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Harnessing the power of the ocean

At a glance
Where

Victoria, British Columbia

What

Consulting company providing physical ocean research services

What sets them apart

Company is deeply-rooted in research and innovation, ensuring that clients have access to the latest tools and techniques

Link to Mitacs

Founder was Accelerate intern in 2010

It was January 2010 and Clayton Hiles was completing a master’s degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Victoria. His research focused on using computational wave models for marine renewable energy applications, or in simpler terms, how to use ocean waves to generate electricity.

His supervisor, Dr. Bradley Buckham, recommended that Clayton apply for a Mitacs Accelerate internship and suggested coastal engineering consultancy Triton Consultants, as the industry partner. 

“When I approached Triton, they were hesitant at first as they were a small company; but when I mentioned the co-funding provided by Mitacs, my internship with them became feasible,” Clayton explained.

Clayton began his Mitacs internship with Triton in the spring of 2010 and worked to integrate his master’s research into the company’s operational wave models. He connected quickly with the team at Triton and following the completion of his master’s, he joined the company as a full-time employee. Two senior researchers at Triton, Michael Tarbotton and Roy Walters, taught Clayton everything they could, from the intricacies of hydrodynamic modelling of tides, storm surges and tsunamis to the importance of social consciousness in business.

A fork in the road

Unfortunately, the difficult decision was made to close Triton, which left two of the company’s contracts incomplete.

I had played a role in securing the two contracts and had a good relationship with the companies. I took a leap of faith and with the support of Roy Walters, decided to pursue the contracts myself.”

Initially, Clayton was apprehensive that his inexperience in the industry would cause the companies to hesitate in giving him the contracts. But after some early positive feedback, he was encouraged to move forward. Cascadia Coast Research Ltd in was incorporated in March of 2012.

A new beginning

Specializing in ocean modelling, coastal hazard assessment and marine renewable energy, Cascadia Coast assesses the viability of waterways for generating electricity from waves. What makes the company unique, Clayton says, is its focus on research and ensuring that it is up-to-date on the latest tools and techniques. Working with the University of Victoria’s West Coast Wave Initiative is key; Clayton’s former internship supervisor, Bradley Buckham, leads the collaboration.

Since starting up three years ago, Cascadia has completed 24 projects for 16 clients and is a profitable operation.

Clayton believes that his Mitacs Accelerate internship was the catalyst for his journey into entrepreneurship. “Mitacs was critical to me connecting with Triton, and the skills that I picked up during my internship led to my job at the company, giving me the ability to secure the contracts on my own,” he explains. “And from there, I founded my company.”

In May of 2015, Clayton received a Mitacs Entrepreneur Award in recognition of his outstanding industry contributions. As Cascadia’s business continues to grow, Clayton sees hiring up to six full-time employees and becoming subject-matter experts in high tech ocean engineering.

The future is looking bright.

 


Mitacs would like to thank the Government of Canada, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, along with Alberta Innovates Technology Futures, the Government of British Columbia, Research Manitoba, the Government of New Brunswick, Research & Development Corporation of Newfoundland & Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, Innovation PEI, the Government of Quebec, and the Government of Saskatchewan for their support of the Accelerate program.