Clean technology, innovation and jobs


Global demand for clean technologies is significant and increasing. Fostering and encouraging investment in clean technology solutions can facilitate economic growth, long-term job creation, and environmental responsibility and sustainability. Taking action on climate change will help to capture new and emerging economic opportunities, including for Indigenous Peoples and northern and remote communities. The window of opportunity exists for Canada to create the conditions for new clean technology investment and exports and seize growing global markets for clean technology goods, services, and processes.

To effectively compete in the global marketplace and capitalize on current and future economic opportunities, Canada needs a step change in clean technology development, commercialization, and adoption across all industrial sectors. Clarity of purpose, investment, and strong coordination that leverages pan-Canadian regional and provincial/territorial strengths are essential to seizing the economic growth and job-creation opportunities of clean technology. International research, development, and demonstration collaboration is also essential. Governments, Indigenous Peoples, industry, and other stakeholders all have a role to play and must be engaged.

Building early-stage innovation

To become a leader in the development and deployment of clean technologies, Canada needs a strong flow of innovative ideas.

Government investments in clean technology research, development, and demonstration will create the largest benefit where coordinated and focused in areas that will most effectively help Canada to meet its climate change goals, create economic opportunities, and expand global-market opportunities. Efforts to coordinate and focus investment must go beyond governments and involve the collaboration of industry, stakeholders, academia, and Indigenous Peoples in the innovation process. Canada must leverage its domestic strengths, which vary by region. Developing international partnerships will create new economic opportunities, build areas of shared expertise, and foster stronger bilateral relations.

Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) provides funding support to companies across Canada to develop, demonstrate, and deploy innovative new clean technologies. SDTC has also launched joint funding opportunities in collaboration with Emissions Reduction Alberta and Alberta Innovates and partners with the Ontario Centres of Excellence to enhance Ontario’s Greenhouse Gas Innovation Initiative. SDTC estimates its projects have reduced annual emissions by 6.3 Mt of CO2e, generated $1.4 billion in annual revenue and, in 2015, supported more than 9200 direct and indirect jobs.

New actions

1. Supporting early-stage technology development

Governments will support new approaches to early-stage technology development, including breakthrough technologies, to advance research in areas that have the potential to substantially reduce GHG emissions and other pollutants. Innovative partnerships with the private sector will make an important contribution to this effort.  

2. Mission-oriented research and development

Governments will encourage new “mission-oriented” research approaches to focus RD&D facilities, programs, and supports on clean technology and environmental performance issues.

Through its participation in Mission Innovation, the federal government has committed to double its investments in clean energy research and technology development over five years, while encouraging greater levels of private sector investment in transformative clean energy technologies. On November 14, 2016, Canada and 21 other Mission Innovation partners launched seven Innovation Challenges aimed at catalyzing global research efforts in areas that could provide significant benefits in reducing GHG emissions, increasing energy security, and creating new opportunities for clean economic growth.

Accelerating commercialization and growth

Given Canada’s small domestic market, Canadian firms must look to highly competitive international markets to achieve scale. Succeeding in the globally competitive clean technology marketplace requires globally competitive talent, access to the capital and resources needed to demonstrate the commercial viability of products, and strong international networks that facilitate the cross-border flow of clean technology goods and services.

Canadian clean technology producers and researchers are currently confronted by a myriad of programs and services, at the federal, provincial, and territorial level. Streamlining and integrating access to support programs and services is a priority for businesses and essential to building commercial capacity in this area.

Compared with other technology areas, clean technologies face unique challenges and often take longer to get to market, making access to “patient capital” important to successful commercialization. While federal and provincial governments already have a range of supports in place, key needs exist in terms of accessing venture capital as well as working capital and support for first, large-scale commercial projects or deployments.

20/20 Catalysts Program is a mentorship program that matches Indigenous and non-Indigenous project mentors with Indigenous mentees to promote knowledge sharing that will enable Indigenous communities to drive change towards clean technology business and economic development.

Further development of clean technologies could create new opportunities in Canada’s resource sectors, increase the productivity and competitiveness of Canadian businesses, and create new employment opportunities, while also improving environmental performance. Canada will need to be able to access the skills and expertise of talented workers from around the world to enable Canadian businesses to succeed in the global marketplace. It will also be important to ensure a commitment to skills and training to provide Canadian workers with a just and fair transition to opportunities in Canada’s clean growth economy.

Indigenous Peoples are leaders of change in the transition to a low-carbon economy. Indigenous governments, organizations, and businesses can play a key role in developing pathways for the adoption and adaptation of clean technology solutions for Indigenous Peoples.

Building stronger businesses and commercial capacity in all of Canada’s regions is essential to taking advantage of new market opportunities. Support for new-technology start-ups, through incubators and accelerators, is important to this effort. A strong, focused Canadian clean technology export strategy is needed to position Canada in growing and emerging global markets.

MaRS Cleantech works closely with entrepreneurs and investors to create solutions in energy, water, agri-tech, advanced materials and manufacturing, and smart cities. Industry looks to MaRS Cleantech to assist with company growth and to remove complex technology-adoption barriers. MaRS supports high-impact businesses by connecting innovators with potential partners, customers, investors, talent, and capital. MaRS strives to build globally competitive companies and to drive clean technology innovation.

New actions

1. Access to government programs

Federal, provincial, and territorial governments will work together to create a coordinated “no-wrong door” approach to supporting Canadian clean technology businesses, ensuring full and effective access to the suite of government programs and services available to support their commercial success.

