03 / 12 / 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
NEW PARTNERSHIP BRINGS GREEN TECHNOLOGY WITHIN REACH OF MORE ORGANIZATIONS IN CANADA.
Summary: Canadian firm CROSSTAFF SOLUTIONS and WIPO GREEN, a program of the World Intellectual Property Organisation, have recently entered into a strategic partnership to make green technologies more accessible to Canadian organisations seeking to survive and compete in an environment of resource scarcity, increased competition and growing intolerance for environmental degradation.
Ottawa, ON Canada December 3, 2014. Many producers of goods and services across Canada face an unsettling fact – the technologies on which their operations rely were built for a reality that no longer exists. Increased competition for resources, shrinking operating budgets and profit margins and demands for greater environmental stewardship from regulators and the public are forcing organisations in all sectors to seek technologies that enable them to do more with less and lower their environmental impact. CROSSTAFF SOLUTIONS, a Canadian firm specialising in enabling green technology adoption has become the first Canadian partner of WIPO GREEN, an interactive marketplace established by the Geneva based World Intellectual Property Organisation that promotes innovation and diffusion of green technologies by connecting technology and service providers with those seeking innovative solutions.
The challenge that most organisations face is that although they know that their path is unsustainable or not competitive from an environmental, operational or business perspective, they typically do not have the resources or experience to find and effectively integrate the green technology solutions available to them. CROSSTAFF SOLUTIONS was created to enable these organisations to meet their business or operational objectives through strategically assembling and managing the resources necessary to put the correct green innovation for their needs to work. The WIPO GREEN platform is a new and rapidly growing global database and network of such resources across the green technology innovation value chain. A partnership between these two entities was natural. Marc McArthur, founder of CROSSTAFF SOLUTIONS explains:
“Most people are unaware of the hundreds of organizations, thousands of people and billions of dollars dedicated to enabling the transition to a more sustainable society, including effective green technology solutions for every sector. When correctly sourced and managed, these resources can be channeled to solve a variety of business and operational challenges or unlock new opportunities and markets. We help our clients successfully tap into these resources and WIPO GREEN expands the range of potential green technology solutions and opportunities available to our clients and all participants on the platform. We are proud to be a part of the WIPO GREEN network and the first Canadian partner alongside Siemens, the Asian Development Bank and other prestigious institutions.”
According to the Global Footprint Network it will take 1.5 earths to support the current rate of global resource consumption, 2 earths by 2030. This is what is driving CROSSTAFF SOLUTIONS and its partners like WIPO GREEN to remove the barriers to adoption of green technologies that can decelerate and reverse these and other unsustainable trends.
About CROSSTAFF SOLUTIONS
Crosstaff enables its clients to meet their business and operational objectives through the use of technologies that increase resource efficiency and reduce negative environmental impacts. It achieves this through the expert, rapid and strategic assembly and management of the resources required to do so.
About WIPO GREEN
WIPO GREEN is an interactive marketplace that promotes innovation and diffusion of green technologies by connecting technology and service providers with those seeking innovative solutions. WIPO GREEN’s objective is to become a go-to platform for green technologies, which it is on the way to achieving thanks to its growing network of partners and innovative collaborations with major global technology databases.
20 / 03 / 2014
Does the cleantech sector really exist?
This may seem like heresy to those (like myself) who are very actively engaged in what is labelled the ‘cleantech sector’ but it is a valid question and one that needs to be addressed objectively, honestly and quickly if cleantech is to find a permanent home in the public lexicon and therefore increasingly in our policy framework.
So what’s at stake? What could possibly be worth raising the ire of my colleagues and fellow ‘cleantech’ proponents by asking this question? Well, allow me to make my case –
At the recent Canadian Energy Innovation Summit in Toronto, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne declared that ‘Ontario has about 3000 cleantech firms that employ 65000 people, generating revenues of more than $8B’. Those are fantastic numbers and great news for the sector in Canada except for one problem, the 2014 Canadian Clean Technology Industry Report launched less than a week later suggests that the sector consists of 700 companies in all of Canada employing 41000 people generating $11.3B.
Do you see the problem here beyond the fact that the numbers don’t add up? Both sources of information are well respected and credible yet they seemingly contradict each other by a factor of four on some very basic numbers. Sure, we can start dissecting and hand-waving to explain the differences but the bottom line is if I were a policy maker I would find it difficult to take seriously and address a sector with such dramatically different views of itself. That’s why asking whether the ‘cleantech sector’ is real and if so, what exactly does it mean is so important.
According to the Cleantech Group founded by Nick Parker who famously coined the term Cleantech and introduced it to the business and investment community in 2002 cleantech ‘represents a diverse range of products, services, and processes, all intended to:
- Provide superior performance at lower costs, while
- Greatly reducing or eliminating negative ecological impact, at the same time as
- Improving the productive and responsible use of natural resources’
More than 10 years after the introduction of the term the definition is still being refined by the Cleantech Group and spans several industry verticals organised into 18 sectors.
