U.S. New Blue Economy business activity 2015 - 2020

Why this study?

The Ocean Enterprise business cluster comprises New Blue Economy businesses that support ocean measurement, observation and forecasting. These businesses supply technology to generate ocean data or work with ocean information to deliver societal or business benefits. From the instruments that make ocean observations and measurements every day to the ocean information needed to design and install an offshore wind turbine or the app that tells a tourist whale-watching expedition if today is a safe day to go out, the Ocean Enterprise is a significant enabler of the blue economy.

The objective of the Ocean Enterprise Studies is to raise visibility and awareness of this important business cluster, and to revisit the foundational study with updates over time to understand how its scale and scope has changed over a five year period.


What are the major findings of this study?

The 2020 Ocean Enterprise survey identified 814 U.S. businesses actively providing Ocean Enterprise products and services, in 45 states, the District of Columbia, and two overseas U.S. territories. Total employment for these companies was some 325,000 and their Ocean Enterprise revenue was estimated at $8 billion.

Between 2015 and 2020, the U.S. Ocean Enterprise experienced real dollar growth of 7% (as measured by 2015 Producer Price Index dollars) with the number of businesses in the Ocean Enterprise cluster increasing by almost 60%, to a total of 814.

The U.S. Ocean Enterprise cluster is highly export-driven with approximately 22% of businesses’ Ocean Enterprise revenue being from export sales, which is substantially above the 12% national average for the export-share of GDP. Businesses in the cluster export to all regions of the world, with Asia-Pacific and Europe being the most important markets, and with both regions increasing their significance since 2015.

Businesses reported substantially increased market diversification. In 2015, three market sectors were targets for at least half of respondents; by 2020, six sectors were targets for at least half of respondents, and an additional six were targets for at least 40% of U.S. Ocean Enterprise businesses. Businesses reporting offshore renewable energy as one of their chief market sectors more than doubled to 57%, compared with 27% in 2015. The maritime security and water quality sectors also reported significant growth in importance.


Download the reports:
The Ocean Enterprise: 2015 - 2020
The Ocean Enterprise 2015

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Ocean Enterprise?

The study encompassed private sector businesses that are:

  • Providers of ocean observing and measurement tools and infrastructure
  • Intermediaries who tailor ocean data or information for a specific end-use

Why did you do this study?

The results of this study will be widely disseminated by IOOS and NOAA, helping to raise the profile of the Ocean Enterprise cluster as a critical enabler of the Blue Economy and an important business sector in its own right. Study outputs will also help to inform and guide the work of NOAA, IOOS and the Department of Commerce in delivering initiatives that foster innovation and business success for U.S. companies engaged in the New Blue Economy.

Who did this study and how was the study run?

This work was funded by the U.S. IOOS Program Office which is a part of NOAA’s National Ocean Service. IOOS contracted with ERISS Corporation to execute the surveys, establishing a baseline with the 2015 study and then repeating the study in 2020 to understand how the U.S. Ocean Enterprise business cluster has responded to opportunities to support a growing and changing Blue Economy.

What was your methodology?

The methodology was a combination of a web-survey of businesses identified as being Ocean Enterprise Providers or Intermediaries, and secondary analysis of the Ocean Enterprise cluster based on public and proprietary business information sources.

How does this benefit private companies — do they have any incentive to contribute or help this study thrive?

This study benefits private companies by bringing this Ocean Enterprise business cluster into the spotlight. Toward the end of the study period, when asked by the project lead what benefit the study might provide to the companies who participate in the study, one large U.S. company CEO answered “we think it is great. Any attention on this sector is a good thing from our perspective because it highlights our business.”

I don’t live on a coast. Is this relevant to my community?

Yes — we identified companies involved in the ocean enterprise sector all over the US, including non-coastal states. Tech development and developing services from data are coast agnostic — these study results are relevant everywhere.

How does this compare with the findings of other studies?

Comparable studies are available for the UK and Canada, with results available at Eleventh Annual Review of the UK Marine Scientific Industry and The Canadian Ocean Enterprise Studies.

What does an annual revenue of $7 billion (USD) really mean — can you put that in context for me?

  • $7B is .04% of the 2014 US GDP of $17,419B (Source)
  • $7B is about the same size as the GDP of the Bahamas (Source); Togo (Source: International Monetary Fund. Retrieved 18 April 2016), or Barbados (Source: International Monetary Fund. Retrieved 18 April 2016)
  • The NFL made $7.24 billion in revenues in Fiscal Year 2015 (Source: Fox Sports, ESPN, others)
  • $7.5 billion American greeting card industry (Source: Small Business Development Center)

Okay, what about $8 billion (USD)?

  • $8 B is 0.4% of U.S. GDP ($21.48 T in 2020) (Source)
  • $8 B is roughly the GDP of Tajikistan ($8.1 B in 2020) (Source)
  • $8 B is close to Hershey’s revenue for 2021 ($8.1 B in 2021) (Source)
  • $8 B is the approximate revenue of the global banana industry for 2016 (Source: FAO. Retrieved 18 April 2024)
  • $8 B is two times the 2021 team value of the New York Jets (Source)

More importantly, this business cluster supports ocean information provision essential to enabling a nearly $400 B U.S. ocean economy, set in an overall global ocean economy expected to generate around $3T in value added by 2030.

Are you going to repeat this study in the future? My company is a provider/intermediary, and I’d like to be contacted to participate.

The intention is to continue to monitor the development of the Ocean Enterprise business sector.

If you would like to be included in any future work, please drop us a line and let us know at


2015 - 2020 Ocean Enterprise Study report downloads

Download the full report

Download the 1-pager

2015 Ocean Enterprise Study report downloads

Download the full report

Download the 2-pager

Additional 2015 Ocean Enterprise Study Documentation

Year 1 Report (pdf)

Ocean Enterprise Study - 2 Page Summary (pdf)