Earlier this year, Invest Ottawa — a city-funded group that helps promote economic development — appointed business development managers to oversee growth in various clusters of the local high-tech sector.
OBJ recently spoke to those managers, as well as a cloud expert, to get their insights into these key areas.
Here is what Karen Pero, a senior business development manager at Invest Ottawa, had to say to reporter David Sali about the clean technology sector:
Everybody always thinks of Ottawa as a government town, or they think of it as Silicon Valley North. Labouring away behind all of this has been the cleantech sector. It’s not that this is all just happening in Ottawa, it’s that the cleantech sector globally is starting to take off. During the period of 2006-10, while all other sectors were flatlining or going down, clean tech was actually going up by about 30 per cent a year, which is enormous growth. It’s actually projected that this growth will continue on into 2020, 2030.
There are areas of the Ottawa cleantech sector that have been established for years, energy management being one of them. They’re seeing a significant market share going their way – Energate is a perfect example, Blue Line Innovation is another example. The other thing that’s happening is there are certain sectors that Ottawa has always been strong in, (such as) energy management, green building – which is connected to smart grid – all of the biowaste-, solid waste- and agriwaste-to-energy. Water (treatment and reclamation) is another huge area.
Another part of it is that we have a great deal of innovation that takes place in Ottawa. A lot of clean technologies have been developed or started here.
COMPANIES TO WATCH
In the area of wastewater, obviously BluMetric is doing extremely well. Another in the area of water reclamation is Clearford. In solid wasteto-energy, obviously Plasco is one of the leaders. They have one of the leading technologies in the world.
Ensyn is big in the area of biomass-to-fuel, and is considering going public. Agrisoma is big in the area of agriwaste-to-jet fuel. They’re the first company to actually be able to fly a jet plane on purely biofuel. That’s pretty astounding. Then, of course, there’s green building. We’re home to Windmill Development Group, the greenest developers in North America. There are very few developments they do that aren’t LEED platinum, which is extremely rare. Minto is very big on promoting environmentally friendly applications, clean technologies. Then we’ve got all the engineering firms that are involved in that area – Stantec, ICF Marbek, Golder and Associates. These are all companies that are extremely wellknown in North America and internationally for the work they do and the expertise they bring to projects. Energate received smart-grid funding (from the province) to continue their work.
Why clean tech is going to continue to grow so rapidly is that connection between the high-tech industry and the cleantech industry. Now we’re at the point where a lot of what’s going to go on in advancements of clean tech have to do with software development and an understanding of semiconductor development – how you manage big data, how you manage integrated networks like a smart grid. That’s one of the reasons that I can see why Ottawa’s really going to take off when these people start really coming together.
The other part is we have the federal labs here. It’s the ability of companies here to be able to work with the scientists, researchers, engineers in the federal labs as well as in the universities.
There’s a lot more involved in setting up cleantech companies than there is for, say, high-tech companies. Also, there’s more of the requirement for real-world demonstration. When you realworld demonstrate something in the cleantech sector, that’s usually connected to buildings or infrastructure, which then makes everybody every nervous – what if something happens (to the infrastructure)? That also makes investors very nervous. They like to be able to have a fairly quick return on investment, or they’re used to that more secure environment of other sectors. We can find investors from outside of Canada – there are all kinds of them. But we don’t have a lot of local investors. They’re willing to go when the product is at the commercialization stage, but cleantech is a relatively new sector. The other (issue) is finding demonstration sites.
TRENDS TO WATCH
The biggest areas of growth are going to be smart grid, energy storage, water, transportation and anything that is in waste-to-energy. These are all going to be huge areas. Energy storage, to become optimized, needs to be able to go from zero to full charge quickly, it needs to be consistent in that you have (power) when you need it. This is kind of like the holy grail for smart grid.
The other area is what can done be in relation to infrastructure – how you make sure infrastructure is going to be safe (during natural disasters such as flooding).
The cleantech sector has the capability of becoming what the high-tech sector was for Ottawa back in the ’80s and ’90s. I think people are just starting to see that.
This interview is part of a six-piece series examining Ottawa's key technology sectors. It originally appeared in the fall edition of Ottawa Technology Magazine.