Alberta, Canada, Embraces Growth in Cleantech

Cleantech Canada is releasing its “2018 Cleantech Directions” industry report at the SPARK 2017 innovation conference in Edmonton this week. The report includes insight from 470 businesses across Canada and a roundtable discussion of clean technology experts, and outlines key trends and market drivers spurring innovation growth in Alberta and the rest of Canada.

The roundtable group noted conditions for cleantech growth in Alberta have never been more favorable, with climate policy, funding and market demand all aligning to create an ‘all systems go’ mentality among cleantech businesses, government, investors and academia.

“Advancing GHG-reducing technologies is essential work to ensure continued economic and environmental success for Alberta and Canada,” said ERA (Emissions Reduction Alberta) CEO Steve MacDonald.

The 2018 edition of Cleantech Directions focused in greater detail on Alberta, with the report citing key market drivers such as the planned phase-out of coal-fired power plants by 2030, expansion of renewable energy, and the Climate Leadership Plan capping greenhouse gas emissions.

The precipitous slide in crude oil prices since 2014 has posed challenges to many businesses in Alberta and other provinces, but the situation has also amplified calls for the province to diversify its economy and leverage its resource-based sectors to spur innovation growth.

“Oil and gas will continue to fuel the economy for some time to come, and meanwhile the sector is working toward a lower carbon future,” said Alberta Innovates CEO Laura Kilcrease, who participated in the roundtable for the Cleantech Directions report.

“Long term prosperity will depend on our ability to diversify into clean energy and new materials and products from renewable sources,” she said. “This is where research and innovation come into play, and Alberta Innovates is the catalyst.”

In addition to the perspectives of the roundtable participants, who included cleantech companies, venture capitalists, funding organizations and representatives from government and industry associations, the report also showcases findings from the national research survey of cleantech businesses and buyers.

Among the findings: 

  • Stages of growth: Cleantech companies have been in business an average of 12 years, and nearly 60% are commercialized. Of the companies in earlier stages, 57% are actively trying to commercialize.
  • Barriers: Unsurprisingly, “lack of finance and investment” was cited as the top barrier to growth by cleantech companies but this year, the survey asked respondents why they’re challenged to find financing. The top reason (41%) is “my technology is viewed as high risk/ unproven.”
  • Confidence: More respondents are confident their business will reach the next milestone of growth within two years (85%, compared to 79% last year).
  • Pitch: Right in line with last year’s results, only 30% feel confident in their investor pitch.
  • Intellectual property: Only 40% of cleantech companies have patented their innovations.
  • Investment: On the demand side (organizations buying or evaluating clean technologies), waste management and recycling systems has been the top area of focus over the past two years, followed by energy efficiency (41%) and water management/ conservation (36%).
  • Sourcing cleantech: Only 11% of demand-side respondents plan to build cleantech solutions solely in-house; 43% will use a combination of both in-house and external sources.
  • Cost control: The majority of demand-side respondents (62%) said their organizations will invest in cleaner or innovative solutions only if they don’t cost more than traditional solutions. “Cost savings or efficiencies” is the top reason for investing in cleantech (62%, and higher in Alberta at 66%). Regulatory compliance is the second reason (39%) and higher in Alberta at 46%.

 

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