We are indeed entering into a new era – an era in which the ways we support and organize cleantech innovation will change. And the time is right: the world’s leaders are about to go into a meeting to discuss, essentially, how to save the planet.
SDTC has always had a role to play. We are the Government of Canada’s instrument for funding cleantech development and deployment. Our dollars build the tools and technologies that enable our major economic sectors – including oil and gas and natural resources – to churn out the products and revenues for Canadian companies, and opportunities for environmental stewardship.
But today, environmental finance is about more than just dollars. It’s about taking an active role in ensuring cleantech companies thrive. It’s about building within industry a receptiveness to new technologies – even if those technologies fundamentally shake the way an industry works.
SDTC is at a crossroads – a critical mass of our funded technologies is now in market, where they are finally able to enable the environmental benefits they’ve been funded to do. Energy pipelines are safer thanks to SDTC-funded monitoring devices. Forestry residues, otherwise considered waste on the mill floor, are now converted into renewable and sustainable sources of energy. We have a lot of projects not yet in market – but thanks to our past investments, we are starting to see a significant amount of GHG reductions. And that number of reductions will only grow. At the same time, revenues are growing, companies are thriving – companies that employ people, that generate revenues, revenues that translate into a better quality of life for all.
Which is why, in many ways, we are troubled by another, more haunting trend: Canada is losing cleantech market share. Analytica Advisors reports that Canada is the third biggest loser of cleantech market share since 2008, when we enjoyed a much healthier position in the market. How to change that?
Now’s the time to start re-thinking environmental finance. We must look to the models set by other dynamic countries who are holding on tight to their vaulted positions in the cleantech market – countries like China and South Korea, who have prioritized the development of global exports in cleantech and have invested tens of billions of dollars worldwide. We must look at our own Canadian innovations, allow our innovators to stand up and be counted – and to work together to launch a truly pan-Canadian cleantech sector, one whose products Canada’s more traditional sectors, and indeed players on the global stage, cannot ignore.
We know the formula for getting there: Mobilized funding support + entrepreneurship and technical savvy + a strong customer base = industry success. So let’s get there. Let’s see what cooperation between federal and provincial governments does to get us there. Let’s see what patent protection for Canadian innovation does to get us there. Let’s see what a cleantech-sector wide push for change does to get us there.
The time is now. The planet needs it. The world is hungry for the types of technologies we can get out the door. Let’s all work together to make that happen.
This blog was adapted from a speech given by Leah Lawrence, SDTC’s president and CEO, at the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations.