You recently became Executive Director of The Maritime Alliance. What attracted you to the position?
Our mission is critical and our mandate is clear. We promote sustainable, science-based ocean and water industry that balances conservation and economic development. I am inspired every day by the entrepreneurs, innovators and researchers who see a problem and find a solution that not only fills a market opportunity but benefits society. We grapple with global challenges related to biodiversity, clean water, climate change, disease, food security, global commerce, sea level rise and workforce development. It’s clear to me that the ocean will increasingly become a bigger part of our daily lives, so it’s my role to turn our collective attention to the ocean as a source of innovation, inspiration and jobs.
Stepping into the position, what were your immediate goals for The Maritime Alliance?
The Maritime Alliance is at an inflection point. We are a small nonprofit and our membership is growing. Our Founder Michael Jones continues as President and we are fortunate to have a strong, dedicated Board of Directors and a growing, skilled staff. Our immediate goals are to grow capacity and institutionalize operations, with a focus of continuing to deliver value for our member companies and drive innovation. That includes the creation of a BlueTech Incubator this year, and expanding our efforts to educate elected officials, economic development officers, and the public about the value of the Blue Economy. A big focus this year will be workforce development because future growth requires motivated entrepreneurs and trained employees to create and fill the Blue Economy jobs of tomorrow.
We understand that your November event – Blue Tech & Blue Economy Summit – has evolved to become “San Diego Blue Tech Week.” What specifically was the impetus for this expansion? What, specifically, is new this year?
Our 8th Annual BlueTech & Blue Economy Summit and Tech Expo will be part of a rebranded San Diego BlueTech Week, with 6 events in 5 days November 7-11, 2016. The ever popular 2-day Summit and Maritime Gala Dinner will highlight exciting new trends in BlueTech with speakers from around the world. Last year we launched a dedicated track on Workforce Development for educators, HR professionals and students to discuss career opportunities in the Blue Economy, and we are bringing it back again this year by popular demand. In addition, we are co-hosting a day-long event with Scripps Institution of Oceanography on Big Data, Data Security, and OceanGIS, and we’re launching our first Investors, Philanthropy and Corporate Partner Day to give a platform for BlueTech inventors and entrepreneurs to look for partners for their innovative technologies and companies.
I was very interested to learn that TMA has invited other “Subsea & Maritime Clusters” to the San Diego event. I know the San Diego Cluster fairly well … what specifically was the impetus to engage other clusters from around the world?
As TMA develops relationships around the world, we have found a handful of very active BlueTech clusters with the same goal of fostering innovation through collaboration. So we invited them to our Annual Summit in 2015, and were pleased that eight clusters participated from five countries (Canada, France, Ireland, U.K. and the U.S.). We spent a very full, very productive day working through a series of topics of mutual interest and developed an initial roadmap for collaboration. This year we will host the second convening of international BlueTech clusters and anticipate having 10-12 clusters from countries like Canada, France, Ireland, Portugal, Norway, U.K., and the U.S.. We hope to formalize an international BlueTech Cluster Alliance in 2016 that promotes collaboration on projects, sharing of information and resources, and assisting each other’s companies. Once the model is working, we hope that additional organized clusters will join.
Please discuss TMA’s top three initiatives for the coming 12-24 months.
First, TMA has partnered with Reed Exhibitions to bring Oceanology International North America (OINA) to San Diego every two years beginning February 14-16, 2017. This will be the largest maritime technology trade show in the Western Hemisphere. We expect over 200 exhibitors and 3,000-5,000 attendees from 50 countries in 2017 and that it will grow from there. One area of particular focus for TMA is to engage organizations across Latin America. For example, TMA will be working with the Inter-American Committee on Ports (CIP) – part of the Organization of American States (OAS) – to develop topics that will be of interest to the 34 national port authorities from across the Caribbean and Latin America that are members of CIP. With San Diego’s cluster of maritime technology companies, this is the right place and the right time to launch OINA. We welcome you to visit San Diego for the business development and networking, and stay for the beautiful weather! Second, we are expanding our international network with the BlueTech Cluster Alliance and the 8th annual BlueTech & Blue Economy Summit in November 2016 will focus on “Case Studies of Collaboration” between our global cluster partners. In March 2015, we led a trade mission to the south of France with seven of our member companies, two of which came home with agreements to do business with three French companies. There are more trade missions on the horizon, and we look forward to collaborating with BlueTech clusters around the world to support each other’s companies.
Finally, we currently have more than 50 corporate members with a goal to reach 100 members by the end of 2016. Membership is the lifeblood of our organization and we work hard to assist our member companies. We have a benefit package for every level of membership and – as a big new benefit – TMA members will receive a 10 percent discount on exhibit space and to attend the concurrent conference at OINA. I hope that companies will contact TMA to discuss the benefits of becoming a member and helping us promote an international Blue Voice.
Every organization, every position has its challenges. What are your challenges, and how are you (personally and/or as an organization) investing to meet those challenges?
One of the challenges in the maritime technology industry is awareness. This BlueTech sector has largely gone unnoticed by the general public, investors and politicians because so much of BlueTech is offshore, out of sight and out of mind. And yet Blue Tech companies are a critically important part of the economy.
In February 2016, NOAA published its first-ever economic study on the Ocean Enterprise, which TMA co-authored, that found more than 400 companies in 36 states doing over $7 Billion in sales annually. This important study, our San Diego Maritime Industry Study 2012, and other Blue Economy studies need to be shared with elected officials and say “Hey, look how many jobs this industry supports.” We need to better understand and explain the size and growth of the U.S. and the global Blue Economy. We need more federal investment in the U.S. And we need to work together to create more innovative companies and good paying, Blue Jobs.
Greg Murphy - Executive Director, The Maritime Alliance & TMA Foundation
Greg Murphy started as Executive Director of The Maritime Alliance in November 2015 after serving six years as Policy Advisor for San Diego County Supervisor Greg Cox, advising him in his roles on the California Coastal Commission and the National Ocean Council Governance Coordinating Committee. While working for the Supervisor, Greg served on the board of The Maritime Alliance Foundation for two years. Prior to his work in public policy, Greg was a program manager in the UC San Diego Alumni Association where he started an award-winning alumni relations program with a team of 30 interns. Greg brings his experience in economic development, event coordination, fundraising, grant writing, nonprofit management, public policy and workforce development to The Maritime Alliance where he helps organize the largest maritime technology cluster in the United States. He graduated in 2008 from the University of California, San Diego with a degree in political science.