Those of you who frequent this blog know that I mention Sustainable Development Technology Canada quite regularly (picture to the left is of SDTC chief Vicky Sharpe). That’s because the federal agency, which was created nine years ago, has introduced me over the years to so many interesting, innovative and ambitious clean technology companies. SDTC does the screening. It carries out the due diligence. It offers funding for demonstration projects. It forces the hand of private investors that might not otherwise open their doors or pockets. It offers guidance. Introduces partners and customers. Need I say more? This agency has given dozens of promising green technologies and the companies behind them a solid chance of success. For every dollar of public money it has invested, it has tapped into twice as much (actually more) from the private sector. Over the past few years, that has translated into $515 million in public funding being leveraged to attract about $1.2 billion in mostly private funds.
That’s why in my Clean Break column this week I argue clean technology, and specifically the efforts of SDTC, need to be part of the country’s election dialogue. We need to build on the progress SDTC has achieved to date, not abandon the momentum at a time when major world economies — Germany, China, India, Brazil, the United States — are racing to establish a dominant position in the emerging global green economy.
The leaders of the political parties looking to run the next government need to be asked: How are they prepared to support clean technology innovation and green economic development in Canada?
Sustainable Development Technology Canada, the not-for-profit government agency founded in 2002 to support Canadian cleantech ventures, began its mission with $550 million in funding. For every dollar SDTC invests, it requires that another $2.40 is invested from elsewhere — mostly from the private sector. The result has been investment of more than $1 billion in 190 or so clean technology demonstration projects, ranging from solar, wind and biofuels to waste reduction, water treatment and soil remediation. In seven years, it has gone through 14 funding arounds. This January will be the last round for climate and clean air projects, and water/soil projects will run out of funding later in 2010 — unless, of course, the federal government decides in its next budget to recharge SDTC’s fund, allowing it to continue along the path of investing $80 million to $90 million a year in cleantech projects, which leverages twice as much from the private sector.
Not recharging SDTC’s fund would be unfortunate, in light of recent momentum around investment in climate innovation. SDTC isn’t perfect. Small companies routinely complain of the complexity of the application process, and how they simply don’t have the time or resources to commit to jumping through hoops when that time could be better devoted to the innovation that funding is intended to support. Still, SDTC has played a vital role in helping emerging ventures get through the “valley of death” — that funding chasm that many startups fall into just when they’re prepared to demonstrate and commercialize their products. For this reason, SDTC and its continued funding path is considered crucial to the health and success of Canada’s cleantech sector.