This paper examines the feasibility of ocean energy technologies (wave and tidal) making a significant contribution to Ireland’s electricity needs by 2050. We quantify and assess both the cost reductions required and the innovation needs to achieve these cost reductions. The paper adopts a hybrid approach of energy systems modelling analysis with innovation system and learning drivers analysis, that enables a robust analysis of innovation needs that could not be identified from modelling analysis alone. The first part of the paper uses the least-cost integrated energy system optimization model (Irish TIMES) to develop scenarios to evaluate the cost reductions necessary to achieve ocean energy deployment by 2050: our five core scenarios differ by technology, resource availability and ocean energy cost assumptions (derived from the EU Joint Research Centre (JRC) report). In the second part of the paper we compare the cost reductions required for ocean energy deployment with historical cost curves for solar PV in Italy and wind power in Denmark. Insights from the modelled analysis of the necessary cost reductions for ocean energy deployment combined with analysis of the historic drivers of cost reductions for PV and wind power points to the level of innovation needs for ocean energy, which are discussed under five headings: winning technology choice; infrastructure; industry development; policy and financial support; national energy system, and technology competition. The findings from this paper will help identify (1) coherence between the current innovation system and modelled ocean energy scenarios, (2) the barriers that limit innovation, and (3) possible future directions for policy and investments to enable ocean energy cost reduction and deployment.