Meanwhile Analytica Advisors who have contributed tremendously to giving an identity to the ‘cleantech industry’ in Canada through the Canadian Clean Technology Industry Reports in the 2014 report define a clean technology company as ‘a company with proprietary technology or know-how that addresses one or more of…’ and goes on to list ten sectors organised into three market segments; upstream sectors, downstream sectors and water and agriculture sectors.
Of note here is that there are only about seven easily recognisable overlaps between the 10 sectors in the Analytica Report and the 18 of the Cleantech Group.
Tom Rand, also a panellist at the Canadian Energy Innovation Summit and Advisor to the Cleantech Practice at MaRS suggested that similarly as ‘IT is no longer a sector’ ‘cleantech is not a sector it is a new way of doing business in a low-carbon world’.
Wow, three heavyweights in the ‘cleantech whatchamaycallit’ with three very different perspectives on what cleantech is. So which version is correct? They all are to a degree in my opinion but that’s not nearly as important as how they meld together to form a cohesive narrative to inform policy and win hearts and minds.
Katie Fehrenbacher a well known writer and blogger on cleantech at Gigaom suggested the following in response to a somewhat biased and inaccurate (or at least incomplete) 60 Minutes coverage on the sector under the title ‘The Cleantech Crash’.
‘The underlying problem is that “cleantech” is a convoluted term that can mean many things, and isn’t all that helpful as an organizing group. Let’s figure out in 2014 if we should kill that term or not.’
Katie certainly has a point but killing the term by itself doesn’t shed the necessary light on the very real phenomenon of the emergence of a totally new kind of global infrastructure made sustainable by advances in technology and business models. Replacing it with another term that is not adequately defined and recognised won’t help either.
Personally my own definition of the sector would include the focus on cleantech being a class of companies having some kind of proprietary technology or know-how that enables other sectors and society in general to meet their objectives sustainably while remaining competitive on price and performance with existing, unsustainable approaches. This also recognises that cleantech represents a technology enabled way of doing business in an increasingly resource-constrained and environmentally responsible world.
Regardless of what it is called and how it is defined Crosstaff and our partners along with many others across Canada and around the world will continue to facilitate the transition to a sustainable global infrastructure through accelerating and enabling the commercialisation and adoption of clean technologies. Whether and how these activities get formally recognised and accepted as a cohesive sector only time will tell.
What the 2013 Throne Speech Means for Canada’s Cleantech Sector – The Speech from the Throne delivered by Canada’s Governor General yesterday outlines the Government’s agenda in broad terms over the upcoming year. Here are some key takeaways for what this agenda could mean for Canada’s cleantech sector.
80% of Canada’s 700 cleantech companies are exporters. The speech outlined several initiatives under ‘the most ambitious trade agenda in Canadian history’ including:
- A comprehensive economic and trade agreement with the EU – Although likely targeted at some of our major manufacturing and resource sectors the tighter environmental regulations and comparatively limited availability of natural resources makes the EU an attractive market for our cleantech companies. Strong cultural and historic ties and similar legal and business frameworks would also contribute to making the EU a preferred market for many of our cleantech solutions.
- A commitment to expanded trade with emerging markets in Asia and the America’s – If one of the positive characteristics of the EU is the relative ease of doing business for a Canadian cleantech company it is counterbalanced by the raw demand for solutions from Asian economies that are going through the transition from developing to developed. There is no question that opportunities here are huge and any commitments to increase trade in these markets is a positive trend.
- A comprehensive plan to assist Canadian businesses as they expand abroad – With most Canadian cleantech companies being SME’s the less internal resources consumed through establishing a presence in foreign markets the better.
There is a clear commitment to build on our ‘immense natural wealth’ to ‘seize Canada’s moment’ to ‘lead the world in security and prosperity’. The speech goes on to say however that the government believes that ‘resource development must respect the environment’. The majority of what came next focuses on environmental protection from spills and similar risks to local communities (a direct reference no doubt to the tragedy at Lac Megantic). There are related opportunities for some cleantech companies in monitoring and cleanup but the resource extraction sector has for the last few years recognised and invested in combating the environmental and economic risks associated with their operations which in the oil sands for example is more energy and water intensive than in other parts of the world. I have maintained that some of the biggest local cleantech opportunities would be tied to greening our biggest industries, a theme that featured prominently in a national summit I co-chaired in 2011. With the fate of Keystone pipeline in question based on the environmental impact of our oil sands sector you can bet that technologies that lower the environmental impact of these and other resource extraction operations will be in high demand.
Canada’s forests are of course another major natural resource. The government plans to continue to ‘support innovation and pursue new export opportunities for Canadian companies’. Whether this means another round of investment into the Investments in Forestry Industries Transformation Program launched in 2010 where the government allocated $100M over four years to invest in innovative technologies for renewable energy and non-traditional, high value forest products to make Canada’s forest sector more economically competitive and environmentally sustainable remains to be seen.
