Grants and mentorship available for youth aged 13-30 with ideas to solve the issue of ocean plastics
Bridget Stringer-Holden // News Editor
Open to all youth aged 13 to 30, the OceanWise Innovator Lab is a project-based competition welcoming both high school and university students, clubs, youth-led organisations and startups.
“We’re trying to make it as accessible as possible to everyone — part of why we’ve made it online,” explains Scott Bohachyk (he/him), who manages all youth initiatives, including the Ocean Bridge program, mobile and online learning programs, partnerships and educational resources as the Director of Youth at OceanWise. “It’s inclusive by design, since youth from around the world are invited to apply, and all participants accepted into the program are eligible for funding to support their participation and the development of their innovation.”
This is the inaugural year for the OceanWise Innovator Lab, but there are plans to extend it into at least 2023 and 2024. This year, the focus is ocean plastics, but Bohachyk shared that there could be other topics related to OceanWise conservation strategy, such as sustainable fisheries, seafood, whales or sea forestation in the future. “Short answer is, I’m not quite sure what the topic will be for 2023,” he shares.
In January, February and March, OceanWise will be hosting a series of labs that will be open to everyone. Once those are completed, participants are expected to work on their project submissions, which will be reviewed by a panel of ocean health experts.
The top three participants will receive prizes of $2500, $1000 and $500 to help support their ideas, but Bohachyk hopes that if there isn’t a significant financial barrier, that some of the other ideas would also be implemented.
Applicants don’t need to have a set plan in mind or a brilliant idea prior to signing up for the labs. “We do expect that some youth will join those labs just for general professional development and insight into the process of working through an idea,” he explains. However, at the end of the labs, it’s expected that there will be a more formal submission, if participants wish their ideas to be considered by the panel.
Although it depends on the idea, Bohachyk estimates that the labs should take about six to seven hours in total, and then another 15-20 hours would be reasonable to ensure that the submitted ideas are fully developed and ready to submit.
Communities that could be impacted by the resulting projects, such as Indigenous communities, will also be considered by the panelists in the environmental scan. “If, and when, any communities may be impacted, at the very least we’d reach out and have that conversation to ensure community buy-in before proceeding with any project,” he said.
“OceanWise, in general, is committed to providing these opportunities for youth, and we hope that the first innovator lab results in some wonderful projects that spur action to protect and restore our ocean,” said Bohachyk, underlining the importance of creating opportunities such as this for young people with energy and passion who wish to make a positive change in the world. “I also hope that it might inspire other youth to look inside their homes and communities and schools to see what actions they can take as well.”
To sign up for the labs or find out more information about the program, see the OceanWise Innovator Lab webpage.