MaRS Library Cleantech general
Clean technology, known as cleantech, can be defined as technology that offers environmentally sound solutions to the world’s ecological challenges. Cleantech is developed in and for many sectors, including:
- Agriculture, foods and natural products
- Air and environment
- Clean water
- Energy efficiency
- Energy storage
- Green chemistry
- Green transportation
- Information technology
- Recycling and waste
- Renewable energy
- Smart grid (energy infrastructure)
On this Startup Library page, you will find resources that cover the cleantech landscape in general. We highlight funding sources, accelerators, incubators, organizations, trends, statistics, and news sources that pertain to the cleantech industry.
This page contains the following sections:
I. Business of Cleantech
Funding is available from a variety of sources, both public and private, for qualifying cleantech ventures. The resources below spotlight a selection. Be sure to also check out our Funding your startup page for general funding information.
Public research and development funding bodies
Automotive Supplier Innovation Program (ASIP): The ASIP, run by Industry Canada, provides funding to support Canadian automotive suppliers with research and development projects to reach commercial viability.
Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI): The CFI is an independent corporation created by the federal government to fund research infrastructure. The CFI’s mandate is to strengthen the capacity of Canadian universities, colleges, research hospitals and non-profit research institutions in order to promote research and technology development that benefits Canadians.
Innovative Manufacturing & Facilitation Program (IMFP): This program, from Innovation Initiatives Ontario North (IION), supports commercialization and innovation activities for companies in the advanced manufacturing sector. Eligible small and medium-sized corporations can apply for up to $5,000 which will cover the cost of technical expertise and usage of manufacturing facilities, with the condition of 10% contribution of approved funds. Services can include rapid prototyping, reverse engineering, 3D imaging, material and product testing.
National Research Council of Canada (NRC): NRC provides support, strategic research, and scientific and technical services, enabling their clients to leverage their expertise, networks, equipment and infrastructure. The Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) is one of its key services for entrepreneurs (for more details, see the listing for IRAP below under the Accelerators and Incubators) section on this page. NRC is a valuable resource if you are seeking partnerships, testing and certification, calibration, prototyping, demonstrations, scale-up and consulting.
National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC): NSERC’s mandate is to foster discovery and innovation in natural sciences and engineering by supporting university students in their advanced studies. It promotes investment in discovery research, connecting Canadian companies with academic institutions to spur the development of post-secondary research projects. NSERC’s website includes an Awards Search Engine.
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC): A federal research funding agency, SSHRC supports university-based research and training in the humanities and social sciences. For example, the SSHRC has funded 21 energy and natural resources projects with Knowledge Synthesis Grants. Visit their Awards Search Engine to find funds your startup may be eligible for.
Public commercialization funding bodies
Capital Pool Company (CPC) Program: The CPC program, created by the TSX Venture Exchange, is a listing mechanism unique to Ontario. It serves as an alternative to traditional initial public offerings. CPC helps growing companies to cost-effectively access public market capital and it enables them to benefit from experienced public company management. This program provides at least $100,000 in seed financing, and a prospectus offering to create a corporate vehicle with public distribution of up to $1.9 million.
CME SMART Prosperity Now (Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters [CME]): CME SMART Prosperity Now provides support to manufacturers in southern Ontario who conduct productivity enhancement projects that invest in product and process improvements to develop and/or expand export opportunities and global competitiveness. The fund covers 33% of eligible costs, to a maximum of $75,000, and it also covers 50% of the costs of an assessment, up to $5,000.
Emerging Technology Program (Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation [NOHFC]): The NOHFC supports research, development and commercialization projects that demonstrate a high commercial potential. It also fosters collaborative activities among industry and research institutions and encourages successful innovation in small companies. Its maximum investment does not exceed 50% of eligible project costs.
Green Municipal Fund (Federation of Canadian Municipalities): The Green Municipal Fund is run by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which was endowed with $550 million by the government of Canada. The fund provides below-market loans and grants, as well as education and training services, to support municipal initiatives that improve air, water and soil quality and protect the climate.
