GLOBE-Net, July 25, 2011 – According to Statistics Canada, businesses with fewer than 500 employees account for more than 50 per cent of Canada’s GDP.
Canada has a higher percentage of these small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) than most OECD countries. Combine that with the fact that SMEs are a strong source of innovation in Canada, and it is clear to see that SMEs will lead the move to position Canada at the heart of global clean-tech opportunities.
Clean technology is emerging as a key dimension of the global economy given its potential to create new revenue streams, and provide efficiencies that save money, leading to higher profitability and competitiveness.
This improved productivity, with new or better ways of producing goods, has the potential to revitalize industries, boost profitability and simultaneously improve businesses’ environmental performance.
The world’s emerging economies are demanding these superior technologies to sustain their rapid growth, producing a clean-tech market pegged at $4-trillion per year.
For a country like Canada with a relatively small domestic market, a high proportion of SMEs, and a dependence on exports for a large part of our economic growth, this presents a huge and unprecedented opportunity for Canadian business.
The reality in Canada is that we can only grow our clean-tech economy through a significant focus on SMEs.The good news is that the global clean-tech economy will be built on the foundation of SMEs developing clean technology solutions that can be bought and deployed by big corporations.
So the high proportion of SMEs in this country-which has sometimes been viewed as a hindrance to Canadian business integration into the global economy-might well turn out to be an advantage in the global clean-tech race.
The government of Canada recognizes this, understands the challenges and opportunities clean-tech SMEs face, and has stepped up to the plate through SDTC.
Fully 90 per cent of SDTC’s portfolio companies are SMEs. We support technology development and demonstration by connecting innovators with customers and investors, creating a path to commercialization for Canadian clean technologies.
SDTC provides funding to SMEs to help them prove out their technologies in real-world settings based on end-user needs. In addition, SDTC helps accelerate their commercialization by attracting capital and customers to these clean technology developers.
Across Canada, in both rural and urban settings, SDTC helps bridge the gap that separates the majority of IP creators-the innovative small and medium-sized enterprises responsible for most of the R&D and for generating the majority of clean technology concepts-from the multinational enterprises that can help scale smaller companies and take their technologies to market.
Canadians reap the economic, environmental and health benefits ensuing from the successful market entry of these technologies.
Examples of SDTC-funded SME success stories include companies like Saskatchewan-based Milligan Bio-Tech, which has developed a solution that uses non-food canola as a feedstock for biofuel and other valuable products.
Now a revenue generator, the non-food canola has also emerged as a superior alternative for biodiesel users.When Saskatoon Transit used Milligan’s biofuel, it saw its maintenance costs drop by 70 per cent.
Westport Innovations, another SDTC-funded SME, was first to market a solution that links the clean-burning characteristics of liquefied natural gas with the efficiency and performance of the diesel engine for long-haul trucking. In 2010, Westport generated more that $131-million in revenues and employed more than 300 people in R&D, engineering and manufacturing.
And Canada’s largest food retailer, Loblaws, in an effort to lower their multi-million dollar annual costs of refrigerated transport of perishable goods, is building a market for Canadian clean-tech as a member of an SDTC project consortium testing out Sunwell Technologies’ Deepchill Thermo Battery system.
These are just a few of the examples of SDTC successes in supporting over 200 clean-tech SMEs across Canada.
As Canada strives to green its economy and take advantage of the immense global clean-tech opportunities in front of us, we need to view SMEs as one of our greatest strengths. That has been our focus at SDTC for a decade now. And it is paying off.
Dr. Vicky J. Sharpe is president and CEO of Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC).