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USM Research Foundation and SeaAhead Launch the Gulf Blue Navigator

Thu, 06/02/2022 - 12:49pm

The University of Southern Mississippi Research Foundation in partnership with SeaAhead Inc. announces the launch of the Gulf Blue(SM) Navigator program for established blue technology startups.

This is the first innovation program in the Gulf of Mexico focused on the new blue economy. Applications for the first cohort of startups will open this summer, for a program starting in November 2022. The program is funded by a variety of private and public sponsors, and includes financial support for companies to cover the costs of participation, technical and sector expertise, ability to access testing facilities, and co-working space at the Gulf & Ship Island building in Gulfport, Miss.

“The Navigator program connects blue technology startups from around the world to the existing strengths and capabilities of the Mississippi Gulf Coast ecosystem. Cohort participants will have easier access to a variety of The University of Southern Mississippi resources including research and technical expertise and coastal research facilities like the Thad Cochran Marine Aquaculture Center and the Marine Research Center,” said Dr. Kelly Lucas, Associate Vice President for Research, Coastal Operations at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM). 

“Some milestones that the USM Research Foundation I think will be looking to meet within the next few years is to have this building fully occupied, and then to see folks graduate from the program out into our community. They lease commercial office space, they build buildings, they hire employees, they begin to buy goods and services from providers in the community,” said Johnny Atherton, President, USM Research Foundation.

The Navigator program will be seeking applicants with technologies and business models in areas including uncrewed maritime systems, precision marine aquaculture, ocean-related data analytics, coastal restoration, ocean-friendly plastics, sea and space systems and ‘the Future of Maritime.’

The Mississippi Gulf Coast is the home to significant operations of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Navy, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the US Army Corps of Engineers. The proximity provides startups with direct market access, potential partnerships, and customers to shorten the timeline of development.

“NOAA is pleased to extend our partnership with USM, Jackson State University and SeaAhead, including with the first Navigator business cohort. NOAA’s authoritative environmental and climate data fuel the New Blue Economy. Cohort participants will play a critical role in turning NOAA’s public data into innovative products and services needed to build the ocean economy while ensuring the health and resilience of our coastal communities in the face of climate change,” said Sharon Mesick, Regional Climate Service Director, Southern Region, National Centers for Environmental Information.

Further information on the Gulf Blue Navigator Program will be forthcoming in the next few weeks. For opportunities to participate, please visit or email