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December 18, 2023
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Canada’s cleantech funding: Time for a SDTC fallout shake-up?

  • Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC)’s ability to provide funds for cleantech initiatives remains suspended, following controversy involving corruption allegations.
  • Industry insiders and entrepreneurs express concerns about the potential long-term damage to SDTC’s reputation, which could lead to restructuring or cessation, despite the growing demand for climate change solutions.

The SDTC’s funding model is responsible for the annual generation of $3 billion in revenue and creation of 24,500 jobs. However, the crisis that began in early October has limited SDTC’s funding capability. This has led to the resignation of long-term executives such as Leah Lawrence and Annette Verschuren, with further investigation by Auditor-General continuing.

With this delay, industry officials fear that potential cleantech investors may be drawn towards the United States, where substantial green technology subsidies are on offer. Bridging this gap requires urgent internal changes in SDTC to resume their grants, which have played a significant role in expanding the sector for over two decades.

The process of receiving financial assistance from SDTC involves a comprehensive review of the applicants’ financial and technical competencies. Not only does this process secure funding, but it offers entrepreneurs invaluable market expertise and skills for raising capital. The absence of SDTC funding presents hurdles for companies relying on these resources.

Heather Ward, CEO of Hyperion Energy International, highlights the essential role of SDTC in supporting early-stage cleantech companies, particularly those pre-revenue and pre-commercial. Heather emphasizes the urgency for SDTC’s quick recovery and a reevaluation of the way it operates. Without SDTC, companies risk losing access to national funding agencies.

The misuse of funds, lack of governance, and conflict-of-interest breaches revealed by the government’s investigation suggested that changes in SDTC’s operational methods are inevitable. To regain the public’s trust and confidence, SDTC must work towards rebuilding its reputation without disrupting the funding of Canadian cleantech.

Emulating successful early-stage tech programs such as The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy and the Advanced Research and Invention Agency, SDTC’s model balances technical proficiency with financial expertise. This combination has proven key in aiding ventures where demand is increasing in the drive for a net-zero future. This suspension has companies awaiting funding at a standstill and can potentially lead to a scarcity of other funding sources due to increased economic risks.

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