ArcTern Ventures: ArcTern Ventures (formerly the MaRS Cleantech Fund) provides $1,000,000 to $4,000,000 in funding to early-stage cleantech companies that have a proven global market opportunity and hold strong intellectual property, among other requirements.
Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC): SDTC runs the SD Tech Fund, a $5,900,000 fund to support late-stage development and pre-commercial demonstration. SDTC also runs the TargetGHG Collaborative Technology Development Program for SMEs with an innovative GHG reduction technology to fund the development of their technology and a demonstration project.
Private Funding Bodies
Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital (Chrysalix EVC): Chrysalix EVC provides early-stage financing, hands-on assistance and strategic connections to innovative companies confronting the world’s most important energy and environmental issues.
Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) and TSX Venture Exchange:The TSX and the TSX Venture Exchange provide cleantech and renewable power companies access to capital from North American and global sources. Of the cleantech companies traded on the TSX, 30% have been involved with the TSX Venture Exchange program.
Canadian Venture Capital & Private Equity Association (CVCA): The CVCA provides a more general look at the Canadian VC sector but does break out cleantech in some detail.
Accelerators and Incubators
The resources below specifically target the cleantech sector. For more general information on accelerators and incubators, please visit our Accelerators and Incubators page.
C100 Cleantech: The C100 Cleantech offers mentoring and partnership opportunities to Canadian cleantech entrepreneurs through two central programs:
- Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC): Working in partnership with the C100 Cleantech, SDTC connects cleantech startups with mentors.
- 48hrs in the Valley: This program invites startups to Silicon Valley for two days to attend workshops, investor meetings and visits by strategic partners, and to receive mentorship.
CTA CleanTech NYC-Silicon Valley(The Canadian Technology Accelerator, The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service): CTA CleanTech works with small- and medium-sized Canadian companies that are gaining traction in the market and have a scalable technology innovation. CTA
CleanTech connects these ventures with resources and contacts that can boost their growth. Services offered may range from opportunities for startups to demonstrate their product to introductions to potential strategic partners to financing opportunities to access to education and mentoring.
Global Cleantech Cluster Association (GCCA):To become a member of the GCCA, a company must be later-stage (revenue-generating, or pre-revenue with proven demonstration and potential to scale) and be nominated by one of the GCCA’s 52 cleantech clusters. MaRS is a cluster of the GCCA, as are Hamilton-based Golden Horseshoe Strategic Energy Alliance (PDF), Montreal-based Écotech Québec and Vancouver-based GreenTech Exchange.
Industrial Research Assistance Program (National Research Council Canada):Through the Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP), Canada’s National Research Council (NRC) aims to develop technology to accelerate the commercialization of Canadian companies. To this end, IRAP provides advisory services and funding to qualifying businesses.
The Cleantech Open: The mission of the Cleantech Open is to help entrepreneurs develop innovative clean technologies. The group runs a competition where winning startups receive a set of services to help grow their business idea. The competition’s scope is global and the startup must fall under one of the following categories:
- Air, water and waste
- Energy efficiency
- Renewable energy
- Green building
- Smart power, green grid and energy storage
II. Cleantech Associations, Organizations and Government Bodies
The following resources available through various associations, organizations and government bodies, offer startups insights on environmental initiatives, programs, regulations, policies and solutions in Canada and the US. Note that this is not an exhaustive list― it serves, rather, as a starting point for these regions.
Bioindustrial Innovation Canada (BIC): Working with sectors such as agriculture and chemical and automotive production in southwestern Ontario, BIC is helping develop new sustainable bioproducts and green energy. Based in Sarnia and designed as a bridge between the lab and the market, BIC is creating North America’s first biotechnology laboratories and shared pilot plant facilities for gasification, pyrolysis, fermentation and bio-conversion. It is exploring new ways to convert agricultural and forestry by-products into fuels, chemicals, products and materials.
