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Industry launches cleantech match-maker for forestry, mining, water

Here's how the new BC Net Zero Innovation Network aims to help industries reduce emissions
MP Parm Bains (left) and Foresight CEO Jeanette Jackson at launch of new BC Net Zero Innovation Network

A new B2B network is being launched in B.C. to match the mining and forestry sectors, as well as water managers, with cleantech companies and identify and adopt the best technology to reduce energy and emissions intensities.

In turn, it is hoped that providing a local customer base will help new B.C. cleantech companies grow and expand into other markets.

Foresight Canada, a cleantech accelerator, announced Wednesday the formation of the BC Net Zero Innovation Network, which will initially focus on three main sectors: forestry, mining and water management.

The new network is being set up with federal and provincial funding -- $5.2 million from PacifiCan (formerly Western Economic Diversification Canada) and $2.3 million from the B.C. government.

Foresight CEO Jeanette Jackson said she expects private sector contributions would bring the total investment up to $10.8 million.

The goal of the network will be to work with B.C. industries to help them select and adopt the appropriate cleantech solutions, some of which already exist, and some of which will need to be developed.

“There are an existing portfolio of clean technology solutions in Canada, in B.C., that haven’t yet been adopted,” Jackson said. “And what we hear from the demand side is they don’t have the capacity to evaluate the solutions, and they need some match-making support.

“Where no technology exists, we’ll identify those gaps and we will work with academia and other entrepreneurs to provide more solutions.”

“Foresight will work with these stakeholders, providing opportunities to collaborate and generate technological solutions to achieve their environmental and economic goals,” said Liberal MP Parm Bains (Steveston-Richmond East).

“By defining challenges and sharing best practices, this network will accelerate the development and adoption of clean technology solutions. In turn, this will help B.C.’s cleantech innovators access new markets and attract world-class talent to British Columbia.”

“This project is expected to spur growth for B.C. clean-tech, creating 240 new jobs, and attracting $280 million in sector investment," Bains said.

In forestry, one area the network will likely focus on is technology that uses wood waste.

“Looking at all that waste – how do we turn it into biofuels, how do we look at new uses for lignin and other things like that?” Jackson said.

As for water, Jackson said a lot of energy goes into purifying and moving drinking water in municipal and regional systems. The new network will work with municipal and regional water managers to help them reduce their energy use.

“Same thing with industry,” Jackson added. “A lot of energy goes into -- after the manufacturing and industrial process – (cleaning) the water and redistribute it. And we have great water companies here. We have desalination, we have testing, and both digital and hardware solutions for purification."

Acuva is just one example of a B.C. company in the water purification space. It uses UV-LED light to kill pathogens in water, as an alternative to chlorination.

As for B.C.’s oil and gas sector – the province’s largest emitter of GHGs by sector --  Jackson said networking with that sector will be handled by Foresight’s office in Alberta, since that is where most of the oil and gas companies are based.

It is hoped that by matching cleantech companies with B.C. industries that need solutions it will provide a springboard for growth.

“The idea is to drive local adoption and have them grow and scale here, and have industry at the table early on in the innovation process,” Jackson said.

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