Senior Vice President of Venture Services, MaRS Discovery District
Jon Dogterom, Senior Vice Preident of Venture Services at MaRS Discovery District, explains how MaRS is supporting and empowering innovators in Canada’s cleantech sector.
When it comes to clean technologies, Canada punches well above its weight. On the prestigious On the prestigious Global Cleantech 100 ranking for 2021, 11 of the companies listed are Canadian, more than any country except the U.S. Our technologies are powering zero-emission trains in Germany, storing renewable energy in Australia, and running smart thermostats in homes around the world.
With more than 317,000 people employed in the industry, up 30% from 2010, Canada’s cleantech sector is an economic powerhouse in waiting. Now, as countries around the world look to build sustainable economies post-pandemic, Canadian companies are well-positioned to meet this demand. With the right support from the government, the sector is poised for rapid growth.
Here are three areas of cleantech that are seeing particularly exciting developments, and which are set to lead the charge.
Making cities smart and sustainable
One of the easiest ways to combat climate change is by making buildings and their construction more efficient. A wave of new companies now specialize in retrofitting industrial, commercial, or residential buildings with smart technologies to reduce their energy usage.
Parity, for instance, uses networks of sensors and algorithms to regulate condo buildings’ air conditioning systems and cut electricity consumption by 20 to 30%. Ventures like CarbonCure, which sequesters carbon dioxide in concrete, are finding ways to make building materials more eco-friendly. Other companies are making the urban fabric of our cities smarter. Halifax-based LED Roadway makes connected systems of LED streetlights, now used in more than 60 countries. These systems are highly energy-efficient and can be used as platforms for monitoring such factors as noise levels, air quality or traffic volumes.
Disposing of the throw-away culture
Only about 8% of the 300 million tons of plastic waste produced every year is recycled. For the rest, it’s either too difficult to extract usable material or it can’t be turned into anything of value. But a new crop of ventures, such as Toronto footwear manufacturer Evoco, are rethinking how products are created and designing them to be reused, recycled, or degrade at the end of their lives. More than 70% of an Evoco insole is made from durable plant-based material that outlasts the polyurethane used in most sneakers. But, crucially, it safely breaks down once it is worn out.
Meanwhile, other companies are finding ways to turn trash into gold. Genecis, for instance, takes food waste and transforms it into biodegradable plastics that can be used in packaging.
Preserving the world’s water
With climate change affecting the global water supply and disrupting marine ecosystems, Canadian ventures are finding effective ways to preserve the world’s water. Axine, for instance, has developed a technology for treating highly polluted wastewater from industrial processes. Usually, this waste contains such high levels of chemicals like formaldehyde and ammonia that it has to be incinerated, but Axine’s modular treatment system is able to extract them from the wastewater and discharge treated effluent that meets strict regulatory standards.
These are just a few of the solutions that are ready to be scaled. By 2022, the global cleantech market is expected to grow to $2.5 trillion U.S. Canadian cleantech ventures have the talent and technologies to compete globally and can win an outsized share of that market. To help reach that goal, MaRS is launching Mission From MaRS, a program aimed at accelerating the growth of some of Canada’s most promising companies in sustainable real estate, transportation, and energy.
Mission From MaRS will connect up to ventures with a coalition of partners including financing providers, corporates, regulators, and potential customers to remove barriers to adopting their technologies. With investment, export assistance, and procurement of our homegrown innovations, cleantech companies can become the drivers of Canada’s new, cleaner economy.