Centre for Research & Innovation in the Bio-Economy (CRIBE): CRIBE is a provincial initiative that aims to build Northern Ontario’s forest products industry through the commercialization of innovative practices and technologies.
Bloom Centre for Sustainability (BLOOM): BLOOM focuses on applied sustainability. For almost 20 years, it has brought together public- and private-sector interests to promote change and support sustainability initiatives. Through its work, BLOOM fosters economic, environmental and social benefits.
e-Laws (ServiceOntario and Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General): e-Laws is a database of Ontario’s statutes and regulations. The Environmental Registry contains “public notices” about matters covered under the Environmental Bill of Rights that are being proposed by different government ministries. The public notices can contain information about the proposed introduction of, or changes to, laws, regulations, policies and programs.
Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO): ECO provides information on Ontario environmental issues and monitors government compliance with the Environmental Bill of Rights. It also posts news, reports, publications and a blog to help keep readers up to date on environmental issues and policies. Visit ECO’s Resource Centre Library in Toronto to access government reports and environmental legislation and policy.
Environment Canada: Environment Canada is responsible for coordinating environmental policies and programs that protect, preserve and promote the natural environment and our renewable resources. On its homepage, you can find news and information on different environmental topics, as well as access to acts and regulations, and various publications concerning air, climate change, pollution, waste, sustainable development, water and more.
GreenCentre Canada: GreenCentre Canada focuses on commercializing new “green chemistry” solutions. (It describes green chemistry as “‘smart chemistry that encourages the design of products and processes that reduce waste, provide safer products and reduce the use of energy and resources.”) GreenCentre Canada specializes in product, application and business development, intellectual property management and scale-up manufacturing. It is funded by Ontario and the federal government and is a member of the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs and the Centres of Excellence for Commercialization and Research.
Ontario Clean Technology Alliance – Incentives programs: This webpage from the Ontario Clean Technology Alliance lists various tax incentive programs and funds available to innovative Ontario cleantech ventures.
Ontario Environment Industry Association (ONEIA): ONEIA represents the interests of the environment industry in Ontario.
Autodesk Entrepreneur Impact Program: Cleantech companies from North America, Europe, Japan and Singapore are eligible to apply to the Autodesk Entrepreneur Impact Program. It provides digital prototyping software worth up to US$150,000, for free. Using the Autodesk software, cleantech companies can design, test and visualize complex models and ideas. This can help businesses accelerate engineering improvements while reducing the costs associated with errors and failed prototypes.
United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): The EPA website provides quick backgrounders on environmental issues, information on developments in clean technology and environmental laws & regulations within the United States.
III. Cleantech Certifications, Labels and Standards
Environmental and quality claims can help you position your business favourably in the market. However, it can be difficult to work out the best approach to declare your credentials and adherence to leading industry standards. The resources listed below will aid you in this process.
Ecolabel Index: Launched in 2010, the Ecolabel Index remains the largest database for navigating labels. It collects and structures data on ecolabels from around the world to improve transparency and increase their effectiveness.
Office of Consumer Affairs (OCA): As an arm of Industry Canada, the OCA promotes the interests and protection of Canadian consumers. Among other functions, it provides guidance and resources for businesses on making product claims, meeting legal requirements and implementing good customer services.
Certified B Corporation (B Lab): B Lab provides a certification that a business is ethical. A B Corps certification signifies that a business adheres to rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency.
Quality, environmental and manufacturing standards
International Organization for Standardization (ISO): ISO is the world’s largest developer of voluntary international standards widely used in industry, business and process development.International standards aim to facilitate trade, accelerate technology transfer, and promote good management and conformity assessment practices. The Quality Management 9001:2008 and Environmental Management 14001:2004 standards are of particular use in communicating the benefits of your process or product to other businesses.
CSA Group: This is the largest standards development organization in Canada. CSA Group also provides product testing and third-party certification for safety and performance standards. CSA Group can assist you with your product in determining the applicable standards and regulations, and in developing specifications.
