The MaRS Discovery District is teaming up with consulting firm KPMG Canada to nurture startups, underscoring the need to accelerate the pace of growth at clean-technology companies to help the country reach climate goals.
Toronto-based MaRS, the high-tech innovation hub that provides support for a wide range of startups, is combining with KPMG Canada to launch their Climate Impact Accelerator program on Monday.
The goal is to speed up what normally has been a time-consuming and challenging process for cleantech companies to secure customers for products and services that are geared toward reducing emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.
KPMG Canada has a roster of government agencies and corporate clients expressing interest in climate solutions and being matched up with the appropriate cleantech startup.
Innovations such as technology for carbon capture and software for optimizing energy-efficient buildings are necessary as Canada seeks to hit emission-reduction targets to reach net zero by 2050, MaRS chief executive officer Yung Wu said in an interview from Toronto.
“There is no pathway to net zero without including innovation in that pathway,” Mr. Wu said. “Whether you talk about the major emitting sectors in transportation or real estate or energy, they all must include some form of innovation.”
The collaboration by MaRS and KPMG Canada aims to bridge the gap between technological innovation and commercialization as government agencies and corporations continue to set sustainability goals and pledge to improve their performance on environmental, social and governance issues amid concerns over climate change.
“We need to ensure that we are commercializing those cleantech companies,” said Armughan Ahmad, president and managing partner of digital at KPMG Canada. “What do you have to do? You have to drive revenue growth, you have to acquire customers and clients. That is what this is about.”
The inaugural startup selected for the new accelerator program is Montreal-based BrainBox AI, a software developer that specializes in artificial intelligence for heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, with the objective of decreasing the energy consumption in older buildings.
“We are looking forward to working with governments and companies and help them cut their energy usage by enabling building owners to significantly reduce their carbon footprints,” BrainBox CEO Sam Ramadori said in a statement.
Other startups will be selected in the months ahead for the Climate Impact Accelerator program.
MaRS spurs an array of companies in their early years and also “scale-up” firms that are further along the growth curve, such as those in the fields of health care and financial technology.
Last year, the innovation hub selected 10 cleantech companies to help accelerate their growth, ranging from Carbon Engineering Ltd. in Squamish, B.C., to BrainBox in Montreal to Stash Energy Inc. in Fredericton. Those participants are part of a separate program called Mission from MaRS: Climate Impact Challenge.
MaRS also has a program for encouraging growth in the artificial intelligence sector, notably a “supercluster” of 12 AI companies that include Audette Analytics Inc. in British Columbia.
Audette’s software development deploys mapping technology for buildings, with the focus on decarbonization options.
“There’s a whole range of solutions from lighting to automation, and down to retrofitting the underlying heating and ventilation systems and then all the way to changing out the roofing structure,” said Christopher Naismith, CEO and founder of Audette. “What we’re really doing is mapping out where everything is in their life cycle, what projects need to be done to get buildings to zero carbon.”
Beyond the startups that are part of the portfolio at MaRS, there are also many other promising cleantech players such as Svante Inc., which is based in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby.
Svante has developed patented technology that captures dioxide from smokestacks and has been conducting extensive tests, including on a small scale at Lafarge Canada’s cement plant in Richmond, B.C.
Svante held a ground-breaking ceremony last week for its new Burnaby headquarters. Besides serving as Svante’s head office and incorporating research and development, the site will have a wing for manufacturing carbon-absorbent filters and the existing building will also be retrofitted to house a prototype for a “rotary adsorption machine.”
The concept is to market the machines, including models that are 14 metres in diameter, and construct them at industrial plants that are seeking to reduce their carbon emissions, Svante CEO Claude Letourneau said.
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