2. Increasing support to advance and commercialize innovative technologies

Governments will collaborate to enable access to capital for clean technology businesses to bring their products and services to market, including at the commercial-scale demonstration and deployment stages. This will include support for clean technology businesses in the natural resource sectors to improve both competitiveness and environmental performance.

Venture capital: BDC Capital is launching a new $135 million venture capital fund to support Canadian energy and clean technology start-up businesses with global potential. The Industrial, Clean and Energy Technology (ICE) Venture Fund II will invest in 15 to 20 new high-impact Canadian start-up firms that demonstrate efficiency and strong scalability and will support the transition to a low-carbon economy. Fund II is a follow-on to BDC Capital’s highly successful ICE Venture Fund I, which was launched in 2011 with investments of $287 million now under management.

3. Strengthening support for skills development and business leadership

Governments will work together to strengthen skills development and business-leadership capacity in support of the transition to a low-carbon economy. 

4. Expedite immigration of highly qualified personnel

Governments will work together to enable expedited processing of visas and work permits for global talent, in particular for high-growth Canadian businesses such as those in the clean technology sector. This will attract top international talent and expand Canada’s clean growth capacity.

5. Promoting exports of clean technology goods and services

Federal, provincial, and territorial governments will work collaboratively to strengthen clean technology export potential. This will include targeted export missions and the development of better market intelligence, addressing barriers to markets, support for export financing and marketing, and leveraging Canada’s Trade Commissioner services.  

6. Standards-setting

Governments will work together to exert a strong leadership role in international standards-setting processes for new clean technologies and to ensure that Canada’s clean technology capacity shapes future international standards.

Fostering adoption

The adoption of clean technology can create economic opportunities and improve environmental outcomes. Canada’s performance on clean technology adoption by industry has significant room for improvement. Even amongst Canadian businesses that regularly adopt advanced technologies, clean technologies are the least likely to be adopted.

SmartICE (Sea-ice Monitoring And Real-Time Information for Coastal Environments) is a partnership with community, academic, government, and industry participation. It is developing an integrated system to provide near-real-time information about coastal sea-ice travel and shipping, improving safety and the ability to adapt to changing climate conditions. The pilot program is preparing to expand across the Arctic through a northern social enterprise.

Pricing carbon pollution will send a market signal that can drive innovation among Canadian businesses and, in return, will make them more competitive, including by opening up access to new markets and reducing costs of deploying clean technologies.

There is significant potential for Canadian governments to “lead by example” as early adopters of clean technology serving an essential role as a first or “reference customer” for Canadian clean technology goods, services, and processes. Having a “first sale” in Canada would boost businesses’ chances of securing sales abroad. Beyond direct federal, provincial, and territorial government operations, other bodies, such as municipalities and publicly regulated utilities, could become significant markets for and adopters of clean technology.

Done effectively, the adoption of clean technology could be a mechanism for improving environmental circumstances and creating economic opportunity for Indigenous Peoples and northern and remote communities. Effective engagement and partnership with Indigenous Peoples is essential to this effort.

Encouraging dialogue between regulators and industry could improve certainty in clean technology development and allow for more effective and responsible regulation. 

New actions

1. Leading by example

Federal, provincial, and territorial governments will develop action plans for greening government operations and encourage utilities and municipalities and other public sector entities to adopt clean technologies to lead by example. 

2. Supporting Indigenous Peoples and northern and remote communities to adopt and adapt clean technologies

Federal, provincial, and territorial governments will support Indigenous Peoples and northern and remote communities in adopting and adapting clean technologies, and ensuring business models support community ownership and operation of clean technology solutions. 

3. Consumer and industry adoption

Federal, provincial, and territorial governments will work together to promote and encourage effective working relationships between regulators and industry, providing for early dialogue and effective guidance, which can assist in bringing new clean technologies to market quickly and responsibly. 
Governments will also support visible and effective certification programs to ensure consumer and business confidence and support green procurement.

Strengthening collaboration and metrics for success

An effective approach to clean technology development, commercialization, and adoption in Canada requires coherent, collaborative, and focused approaches. This is true within individual governments and between Canadian jurisdictions. A collaborative approach between governments should take into account regional strategies and jurisdictional responsibilities.

Regular and ongoing discussions between federal, provincial, and territorial governments regarding clean technology and clean growth would help eliminate duplication of efforts and identify gaps in support for clean technology development. Engaging Indigenous Peoples, industry, and stakeholders as a routine component of this process would be important. 

There is inadequate data on Canada’s clean technology capacity and potential. Building better data, and clear metrics for tracing the impact of government activities, would properly focus these activities and ensure that they achieve intended, meaningful results.

New actions

1. Enhance alignment between federal, provincial, and territorial actions

Governments will work together to improve policy and program coordination and sharing of data and best practices, which can sustain intergovernmental momentum and action on clean technology and clean growth. Continued partnership and engagement of Indigenous Peoples, industry, and stakeholders is essential to this effort. 

Governments will work together to target and better align clean technology RD&D investments and activities in Canada, including opportunities for co-funding clean technology projects.

2. Establishing a clean technology data strategy

The federal government, working with the provinces and territories, will support the collection and regular publication of comprehensive data on clean technology in Canada to inform future government decision making, to improve knowledge in the private sector and stakeholder community, and to foster innovation.

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