MaRS Announces Women in Cleantech Challenge Finalists

Canada has become a hotbed for cleantech startups and success stories, but far too few of them involve women at the helm.

MaRS set out to right that ship with their Women in Cleantech Challenge, inviting founders and entrepreneurs to submit their ideas and companies, all with a chance to secure a $1 million investment to scale up their cleantech solution. In total, 147 applications were received, then trimmed down to 10 presentations, all critiqued at a live pitch event by a jury that included Canvass Analytics CEO Humera Malik, Fonds de solidarité FTQ’s chief of investments Janie C. Béïque, and honourary juror and acclaimed novelist Margaret Atwood.

Only five finalists were supposed to be selected, but after a tight “hung jury” as the event host described it, six in total were chosen. They will move on to the final challenge cohort and work to scale their solution and secure a $1 million investment. The six finalists will each receive resources valued at more than $800,000, including business incubator support, an opportunity to work with federal labs, and an annual stipend of $115,000.

The six Women in Cleantech Challenge finalists are below.

  • Evelyn Allen is the co-founder and CEO of Evercloak, a platform capable of producing nanofilms for large areas. It can be used in water purification, energy storage, smart packaging, and other cleantech areas
  • Julie Angus is the founder of Open Ocean Robotics, an IoT and automated boat company. Their two prototypes can sail the ocean in any kind of weather and collect and analyze data on a wide range of subjects, from weather to general environment status.
  • Nivatha Balendra discovered a bacteria that can eat and absorb oil spills, a massive challenge currently facing the energy industry.
  • Amanda Hall has developed a new way to improve the extraction of lithium-ion from produced brine water. The use of Lithium-ion in batteries will grow exponentially over the next few years, so the technology has the capability to vastly improve current cleantech solutions.
  • Alexandra Tavasoli has found a way to help convert greenhouse gasses into fuels using sunlight and light-activated materials known as photocatalysts.
  • Luna Yu is the CEO of Genecis, a company that can turn organic waste into bioplastics that are fully degradable in marine and terrestrial environments.
women in cleantech
Balendra, Yu, Hall, Tavasoli, Angus, and Allen (from left to right)

These six entrepreneurs will now enter an intensive two-and-a-half year process. They will look to scale their ideas and turn them into commercially-successful companies. In the winter of 2020/2021, MaRS will host a graduation ceremony for all six, and there the jury will select which project will receive the million-dollar investment.

“Women are a powerful force in Canada’s innovation economy, but are significantly under-represented in the cleantech sector,” said 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.”