GreenCircle: The GreenCircle mark verifies that the information provided by the manufacturer is consistently correct and that the product complies with its sustainability claim. GreenCircle provides certification for the environmental claims of products, buildings and manufacturing operations. It also specializes in multi-attribute certifications and sustainable biodiesel certification.
UL – Environmental Claim Validation: UL provides third-party evaluation and validation of single-attribute environmental claims. UL also provides emissions and multi-attribute analysis and certifications.
UL – ECOLOGO Product Certification: UL provides certification for products that have a reduced environmental impact when compared with similar products. It offers a broad range of product categories and is focused on Canada, although it provides certification globally. UL uses multi-attribute, lifecycle-based sustainability standards.
Construction and furnishing materials
SMaRT Certified (The Institute for Market Transformation to Sustainability): This product-standard rating system recognizes four levels of achievement in sustainability for building, interior and furnishing materials. SMaRT Certified is recognized by the US LEED Green Building Standard. The assessment uses multi-attribute lifecycle criteria.
Water efficiency and related products
WQA Gold Seal: Using health and safety criteria, the WQA Gold Seal certifies drinking water treatment products and chemicals that come in contact with drinking water.
WaterSense: This program, in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, recognizes systems and devices that are more water efficient than their competitors (generally 20% more efficient). A US ecolabel, WaterSense is the closest
water efficiency label to the Canadian market.
ENERGY STAR Canada: The ENERGY STAR certification is granted to products that are the most energy efficient (top 15% to 30%) when compared to similar products. ENERGY STAR Canada is based on the U.S. ENERGY STAR program and is administered in Canada by Natural Resources Canada.
EnerGuide: EnerGuide operates together with ENERGY STAR and Canada’s Energy Efficiency Regulations to promote energy efficiency. EnerGuide lists a product’s estimated annual energy consumption and compares it to the energy performance of similar products.
EPEAT: This rating system designates environmentally preferable electronics by looking at areas of design, production, energy use and recycling, and by verifying manufacturer claims. Due to high electronic component changeover rates, EPEAT uses a model where manufacturers self-declare they meet EPEAT criteria, and then independent experts later investigate and verify claims (or expose nonconformity) on an ongoing basis. EPEAT uses American National Standards and has registered products in 43 countries.
IV. Cleantech General Statistics, Trends and Reports
Look to the following resources to find cleantech statistics, trends and reports.
Clean Edge: Overall trends for the cleantech industry can be tracked through market intelligence from Clean Edge. It is free to download, however registration is required.
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP): UNEP publishes documents that deliver valuable data for cleantech startups and give general news on global environmental issues. The inventory of reports is searchable, and the documents are available for free in the UNEP
V. Research Institutes, Groups and Centres Involved with Cleantech Research
Understanding and leveraging the brainpower of the research community and the funding it uses strategically benefits any startup. Notable Ontario institutions conducting cleantech research are listed below.
Carleton Sustainable Energy Research Centre (CSERC): Supporting the development of innovative policies and engineering technology, CSERC integrates research on sustainable energy performed by different faculties across a broad spectrum of study.
Brockhouse Institute for Material Research (BIMR): This interdisciplinary research organization supports and coordinates all activities related to materials research at McMaster. The endeavour brings together science (chemistry, physics, earth sciences, biology) and engineering teams.
McMaster Institute for Automotive Research and Technology (MacAUTO):MacAUTO coordinates automotive research and education taking place at McMaster University. Its mandate is to connect the different automotive-related research institutes and centres at McMaster with industry, government and academic partners. The aim is to advance and commercialize innovative technologies and materials that enhance Canada’s auto industry, ensuring it remains globally competitive.
McMaster Institute for Energy Studies (MIES): MIES is an interdisciplinary institute focused on the study of energy extraction, transformation, generation and transportation, as well as its end use. The institute also has an interest in energy policy and economics and it acts as a forum for different disciplines at McMaster to communicate and share energy-related opportunities.
