As an industry, clean technology is what is called ‘high innovation’. A High innovation industry simply means that new inventions and innovations tend to drive the industry forward more than normal. Small startup companies can have genuine success, so long as their product is solid. When a country becomes famed for a high innovation industry, as Canada has become known for clean tech, things can get very exciting. High innovation industries move very quickly. With the right investor, a tiny startup can balloon up overnight, going from bit-part player to centre stage virtually in the blink of an eye. When you have enough of these companies located in one country (or even one province, since British Columbia is the heartland of Canadian clean tech), you can get a snowball effect. One company makes it big, causing other investors to look more closely at clean tech in that area, which leads to more companies being successful and more investors become interested. In terms of employment, tax revenue, private businesses and even the advantages for the general public of having access to so many excellent products, everyone wins. However, things can just as easily go the other way, and a new report says that we must now support clean tech in Canada – or else.
Support Clean Tech In Canada
The 2016 Canadian Clean Technology Industry Report recently published figures showing that Canada has lost a big portion of its share of the global clean tech market. Between 2005 and 2014, Canada’s share fell from 2.2% to 1.3% – a 40% drop in market share.
We have fallen behind Singapore, Spain, Czech Republic, Denmark and Poland, and other countries are hungrier and closer to the action. The burning question is whether Canada can turn it around, grow market share and once again attain its fair share of global trade in clean technology? – 2016 Canadian Clean Technology Industry Report
From a Canadian perspective, obviously this is not good. The world is truly beginning to wake to the dangers of climate change, which means greater investment in renewable energy and clean technology all around the planet. The problem for Canada is that, as a nation, it only profits from successful clean tech companies if they grow and come to fruition within Canadian borders. If a small but promising Canadian company moves to, say, California (because California offers more subsidies and resources to help support clean tech) and turns into a big America company, Canada loses out. And this is exactly what is beginning to happen.
Plenty Of Time To Turn Things Around
If all of that sounds very doom and gloom, don’t be too worried: things are still looking good for the Canadian clean tech industry. All that is needed is for the government to match the ambitions of clean tech companies. Keep in mind that big oil and gas (i.e. highly profitable, multi-billion dollar companies) benefited from an estimated US$333 billion globally in subsidies in 2015. The current Canadian government is investing millions into clean tech annually, but compared to what oil and gas gets it’s clear that this low/mid level investment in clean tech is not the kind of backing that will put Canada back on top of the pile where it belongs. For that, more active, involved and forward-thinking support is needed.
“If policy makers can establish a smooth hand-off of the baton from the domain of innovation to the domain of regulation, Canada stands to gain a unique advantage in the form of a policy suite that can translate public investments in innovation into broadly enjoyed benefits for society” – 2016 Canadian Clean Technology Industry Report
In the 21st century, a strong clean tech industry will be priceless. Canada is in an incredibly advantageous position in that the key ingredient need to dominate global markets – an abundant supply of inventive, innovative companies and thinkers – is already in place. The more boring, bureaucratic side of things (governmental support) necessary to nurture and support clean tech should be a simple matter of ticking boxes and and sending applications. Instead, it’s a lack of support that is beginning to hold everything back, or worse, driving companies and investors away. Growing a clean tech industry is a bit like taming a wild horse – if you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s not going to stick around.