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The Globe and Mail

Ottawa announces partnership to commercialize clean tech

Export Development Canada president Stephen Poloz at the EDC offices in downtown Toronto on April 25, 2006.

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

Canada's clean tech sector is getting some new help from the federal government as Ottawa looks to grab a fatter share of the booming global market for renewable energy and energy efficiency.

The government's lead agencies on export assistance and sustainable technology are teaming up to identify and support companies that are moving from development to full commercial effort and are eager to penetrate international markets.

"This is a further concrete step forward to show that Canada's wealth of clean-tech companies have progressed from what were very early stage opportunities to what are now real in-market businesses," Vicky Sharpe, president of Sustainable Development Technology Canada, said in an interview.

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SDTC provides early-stage financing to help commercialize Canadian clean technologies, and allocated $560-million to 228 projects, with its partner companies now valued at more than $2-billion. It is now partnering Export Development Canada, the government credit agency that offers insurance, underwrites performance bonds and even provides equity for the country's exporters.

"Clean-tech companies need to scale up and go global, which provides a natural fit for EDC and SDTC to work together to help put Canadians companies at the forefront of the industry," EDC president Stephen Poloz said in a press release.

Ms. Sharpe said the two agencies will now work together to support companies like Ottawa-based Solantro Semiconductor Corp., which uses nanotechnology to boost the efficiency of solar photovoltaic system, or Vancouver's Ostara Nutrient Recovery Technologies Inc., which separates commercially valuable nutrients from municipal waste. The Canadian clean-tech sector had revenues of $9-billion in 2010, or roughly 0.9 per cent of the $1-trillion global clean-tech market. But there are projections that the sector will grow to $3-trillion by 2020, and the two agencies hope Canada can increase Canada's share to 2 per cent. That higher share of a growing industry would increase revenues to $60-billion and support 126,000 jobs.

"If we can get there, it would mean massive economic benefit to the country and we think the SDTC-EDC team is going to be an important delivery mechanism for that increased market share," Ms. Sharpe said. "But we have to move quickly to ensure we receive our share."

The emerging economies in Africa, Asia and South America are particularly keen to import new technology to help them develop in a way that avoids some of environmental problems that in the past have been associated with industrialized and economic advance.

Canada's clean-tech sector already receives about 52 per cent of its revenues from the export market, whereas an average small company receives about 10 per cent of its sales from foreign customers. "So our companies are absolutely focused on the importance of the export market to them and they are ready that way and that's where the opportunity lies," she said.

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