Clean technology companies are, as the name implies, technology companies and are therefore very knowledge intensive. The throne speech highlighted that Canada leads the G7 in post-secondary research investment and outlined the following initiatives building on a refocused NRC, Venture Capital Action Plan and expanded IRAP program which could mean greater support for moving these technologies into the market:
- An updated Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy
- Targeted investments in science and innovation chains from lab to market
The Advanced Manufacturing Fund to support new products and production methods could also be useful here.
Finally there were several references to developing and maintaining the sovereignty of Canada’s North. The ‘responsible development of its abundant natural resources’, establishment of the High Arctic Research Station, opening of the deep water Arctic port and other activity all point to the need for environmentally sound technologies to support settlements and operations in these remote locations particularly in supplying energy and water and managing waste.
Although any specific action on climate change was not mentioned there is still a lot to be gained by the cleantech sector in Canada and the industries and communities that stand to benefit from these solutions in the year ahead.
For a transcript of the speech follow this link.
16 / 10 / 2013
Technically Elegant – I read a piece today about General Fusion in BC. A company that is developing technology to produce clean energy by making little stars here on earth in their fusion reactor. The technology works by injecting plasma into a sphere filled with molten lead-lithium before an array of pistons drives a pressure wave into the centre of mixture that creates fusion conditions where atoms fuse together and release a lot of energy (and no long-lived radioactive waste) in the process. My technical side gets really excited about what this company is doing, the equipment and engineering drawings look like they’re taken out of the latest Iron Man movie. That’s important at this stage as it attracts and inspires some of the best and the brightest technical minds to solve a big but beautiful problem with equipment that just looks cool. There’s an embedded lesson here about people (and really the business of getting clean technologies like this to market is largely about people) that technology entrepreneurs should consider as they plot their path forward – as much as the content of what your technology does matters the packaging always matters as well. If what you’re pitching is a Tesla Model S don’t neglect to recognise and leverage the emotional response that the smooth curves generate in your audience. If you have a new way to treat sewage waste…well I’m sure you (literally) get the picture and that’s my point.
Once the techno-euphoria has passed my rational, company-and-market-building side takes over and I have sobering thoughts about the technical, regulatory, market and other challenges that lie ahead for General Fusion from something as simple as not wanting to be the technician on night duty when part of the system fails to the potentially long and difficult PR campaign of explaining to the public why this can’t create a black hole that will swallow the planet. I know there are tough challenges to come (we help solve them all the time for projects and companies in this sector) but hats off to the General Fusion team for such a technically elegant start to solving a truly out of the box problem.
06 / 05 / 2013
The Secret to Forming Great Partnerships – It is practically impossible to introduce a new sustainable technology or a solution based on a sustainable technology without forming alliances. There are too many steps between the technology and the market for the average entity to go it alone. So what is the key to ensuring that you have all the right organisations in your corner when the time comes to roll out your cost cutting, profit making, planet saving solution? Well, as it turns out, the answer has been on the radio all along and has been playing day in and day out on channel WIIFM – What’s In It For Me?. It’s top of mind for most people considering a partnership or collaboration and answering that question for each potential partner will certainly get their attention.
06 / 05 / 2013
Policy Makers are People Too – The title of this post is a bit tongue-in-cheek as I do have considerable respect for policy makers and the difficult choices they have to make. I use the title to illustrate that policy makers, like all people, can be persuaded and it is in this persuasion that there are opportunities to improve outcomes for the leveraging of technology to increase efficiencies, reduce costs and reduce negative environmental impacts.
06 / 05 / 2013
Ugly Duckling Technologies – How many people know or care about where their electricity or water comes from or where the waste they generate goes? As new, more sustainable technological solutions for managing our society’s inputs and outputs get developed in direct response to the ever increasing challenges of resource uncertainties, environmental stewardship and plain old economic competition how aware is the general public of what it takes provide these services as all seven billion of us cling to this little planet trying to extract more of what it has (or doesn’t have depending on how you look at it) to offer?
06 / 05 / 2013
Where the Battle for Sustainability Will be Won or Lost – I once asked a panel of experts if they had one year to live how they would spend their time in pursuit of making a substantial contribution towards achieving a sustainable future. The question had the intended effect and after squirming uncomfortably with the prospect of their untimely demise each one of them was able to identify a specific priority that they would dedicate their remaining days to.
The Most Important Thing to Remember About Venture Capitalists – Many of the challenges that arise when taking a new concept, product or service to market come when two or more different business and personal interests have to align to get something done. I will never forget a conversation that I had with a venture capitalist (VC) at a networking event that really brought this home. He had just finished speaking with someone many would consider a ‘seasoned CEO’ who was actually looking for venture investment for his company. In our chat the VC shared that he would never invest in the company.