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Canada unveils new clean technology strategy

Global Affairs Canada announced a strategy and $15 million in funding to help exporters expand into new markets, promote Canadian clean technology capabilities, and enhance the country’s position on the world stage in this increasingly competitive and rapidly expanding industry.

The International Business Development Strategy for Clean Technology was announced in March 2018 at the GLOBE Forum 2018 in Vancouver, B.C., a summit for sustainable business. The initiative provides $15 million over four years for the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) to support the industry’s efforts abroad. The strategy is part of Canada’s Innovation and Skills Plan and the funding will also help connect Canadian firms to international financing for climate related projects in developing countries that are coping with the consequences of climate change.

“Clean technology is very much on everyone’s radar and agenda,” says Michelle Gartland, an Ottawa-based trade commissioner who covers clean technology (cleantech). She notes that green projects ranging from renewable energy and industrial processes to new water and wastewater infrastructure are needed to deal with worsening environmental problems around the world. “We can position Canadian firms as a solution.”

The global market for cleantech doubled between 2005 and 2014, and is expected to triple to $3 trillion by 2020, according to a 2016 report by Analytica Advisors. However, while 87 percent of Canada’s cleantech firms export their products and services, they have yet to fully capitalize on this growing global market, the report found.

The cleantech strategy follows extensive consultations with key industry groups, and other government departments and agencies. It consists of four main pillars, Gartland says, one of which involves putting TCS officers with a deep knowledge of the cleantech field into four key global hubs, in Europe, Africa, Latin America and Asia. Their expertise and guidance will boost efforts by trade commissioners currently looking after cleantech in those regions to identify and take advantage of growing market opportunities there. “If we want to be part of that, we need to up our game,” Gartland says.

Additionally, a dedicated TCS climate finance business development team will track the projects supported by international financial institutions and multilateral banks, to which Canada contributes, that are designed to help developing economies mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.

“We need to map out the ecosystem and position Canadian firms to plug into that supply chain,” Gartland comments. “This is about giving our firms a better line of sight over where the money goes—not only Canada’s but all the other contributing countries—and helping them be a part of it.”

The third measure is a domestic outreach campaign to help cleantech firms in Canada—many of them small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)—to navigate, understand and gain access to government programs that are available to support their international business development efforts. The final pillar is to make the TCS part of the “clean growth hub”, a partnership being established between all of the different government departments that touch on the broad sector to provide services to cleantech companies in Canada.

“Clients coming into the clean growth hub asking for help will find that there’s no wrong door,” Gartland explains. “There is some department in there that will help.”

“Canadian companies have to keep innovating, and this sector is research-intensive. Clean technology is new, it’s risky and it’s unknown. It requires patient capital and doesn’t always bring a quick return.”

Canada’s international ranking fell from 14th to 19th place in cleantech merchandise exports from 2005 to 2014, according to Analytica Advisors. This is attributed to the rise of international competitors and the decline in government support mechanisms over that period.

“We’re successful in this field, but competition from other countries is rising fast,” she says. Building up experience outside of Canada is critical, especially to take advantage of projects related to the vast infrastructure deficit in the world. “Infrastructure and clean technology very much go hand-in-hand.”

The TCS is looking out both for large cleantech opportunities, such as solar and wind power or energy efficiency developments, as well as places where cleantech can be integrated into products and services in sectors such as infrastructure, forestry, agriculture, aerospace, the automotive industry and information and communications technologies (ICT).

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