Interview: TMA's Michael Jones on BlueTech Week

By Greg Trauthwein

Marine Technology Reporter interviews Michael Jones, the ubiquitous leader of The Maritime Alliance and the architect of the Blue Tech Week in San Diego. The theme for the 10th Annual Blue Tech Week is “UN Sustainable Development Goals – Industry Solutions”.

For MTR readers not familiar with BlueTech Week, please give a synopsis in a sentence or two.
The Maritime Alliance (TMA) creates a Blue Voice via unique events, information sharing, national & international outreach, networking, research, and workforce development. The 10th annual BlueTech Week (BTW) scheduled for November 5-9, 2018 in San Diego is a series of seven networking events over five days that brings together representatives of the Triple Helix – academia/education; industry; and policy makers – from around the world.

BlueTech Week has certainly evolved over the years. What’s new for the 2018 event?
Every year we have a different theme for BTW. This year it is “UN Sustainable Development Goals & Industry Solutions.” We continue to grow, add new industry tracks, and attract attendees, clusters and companies from more countries. From BTW2016 we moved to a new venue for BTW2017, which we outgrew in one year, so we will be in a new, larger venue for BTW2018! Information is available at www.bluetechweek.org.

How is this event most the same … and most different … than the event you started in 2008?
BTW is always focused on the TMA Mission, which is “Promoting Sustainable, Science-Based Ocean & Water Industries”. It is about balancing conservation and smart economic growth…and on “Promoting BlueTech and Blue Jobs.” That is a constant. On the difference side, we have developed a much stronger focus on BlueTech clusters globally and on developing investment capital for the industry. We have also grown dramatically. We started with perhaps 120 attendees in the first year and expect 550+ individual attendees this year representing academia/education, companies, clusters, and policy makers from 20+ countries.

You have multiple days, multiple venues and multiple events. A difficult question for sure, but what do you consider to be your ‘show-stopper’ this year?
It is impossible to say we have a “show-stopper” because each of the seven events over five days are important in different ways to different stakeholders, which is also why the events are “unbundled”. The fourth annual “by invitation” BlueTech Cluster Convening will bring together 20+ existing and in-formation clusters – probably the largest BlueTech cluster gathering in the world – to discuss Best Practices and collaboration. The Marine Debris Solutions day co-hosted with Scripps Institution of Oceanography on November 6 will focus on innovative industry solutions to four big issues: Plastics in the Ocean; Sunken Vessels and Unexploded Ordinance; Oil Detection and Cleanup; and Fishing & Netting Gear Alternative Solutions. The BlueTech Summit & Tech Expo on November 7-8 will feature four Plenary Sessions with an amazing array of speakers, four tracks with six panels each, and 40 exhibitors – more than ever before. And the third annual BlueTech Investor Day is attracting more investors than ever before.

We know that your reach is global, but looking in your own backyard and Southern California, can you give your insights on how this region, this cluster, has evolved over the last decade?
With 3.3 million inhabitants, San Diego is California’s second-most populous county and the fifth-most populous in the United States. There is an amazing array of government, industry, military and university assets in the region. In addition, looking at the larger Cali-Baja region – there are about 7 million inhabitants. TMA has played a crucial role in helping develop an increasingly unified regional Blue Voice. This includes a process to create a TMA Baja chapter with partners in northern Baja California, Mexico. And most importantly, BlueTech companies are increasingly collaborating and assisting each other – truly a “rising tide raises all boats” story.

Aside from geography, what other factors contribute to making SoCal ripe as a marine technology hub?
The presence of the US Navy, research facilities starting with world renowned Scripps Institution of Oceanography, an amazing harbor with deep water near offshore, and a large concentrated grouping of BlueTech companies benefit the San Diego region. TMA has played a lead role in organizing this regional industry…but we look at our “good fortune” as an opportunity to help create a model for the country and internationally. 

I know from participating in this event for years that it is a ‘labor of love’ for you personally, with the emphasis on “labor.” When you look at this event and what it has become, what do you find: The most challenging?
The most challenging is that there is still too little recognition of the importance of the ocean to the future of all living creatures on earth. We also believe that it makes sense for BlueTech clusters to include companies active in the ocean and water tech industries – BlueTech companies sell across both.

The most rewarding?
There is an increasing awareness of the importance of the Blue Economy and BlueTech, and of the critical role of BlueTech clusters to develop Blue Voices region-by-region, country-by-country. It is BlueTech that allows us to find the problems that humans have created over thousands of years – throwing stuff in the ocean and overusing water resources – and it is BlueTech that is critical to provide the solutions. I am particularly proud of our growing national and international member base, of our extensive educational outreach and partnerships that are critical to develop needed technical workers and the entrepreneurs of the future, and of the growing BlueTech Cluster Alliance, which promotes collaboration among 10 BlueTech clusters from eight countries today.


10th Annual Blue Tech Week at-a-glance
November 5-9, 2018, San Diego, Calif.
“United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – Industry Solutions”

  • Seven events in five days
  • 500+ attendees representing senior executives from academia, industry and government
  • Tech Expo with around 40+ table-tops ($600 per company, not including registration)
  • 80+ speakers
  • 100+ companies (95 companies in 2017)
  • 18+ BlueTech clusters or clusters-in-formation
  • 16+ countries represented
  • 20+ companies in the PitchFest
  • Separate Maritime Gala Dinner & Awards Ceremony
  • Unbundled daily event fee includes hosted breakfast, breaks, lunch and hosted reception

www.bluetechweek.org

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