McMaster Institute for Healthier Environments: This group conducts interdisciplinary research on the complex relationships between the environment and human health. Established in 1996, it works with several other organizations (e.g., the Hamilton Public Health Service―to study beach closings related to E. coli levels). The institute also works with Health Canada on the Great Lakes Public Health Network.
W Booth School for Engineering Practice: This interdisciplinary research school has three components: the Xerox Centre for Engineering Entrepreneurship and Innovation (XCEEi), the Dofasco Centre for Engineering and Public Policy (DCEPP) and the GMC Centre for Engineering Design (GMCED). All focus on engineering combined with other disciplines.
Queen’s Centre for Energy and Power Electronics Research (ePOWER): ePOWER aims to advance and commercialize fundamental energy and power electronics research. To do so, it connects academia and industry in order to boost collaboration, and it provides leading-edge facilities and opportunities to help educate and train innovative thinkers.
Centre for Urban Energy (CUE):Through academic, public and private partnerships, CUE advances research and development with an aim for commercialization. It also runs i-CUE, a business incubator dedicated to urban energy issues.
Laboratory for Electric Drive Applications and Research (LEDAR): LEDAR puts its research efforts toward renewable energy, high-power converters, medium-voltage drives and EV charging technology.
University of Guelph
Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility: This facility complements the NASA program in advanced life support. The facility has 24 sealed environment chambers, including 14 variable pressure plant growth hypobaric chambers capable of sustaining a vacuum. The staff have experience in plant physiology, environment analysis and sensor technology.
ecology@guelph: This group of faculty and students studies global behavioural, population, community, ecosystem and evolutionary ecology.
University of Ottawa
Centre for Research in Photonics (CRPuO): The CRPuO was founded to explore the scientific foundations of photonics and how photons may be manipulated and controlled to interact with matter. In practice, the CRPuO develops new classes of photonic materials and devices and new systems concepts based on photonic technology through cross-disciplinary collaboration. CRPuO maintains the Solar Cells and Nanostructured Devices Laboratory (SUNLAB), a solar cell characterization research facility that studies high-performance devices.
University of Toronto
Fuel Cell Materials and Manufacturing Laboratory (FCMML): FCMML aims to develop cleaner energy conversion technologies that reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions compared to combustion-based power generation methods. Research projects address the largest challenges preventing the widespread use of fuel cell technologies: cost, durability and reliability. FCMML’s objective is to facilitate the widest and fastest possible adoption of cleaner energy conversion technologies.
School of the Environment: Originally the Centre for Environment, this body has expanded its scope. The School of the Environment serves as a hub connecting students, faculty, alumni and the general public, to environmental projects at the University of Toronto. It offers undergraduate and graduate programs, and works with a range of organizations to research and respond to environmental challenges.
Sinton Lab:Research at the Sinton Lab concentrates on small-scale fluid mechanics and their potential applications to the areas of sustainable energy and global health.
Thermodynamics and Kinetics Laboratory (TKL): The TKL is a research unit within the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department at the University of Toronto, and it is exploring a new kinetics theory developed from quantum and statistical mechanics. The lab’s areas of interest include kinetics and a mobile, lightweight DC power supply that consists of a fuel cell and hydrogen storage system.
University of Waterloo
Applied Nanomaterials & Clean Energy Laboratory: This lab centers on the development of high-performance nanostructured materials for use in green energy technologies. Its research targets applications for polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells and lithium ion batteries.
Centre for Advanced Photovoltaic Devices and Systems (CAPDS): The CAPDS is dedicated to research on semiconductor base materials, nanotechnologies for photovoltaics (PV), the design of advanced PV devices and modules, and the testing of PV materials, devices and systems.
Giga-to-Nanoelectronics (G2N) Centre: This facility provides users with the training, freedom and access to run their own research. The G2N Centre consists of groups within the University of Waterloo as well as external partners. It conducts interdisciplinary research that spans nanomaterials and large-area electronics. The G2N Centre also supports the development of prototypes and emerging technologies for commercial applications.
