Ac­cel­er­at­ing Clean­tech in Canada

Policy - - Before The Bell | From The Editor - BY DALE SMITH

To many Cana­di­ans, clean­tech may sound like an ab­stract, catch-all term used to de­scribe any in­no­va­tion aimed at the green market. In fact, it is an in­dus­trial trans­for­ma­tion that in­cludes any process, prod­uct or ser­vice that re­duces neg­a­tive en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts. Ac­cord­ing to a 2016 re­port by An­a­lyt­ica Ad­vi­sors, the global market for clean­tech is poised to triple to $3 tril­lion by 2020, which cre­ates a huge op­por­tu­nity for Cana­di­ans to take ad­van­tage of this boom­ing sec­tor. Sixth Es­tate’s Spot­light hosted a panel of ex­perts to dis­cuss what is be­ing done to ac­cel­er­ate the growth of clean­tech in Canada. Moder­a­tor Lianne Laing wel­comed Min­is­ter of In­no­va­tion, Sci­ence and Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment (ISED) Navdeep Bains, who used the oc­ca­sion to an­nounce $58.6 mil­lion in fund­ing for 14 Cana­dian clean­tech com­pa­nies. The fund­ing is through Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Tech­nol­ogy Canada (SDTC).

“We want to make sure that Canada plays a lead­er­ship role, and that’s why clean tech­nol­ogy was such a crit­i­cal part of our in­no­va­tion and skills plan, be­cause it gen­uinely rep­re­sents a key market growth op­por­tu­nity for us,” said Bains.

Leah Lawrence, pres­i­dent and CEO of SDTC said that when it comes to clean­tech, “data is king.”

“Data and in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty are what crit­i­cally mat­ter, and our lives are in­creas­ingly de­pend­ing on it,” said Lawrence. She added that data is worth pro­tect­ing.

“That’s why SDTC places a par­tic­u­lar fo­cus on work­ing with clean­tech start-ups who are look­ing to har­ness the power of data to ad­vance pre-com­mer­cial demon­stra­tion and the tech­nol­ogy ideas that they drive,” said Lawrence.

Dur­ing the panel seg­ment of Spot­light, Au­drey Mas­caren­has, pres­i­dent and CEO of Questor Tech­nol­ogy, who also chaired the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s eco­nomic strat­egy ta­ble for clean tech­nol­ogy, said that there’s an enor­mous op­por­tu­nity for Canada to use dig­i­tal to grow clean-tech in­dus­tries and to think of things from a sys­tems per­spec­tive.

“[We’re] start­ing to look strate­gi­cally at how we com­bine all of our dif­fer­ent tech­nolo­gies to pro­vide a so­lu­tion, whether it’s on wa­ter or air, and then market that strate­gi­cally,

and glob­ally,” said Mas­caren­has. “This is an ex­cit­ing time.”

Mas­caren­has said that the gov­ern­ment’s strat­egy ta­bles were in­dus­try-led, and there was a fo­cus on im­ple­ment­ing clean­tech to grow the econ­omy and cre­ate jobs.

James Hinton, IP lawyer and patent and trade­mark agent with Own In­no­va­tion, said that while the good news is that Canada is good at re­search­ing clean­tech, the bad news is that it’s in­ter­na­tional com­pa­nies that are able to take ad­van­tage of the re­search.

“Even though Cana­di­ans are cre­at­ing these ideas and tech­nolo­gies, Cana­dian busi­nesses lag glob­ally for IP own­er­ship in clean­tech,” said Hinton. “Canada de­creased 22 per­cent in fil­ings from three years ago, so it places us dead last in coun­tries that file more than 100 ap­pli­ca­tions.”

Hinton said that while the gov­ern­ment has im­ple­mented a na­tional IP strat­egy, it needs to do more to cap­ture the eco­nomic value of the tech­nolo­gies Cana­di­ans cre­ate and it needs to act swiftly.

While the re-ne­go­ti­ated NAFTA agree­ment, the USMCA, in­cludes in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty pro­vi­sions, some ex­perts have warned they will hin­der, not help, Cana­dian in­no­va­tion.

Mark Schaan, the di­rec­tor gen­eral of the mar­ket­place frame­work pol­icy branch at ISED, said that in­creas­ingly, ISED is try­ing to meet the para­dox of go­ing from a coun­try that leads in de­vel­op­ment of new in­no­va­tion and ideas to be­ing a coun­try that leads in com­mer­cial­iza­tion and reap­ing the ben­e­fits of those ideas.

“We’re plac­ing the em­pha­sis where it should be – that we rec­og­nize that we need to be net gen­er­a­tors and net own­ers of the ideas that we pro­duce, and of the datasets and the in­sights that come from those datasets to max­i­mize their po­ten­tial,” said Schaan.

Michael Gil­bert, CEO and founder of the pre­ci­sion agri­cul­ture data an­a­lyt­ics plat­form Semios, said that tools such as the in­ter­net of things and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence-driven ma­chine-learn­ing are mak­ing it pos­si­ble to avoid us­ing phys­i­cal labour in agri­cul­ture and are be­com­ing more tar­geted in their ap­proach.

“We started out with a rel­a­tively sim­ple but odd propo­si­tion that we could stop but­ter­flies from mat­ing, and that would pre­vent a bunch of pes­ti­cides from go­ing into the en­vi­ron­ment,” said Gil­bert of a pheromone-based mat­ing dis­rup­tion tech­nol­ogy pro­duced by Semios. “It turns out that it worked out re­ally well, and we’ve dis­placed ten mil­lion litres of toxic pes­ti­cides.”

Gil­bert said that they hope to use sim­i­lar tools to help farmers use less wa­ter as they scale up their pro­duc­tion. Gil­bert also said that Cana­dian com­pa­nies need to be on the of­fen­sive and not de­fen­sive in or­der to be­come global lead­ers.

Mas­caren­has said that hav­ing a patent can make com­pa­nies com­pet­i­tive on the global stage, but the ques­tion is how to take those patents in a strate­gic di­rec­tion. She also noted that patents can be of lit­tle value if they don’t cre­ate com­pa­nies and jobs, which is why the gov­ern­ment needs to close the fund­ing gap for scal­ing-up.

“If we don’t in­vest and cre­ate scale-up com­pa­nies in Canada, we’re ac­tu­ally sub­si­diz­ing the rest of the world’s GDP growth,” said Mas­caren­has. “We need to make sure that we’re look­ing at the en­tire ecosys­tem.”

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