A wake-up call for Canada’s cleantech sector
Worldwide cleantech venture investments were up 38 per cent to $8.4 billion (U.S.) in 2007 2008, according to the Cleantech Group. Companies in the United States raised $5.8 billion, or 68 per cent of the global total, up 56 per cent compared to 2007.
China was up 22 per cent on the year. Germany was up a staggering 217 per cent. Israel, not to be outdone, was up 224 per cent.
And Canada? Shamefully, cleantech companies from my home and native land only managed to raise $159 million from 14 disclosed financing rounds, down 58 per cent from 2007. Of the countries mentioned by the Cleantech Group that saw a fall in 2008 investments, Canada performed the worst — the others were the U.K., which fell by 11 per cent, and India with a 20-per-cent decline.
I’m bummed. I know there’s huge talent in this country, smart entrepreneurs, game-changing ideas and a solid stable of cleantech ventures — just look at the list of companies that have been funded by Sustainable Development Technology Canada over the years, and more seem to emerge by the day. Where are the champions from the financial community? Academia? Government? The high-profile talking heads ready to promote the best and brightest that Canadian, Ontario, or Toronto cleantech has to offer? Where’s the branding? The chest-thumping?
I need a glass of wine.
Maybe I’m going on a tangent here, but I can’t help but see this as an early sign of Dutch Disease, which happens when there is a reallocation of resources from high-tech service and manufacturing industries to the exploitation of natural resources, particularly as the prices of those resources rise. The Canadian government’s obsession with rapid oil sands development, the run-up last year in the price of oil, and the lack of serious attention to high-tech innovation, including cleantech, does fit that bill. It seems like the rest of the country is being gutted to support a one-trick pony, which is a blessing or a curse depending on whether you’re riding the pony or not.
I recall a speech by Mike Lazaridis, founder and co-chief executive of Research In Motion, back in March 2006 in Toronto. “Our oil resources can only carry us so far. What are we going to do after they run out?” asked Lazaridis. “What happens if there’s a major breakthrough and we’re no longer as dependent on oil as we have been in the past? What will we do? Will we have made the wise research investments, industrial investments, infrastructure investments to prepare Canada for a world without oil?”
In a word, no. These latest cleantech investment figures, IMO, are but one example of this neglect.