Accelerator Centre & TD Canada: CleanTech Accelerator

Canada has the potential to be a leader in clean technology, and not just because we’ve been insulating to save a little on the heating bill for a long time. Anyone familiar with the City of Waterloo, brimming as it is with brilliantly talented engineers, recognizes the contribution Canada stands to make to the world’s low-carbon economy and yet, while cleantech is growing globally, Canada has been losing ground.

“We’re falling behind other countries and it’s becoming more and more apparent that something needs to be done,” said John Stevens, VP, Strategy and External Relations, Accelerator Centre.

Indeed, between 2005 and 2013, Canada dropped from 14th to 19th in cleantech exports, representing nearly $9 billion in lost export opportunities. The team behind the Accelerator Centre recognized that cleantech didn’t need was a hug, it needed a hub.

That’s what the Accelerator Centre’s TD Sustainable Future Lab—Waterloo’s first dedicated Clean Technology, or cleantech accelerator program—set out to provide. “This is why we created this unique cleantech program based on our award-winning and globally-recognized startup Accelerator Program—we know that Canada needs a unique offering in a unique building for clean technologies to be developed,” Stevens explained.

With a twelve-year track record of building Canada’s most exciting tech companies— In 2018, the Accelerator Centre was recognized by UBI Global as the fourth ranked accelerator of its kind in the world—the Accelerator Centre recognized Canada’s cleantech competitiveness as an opportunity to utilize its award-winning flagship program.

By modifying The Accelerator Program to meet the needs of the cleantech sector, the Accelerator Centre set out to help Canada’s green tech innovators reach their full potential.

The idea behind this initiative, which first opened its doors in 2018, is to give cleantech in Canada a unique place to grow, an incubation space dedicated to sustainable solutions and the clean economy. To this end, cleantech companies were extensively consulted to understand their unique requirements as were industry associations, investors and government bodies and programs with a focus on cleantech. Expertise and insight were gathered from a range of specialists in the cleantech space.

Fittingly the centre is located in Canada’s first net positive office building—the first commercial building Canada designed with the goal of not only producing zero carbon emissions, but helping in the clean up the environment now desperately needs.

Since launching, the specialized program for cleantech entrepreneurs has supported 19 companies working in agri-tech, advanced materials, energy (solar, wind, water, biofuel), energy management/storage/access, green transportation, green manufacturing, and smart cities, providing them with accelerator programming, mentorship, funding opportunities, and office space.

Canada’s next big cleantech companies won’t be built in a day and if we’re to successfully enable Canada to transition to a low-carbon economy, creating connections across traditional industry, institutional, disciplinary, and geographic barriers, as well as caring for our cleantech young will be key.

Thankfully, the new facility allows the program to expand, supporting 20 additional cleantech companies over the next 3 years. The Accelerator Centre’s 84% survival rate (89% of which remain in Waterloo Region, creating 3,600 jobs and 750 student co-op placements) and the collective over $600 million in investments brought in suggests those will be some pretty lucky cleantech ducks.