Imagine accessing all the resources your startup needs in one place.

The Gulf Blue Navigator exists at the nexus of academia, industry, public and private sectors to provide your startup with direct market access to customers and partners. The program supports scaling startups with access to physical infrastructure, expertise and a supportive ecosystem of practitioners to reach your next milestone.

Program Overview

Bluetech startups have a substantial potential for impact on ocean health, economic development and innovation. Our goal is to provide bluetech businesses with the resources they need to reach their growth potential, using the Gulf of Mexico as an innovation gateway. We believe that providing a faster route to potential partners and customers in tandem with core facilities for testing, startups will scale faster, decreasing the timeline of development.

Who Should Apply?

We are seeking bluetech startups who have a pilot and are ready to scale. This is a program for established startups in need of technical testing facilities and infrastructure, access to partners and potential customers. Ideally applicants will have less than $1M in recurring revenue (not including grants, awards of investment) and have already conducted a pilot. 

Application Open

November 1, 2023

Application Closed

November 30, 2023

Cohort Announcement

February 19, 2024

What do you get out of the program?

  • Gain insight and hands on expertise working with federal agencies
  • Build connections with Southeast & Gulf Coast regional customers, investors and potential partners
  • Advanced understanding of customer needs and intersection with their product development roadmap
  • Evaluation and understanding of potential new products and markets
  • Ready to accept the next stage of commercial investment and apply for other financial resources, including R&D grants, manufacturing loans, etc.
  • Develop leadership skills, including methods for building a support network and building out a team

“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.”

Dr. Kelly Lucas, Associate Vice President for Research, Coastal Operations at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM).

“JSU is excited to participate in the Gulf Blue Navigator program. The program has the potential to create applicable job opportunities for our students, expand participation of JSU researchers in tech innovation, and promote diversity and inclusion in the blue economy.”

Almesha L. Campbell, Ph.D., Assistant Vice President for Research and Economic Development at Jackson State University.

What are the Selection Criteria?

Commercially Viable & Scalable

Novel concept with product-market fit confirmed through early traction and quality IP, with the potential for developing a profitable, scalable business. If any pilots conducted to date, include details and result.

Environmental & Social Impact 

The innovation contributes to the improvement of coastal resiliency/restoration and/or addresses economic development challenges such as: building human capital, resource sustainability.


An entrepreneurial team, of at least 3 people, with the ability to execute their plan and demonstrated capacity to gather resources, partners and/or advisors.

Relevance & Commitment 

Ability of the Gulf Blue ecosystem, its partners & our networks to contribute to the success of the business, where the team is likewise committed to embracing the opportunity presented in the Gulf Coast region. 


The company has deployed a minimum viable product (MVP) in a pilot project, out of the research and development phase. Looking for testing, validation & scale.


Sound long-term vision and a set of achievable near-term milestones that will lead to successful commercial growth.

Need & Capabilities Match

Are we capable of helping them? Do we have the assets/resources needed to scale?

Blue Navigator FAQs

What is the program timeline?
The program will open for applications in July 2024 and remain open through September 2024. The program is planned to start in November of 2024 and run through March 2025. Demo Day is tentatively planned for May of, 2025.
What are you looking for in applicants?

Cohort-2 will focus on late-stage startups that are established and have an application that contributes to marine aquaculture, fisheries, or coastal restoration & resiliency. These companies should have a novel technology or business model. Typically, we will be seeking companies that have a prototype and less than $1M in recurring commercial revenue (not including grants or pilots).

What is your definition of bluetech?

Precision marine aquaculture, sea & space systems, ocean data & analytics, uncrewed systems, ocean-friendly plastics, and smart ports/smart shipping.

How is the program funded?

The program is supported by private foundations, corporate sponsors, and state and federal funding. Cohort member agreements are funded through the RESTORE Act.

Where will the program take place?

It will have an online learning component in tandem with in-person workshops held in the Gulf & Ship Island building in Gulfport, MS.

How does this fit with Gulf Blue?

This is the innovation driver for the Gulf Blue Initiative, providing direct access for companies through a structured program.