Canadian Cleantech Export Challenge Connect
UN Sustainable Development Goals Provide Green Framework For Foresight Industry Challenge Service ‘SDG Connect’ To Introduce Cleantech Solutions To The World.
SDG Connect exists to provide a platform for Canada’s cleantech sector to make international deals, to help large companies reach their climate, Sustainable Development, and Environmental Social and Corporate Governance goals, and to do this with little to no carbon footprint.
Foresight designed and launched SDG Connect as a means of forming international connections for Canadian cleantech companies in an efficient, affordable and low-carbon way. By providing a platform for businesses, often start-ups, to present their innovative solutions to the right people at large corporations worldwide, they streamline the exporting process.
The Challenge Service begins with an international organization agreeing to partner with Foresight. With leads identified by the in-country partner, Foresight engages with prominent corporations that have demonstrated an interest in addressing sustainability problems. The Challenge comes at no cost to participating companies.
“Challenges” are typically problems the company can’t seem to find a solution to, often related to climate, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and Environmental Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) goals.
Once a partner and a company are on board, work begins to formulate the problem into a Challenge that attracts the right solutions. This is achieved through a tried and tested “Defining a Challenge” process.
Next, the Foresight team officially begins the recruitment process. Both Foresight and the partner market the Challenge to their wide networks of Canadian cleantech companies. After an eight-week submission window, the responses are shortlisted by Foresight based on criteria set by the company seeking assistance. The top three finalists— as chosen by the company— pitch their solutions and the winner is selected.
All activities take place virtually, meaning there is no carbon footprint. The idea is to make exporting cleantech internationally a climate-friendly, affordable, and efficient process.
Feedback received from previous SDG Connect participants has taught Foresight that clear and constant communication, precise eligibility criteria (the projects can be quite technical) and transparent evaluation criteria are paramount to keeping the project successful.
Adaptability and a firm sense of mandate help are also key. Feedback is welcomed and used to make improvements to the project’s process for all future Challenges.
Part of what makes the endeavour so successful is Foresight’s ability to leverage their relationships with strategic promotional partners such as the Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster and the Canada Cleantech Alliance; industry partners such as COSIA and different government institutions to align on sustainability goals and strategic international markets for innovations export.
SDG Connect is an ongoing project with no expiration date. The economic downturn resulting from the global pandemic negatively impacted the cleantech sector, particularly in deal flow and financing opportunities. This further emphasized the importance of the SDG Connect program which was able to scale up to undertake more Challenges and create more connections.
Figure 1. ZILA Works team showing off their 100% BPA-free bio-epoxy resin made from industrial hemp on a snowboard. ZILA Works was a winner of Foresight’s SDG Connect Challenge, Vestas edition.
The last challenge hosted, the Vestas SDG Connect Challenge, received twenty submissions for solutions to address circular economy solutions within the recycling, material processing, and new materials sectors to create the next generation of fully recyclable blades for their wind turbines.
Three finalists were ultimately selected to present their technologies to Vestas. Following these presentations, Vestas selected two winners, ZilaWorks and Pointsource Processing. The winners were announced on March 15, 2021 in a joint announcement by all parties and are currently working on the development of their solutions in a pilot project, to potentially develop zero waste wind turbines by 2040.
Figure 3. SDG Connect Challenge winner ZILA Works’ CEO Jason Puracal shows off their unique bio-based epoxy resin technology made from industrial hemp.