High Voltage Engineering Laboratory (HVEL):This research and teaching laboratory works in the field of insulation, applied electrostatics, nanodielectrics, pulse power applications, and power electronics. Its researchers and graduate students collaborate with industry, making it a valuable centre for testing and evaluation.
WISE – Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Energy: WISE performs research and development as well as education, training and commercialization activities for clean energy projects. Its mission is to not only develop innovative real-world energy applications, but also to help shape policies to transform the energy system for long-term sustainability.
The University of Western Ontario
Centre for Environment and Sustainability (CES): The CES studies water, energy, renewable resources, ecosystem health and sustainable business practices. Started in 2007, this centre houses a state-of-the-art Biotron Experimental Climate Change Research Facility.
Fraunhofer Project Centre for Composites Research @ Western: The mandate of this centre is to develop advanced materials that have precise properties (e.g., being lightweight) to fit industry’s manufacturing needs, such as in transportation and renewable energy.
University of Windsor
Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research (GLIER): GLIER contains 19 laboratories and facilities for aquatic research, geospatial analysis, environmental genomics, metal analysis, nutrient analysis, organic analysis and more.
VI. Prototyping and Testing Facilities in Ontario
Ontario has a high concentration of research labs and prototyping facilities dedicated to cleantech. Startups can utilize these facilities to conduct R&D, build working prototypes or test existing products that are close to market.
Earth Rangers: Earth Rangers is Canada’s largest non-profit organization focused on communicating to children the importance of protecting biodiversity. Its long-term goal is to partner with children to protect enough natural habitats to ensure the lasting survival of all species in Canada. Earth Ranger’s facility has state-of-the-art energy monitoring and water treatment technologies.
Western Sarnia-Lambton Research Park: This research park is a joint initiative of Western University, the city of Sarnia and the county of Lambton. It provides research labs and facilities for cleantech technologies focused on biomass and other alternative energy solutions, primarily interested in startups at the R&D and commercialization stage. The Bowman Centre for Technology Commercialization, Canada’s largest cleantech incubator is located in the Research Park and specializes in helping startups working on large-scale industrial biotechnology projects.
The Archetype Sustainable House (Kortright Centre for Conservation): The Archetype Sustainable House (part of the Kortright Centre for Conservation) showcases new practices for viable, green housing and communities. Its model homes are built with the latest in sustainable technologies and materials, and are used as a learning facility for tradespeople, builders, students and homeowners.
TowerLabs: TowerLabs was founded by Tridel and MaRS Discovery District. A prominent builder of green condominiums, Tridel has made a key contribution with this project to broadening the necessary infrastructure that will help entrepreneurs bring innovative green building products and technology to market.
For more information on the prototyping facilities, please visit our Startup Library page, Research and development (R&D) in Ontario overview II. Research labs and prototyping facilities.
VII. Cleantech News, Magazines and Blogs
CleanTechnica: Run by regular and guest contributors, CleanTechnica offers news and information on topics such as clean technology for consumers, renewable energy, transportation, energy efficiency and environmental policy.
Corporate Knights: This online magazine reports on “clean capitalism,” which it defines as “an economics system in which prices incorporate social, economic and ecological benefits and costs, and actors know the full impacts of their actions.” It covers issues concerning business, government, technology, policy and infrastructure, as well as ideas that impact the environment.
Greentech Media: Greentech Media delivers a broad range of information on cleantech. It offers a newsletter (registration is required), and also provides links to free reports from companies, industry associations and other relevant organizations.
Twitter is a great way to track industry trends and keep up to date on global issues. We recommend the following key handles:
Government: @ONinfra, @environmentca, @EBR_EnvRegistry
News: @BloomCentre, @impeller_news, @MSWmagazine, @tdower, @siwi_media, @greentechmedia, @CleanTec, @GreenCanada, @cleantechnica, @RockyMtnInst, @ACORE, @BloombergNEF