Canada is a leading country when it comes to clean energy and technology, and now the government is teaming up with one of the largest innovation hubs to create a challenge meant to encourage more women in the cleantech field to succeed and thrive.
MaRS is teaming up with Natural Resources Canada to launch the Women in Cleantech Challenge, a new initiative that will support women entrepreneurs creating clean technology and energy. This challenge will be the first of five led by Natural Resources Canada, all offered through the Impact Canada Initiative.
This first program will give five women the chance to develop a scalable solution to various environmental and energy concerns while competing for a $1 million prize. Overall, the challenge will last for two-and-a-half years, after which the final large investment will be awarded.
“Women are a powerful force in Canada’s innovation economy, but are significantly under-represented in the cleantech sector,” says Yung Wu, CEO of MaRS. “This challenge will identify and showcase the top women innovators from across the country who are solving deep technical challenges that benefit both our environment and our economy.”
The program is meant to stimulate new ideas and businesses addressing climate change, green growth and the application of new technologies to reduce negative environmental impacts.
The five women that are selected to participate will each receive support valued at more than $800,000. This is broken down into business incubator support from MaRS worth $300,000; the opportunity to work with federal labs to develop the scalable tech, which is valued up to $250,000; and an annual stipend of $115,000 for living and travel-related expenses.
After the two-and-a-half year incubation period, the five finalists will compete together for a shot at the $1 million prize that will be invested into the winner’s business.
“This challenge is a game changer, eliminating barriers for women who for too long have been underrepresented, particularly in STEM fields,” says Jim Carr, Canada’s minister of natural resources. “We are giving Canada’s women cleantech entrepreneurs and innovators the chance to not only hold key leadership positions in corporate Canada but also to found and lead tomorrow’s cleantech companies that will solve some of today’s toughest environmental issues. I encourage all women with a viable cleantech idea to take up the challenge and help lead Canada’s cleantech future.”
Applicants for the challenge will be judged and guided by a six-person panel that boasts deep experience in STEM, cleantech, business development and environmental awareness. Applications are due by July 13.
In total, the five challenges led by Natural Resources Canada—including this Women in Cleantech initiative—will invest $75 million over the next four years. This competition is similar to Impact Canada’s Challenge Platform that is looking to give away $75 million spread over at least four communities that develop smart city solutions.
This cleantech challenge is not the only one being run that features Canadians. Four Canadian companies have made it into the Carbon XPRIZE top 10 and are duking it out with other companies from around the world for a shot at two $7.5 million USD prizes.