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Gulf Blue Navigator Program Open for Applications

Tue, 11/14/2023 - 11:23am | By: Gabriela Shinskie


Applications are now open for the Gulf Blue Navigator. Launched in 2022 and supported by the University of 51 Mississippi (USM), the Gulf Blue Navigator has proven to be a successful springboard for Blue Tech in Mississippi and along the Gulf Coast.

With success stories from our pilot program startups, SEATREC, SeaTrac, and Blue Ocean Gear, and Research On Investment named Mississippi as one of the top two Blue Economy’s to watch in the world. The Mississippi Gulf Coast continues to receive global recognition. Entrepreneurs and established businesses alike see opportunity for growth with accessible waters, trained workforce and the triple helix of innovation with interaction between Government, Industry, and Academia. 

The Gulf Blue Navigator partnered with a US Small Business Administration Regional Innovation Cluster named Unmanned Coast run by NVision Solutions Inc. to support cohort companies with business mentoring.

“We’re excited to expand our partnership with Gulf Blue Navigator,” said Joel Lawhead, Program Manager for Unmanned Coast. The Blue Economy exists at the intersection of advanced research and cutting edge business, which is the environment the accelerator offers to ocean startups.”

Successful applicants will be late-stage startups with a viable product in Uncrewed Maritime Systems and Technology space. Over the course of 4 months, program participants will spend 3 days each month onsite on the Mississippi Gulf Coast with access to research facilities, industry peers, along with shallow and deep water testing. They will receive $25,000 in program support and up to $25,000 in approved technical assistance. Ideal applicants will already have a prototype, less than $1M in revenue, and be ready to scale. Becoming a part of the Gulf Blue Navigator will undoubtedly provide the right mix of resources for companies seeking to move to the next level.

Dr. Yi Chao, a program alumni, had glowing remarks about his company’s participation in the pilot program.

“The Gulf Blue Navigator helped SeaTrac find a new market opportunity to monitor the Rice’s whale in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Chao. “This program has opened so many doors and made numerous introductions in a very short period of time.”

Alessandra Bianchi, program graduate of SEATREC reflects back on her joining the program.

“We decided to join the Gulf Blue Navigator for a variety of reasons … and the area seemed ripe for adopting blue tech disruptors like us,” said Bianchi.

Peter Macy of Blue Ocean Gear said, “We applied to the Gulf Blue Navigator because it offered a great opportunity to plug into the amazing ocean-centric economy on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. We were also attracted to the easy access to underwater testing and the world class team at the MRC.”

The Gulf Blue Navigator program aims to inspire entrepreneurship locally, regionally, and globally. In doing so, it will provide access to the Blue Economy for a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforce. Leveraging partnerships with state and federal agencies, academic institutions, and commercial enterprises, the program will provide many opportunities for involvement and mutually beneficial economic growth.

To apply, visit the .

Applications will close November 30, 2023.

Learn more about the .


The USM Research Foundation is a Mississippi non-profit corporation formed in 1998 and is

administered and operated exclusively for the benefit of The University of 51 Mississippi. The foundation supports and enhances the research mission of the University by promoting the increase of useful knowledge and encourages the development of intellectual property owned by the University. The foundation also provides support to the University by managing research contracts, coworking space and entrepreneurial programs.


The University of 51 Mississippi’s support for the Gulf Blue Navigator program is anchored by the Marine Research Center with its ability to support autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV) development ranging from prototyping to over the horizon at sea testing, the Thad Cochran Marine Aquaculture Center which conducts research in algae, fin and shell-based aquaculture as well as recirculating aquaculture system-based farming, and the Mississippi Polymer Institute.

Unmanned Coast

Unmanned Coast is a US Small Business Administration Regional Innovation Cluster coordinating business activities among companies supporting unmanned systems on the Mississippi Coast. Unmanned Coast supports the growing unmanned system operational and development needs of this industry driven by the US Department of Defense, US Department of Homeland Security, and science agencies. Unmanned Coast will work in tandem with USM’s infrastructure and mission of fostering a culture of innovation, and will connect promising global blue technology startups to the Mississippi Gulf Coast blue economy.