Be inspired by stories of companies that have benefitted from Clean Growth Hub services and are leading innovation in cleantech.
Aspire Food Group
"Any company with an environmental mandate and the resources to invest in innovation can benefit from a conversation with the Clean Growth Hub."
Aspire Food Group was founded in Montreal, Quebec, in 2013 to address the pressing issue of food security and the environmental impact of traditional agriculture through the responsible farming of insects – specifically crickets. At the time, insect protein was still on the fringes of the North America market, despite being a common source of sustenance elsewhere in the world.
Aspire knew that in order for cricket protein to be considered a viable option in the mainstream market, two things needed to change:
- The experience of eating insects needed to improve to accommodate the North American palate.
- The cost to produce protein from crickets needed to be reduced to make it an attractive alternative to traditional sources of protein.
To address both of these obstacles, the company raised an impressive US$4.25 million in Series A and US$9 million in Series B funding to establish a pilot facility in Austin, Texas.
It was there that the team spent five years researching the conditions necessary for crickets to thrive and exploring the incorporation of automation into the production process. As a result, the company amassed the world's largest cricket database, generated nearly 400 unique scientific discoveries, filed 11 patents, identified over two dozen trade secrets and developed five technologies. Most importantly, the process developed by Aspire has enabled the company to achieve a 64.7% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (compared to the production of meat-based protein).
In 2019, Aspire decided to put their years of research to use in a commercial-scale facility. The company took the opportunity to return to their roots and shift operations back to Canada. One of the key reasons for this shift was the broad suite of support programs offered by the Government of Canada. According to Anne Waddell, Director of Government Affairs at Aspire, the dedication demonstrated by the federal government to assist small businesses with their growth through initiatives such as the Superclusters and organizations such as Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) was a significant factor in the decision to move Aspire back to Canada.
The breadth of the support provided by the federal government can, however, act as a double-edged sword. The sheer volume of funding programs offered by seemingly innumerable government departments and quasi-government organizations can be overwhelming to small businesses like Aspire. It was for this reason that, when the company set out in 2019 to navigate Canada's complex federal funding landscape, they immediately sought the assistance of the Clean Growth Hub.
The Hub offered invaluable insight into the nature of the funding programs available to Aspire and provided helpful guidance in selecting the programs most appropriate for the company. By pointing Aspire in the right direction, the Hub saved the company time and money, both of which are in short supply for small businesses seeking to scale up.
As a result, Aspire was able to focus only on their most promising opportunities. They have since received CA$10 million from SDTC and CA$16.8 million from Canada's Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster to build the world's first fully automated, food-grade insect protein manufacturing site in London, Ontario. The plant will be North America's densest protein production system. Aspire is collaborating with Telus Agriculture, A&L Canada Laboratories, Swiftlabs and DarwinAI on this industry-leading project, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2021.
"Our contact at the Clean Growth Hub has taken the time to deeply understand what we do at HTEC, as well as our vision for the future of hydrogen in Canada. The combined result of sector expertise, a broad view of federal programing and genuine interest in our company goals makes the Hub a critical resource for our company as we continue to engage with the federal government."
Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) have the potential to dramatically reduce automotive emissions in Canada. Powered by the chemical reaction that occurs when hydrogen and oxygen are combined, these vehicles produce no emissions but water. Offering longer ranges and faster refueling than their battery-run electric counterparts, FCEVs are the ideal solution for long haul, heavy payload trucks, which are essential to the movement of goods across Canada's vast geography.
FCEVs also offer the attractive environmental benefit of being net-zero, provided that the hydrogen used to power the FCEVs is either blue (produced from fossil fuels in combination with carbon capture technologies) or green (produced using electrolysis powered by renewable sources).
Canada requires an extensive hydrogen infrastructure to capitalize on the potential of FCEVs and HTEC was founded in 2005 to address this need. At a time when there were virtually no FCEVs on the road, the company set out to unlock hydrogen's potential by building supply solutions and station networks to support the rollout of FCEVs.
In 2018, the company opened Canada's first retail hydrogen refueling station in Vancouver, British Columbia. HTEC now builds, owns and operates hydrogen production facilities, distribution systems and fueling stations in British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec and California.
Being on the leading edge of a disruptive industry, HTEC has observed the ebb and flow of government support for hydrogen over the years.
The company knows how challenging it can be to secure federal funding and how important it is to be aware of shifts in policy that affect the FCEV industry. To help Canadian companies such as HTEC overcome these challenges, the Clean Growth Hub was established in 2018.
Over the years, the Hub has provided HTEC with invaluable support as the company continues to seek funding to build its network of refuelling stations across the country. Through regular touchpoints, the Hub works closely with HTEC to discuss projects and identify new funding opportunities, as well as providing status updates on proposals under review.
Engagement with the Hub has allowed the company to make more informed decisions about which funding opportunities to pursue and enabled HTEC to secure $4 million in funding through Natural Resources Canada's Electric Vehicle and Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Deployment Initiative.
HTEC has since expanded its federal support to two significant equity investments – a $20 million investment from US-based Chart Industries Inc. (Chart), a leading global manufacturer of liquefaction and cryogenic equipment for the energy and industrial gas markets, followed by $217 million investment in the Company by Chart and I Squared Capital (ISQ). ISQ is an independent global infrastructure investment manager focusing on clean energy, utilities, telecom and transport in the Americas, Europe, and Asia.
"The Hub is an essential intermediary in the funding process, facilitating communication between companies and departments within the federal government. Their role is particularly important for companies operating in transformational industries, like fusion."
The world needs an abundant and clean source of energy that offers the stability of traditional energy infrastructure, readily responds to surges in demand and is environmentally friendly. Nuclear fusion has the potential to meet these criteria.
Fusion involves the use of extremely high heat to fuse together two stable hydrogen isotopes. The process releases a great amount of energy, which is harnessed to create electricity. Unlike its more common cousin, nuclear fission, which involves the splitting of heavy elements into smaller nuclei, fusion does not create long-lived radioactive waste as a by-product. Fusion is also considered to be an environmentally friendly supplement to battery storage and intermittent energy sources, like solar and wind.
Despite its benefits, fusion energy has not yet been fully commercialized, because of the complexity and cost of sustaining the extreme temperature and pressure required for hydrogen molecules to combine.
With the goal of creating economically viable fusion energy, General Fusion was founded in 2002 in Burnaby, British Columbia. The company has since spent two decades improving its Magnetized Target Fusion (MTF) approach, which maximizes the use of existing industrial technologies. The result is a more cost-effective and practical approach to fusion that will accelerate the commercialization and widespread use of MTF technology to generate energy.
General Fusion is now preparing to build a Fusion Demonstration Plant, a scaled down version of a planned commercial facility. Funding for the plant is coming from both public and private sources.
A significant element of General Fusion's fundraising efforts was an application to the Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF). Due to the large scale of SIF funding, the application process was time consuming and complex. General Fusion turned to the Clean Growth Hub for guidance during the process.
According to Jay Brister, Chief Business Development Officer at General Fusion, the Hub was instrumental in the company's ability to secure a contribution agreement of $50 million through the SIF. The Hub guided the company to better understand the intricacies of the application process and the objectives of the SIF program. The Hub also raised awareness of nuclear fusion among SIF administrators to ensure the proposed project was well understood.
The $50 million federal contribution helped General Fusion leverage private sector investments of almost $86 million in Series E equity financing for its Fusion Demonstration Plant in 2019.