In light of Earth Day, Tom Rand, managing partner at MaRS Cleantech Fund and a MaRS cleantech advisor, writes about the Fund’s investments in game-changing clean technology companies. 

In a market economy, if you solve a big problem you get a big reward. That’s usually how it works.

At MaRS Cleantech Fund we target some of the biggest problems facing our global industrial society: resource constraints and climate change. Not to put too fine a point on it, but if we don’t radically cut carbon emissions quickly, by century’s end we’ll see most of the Earth’s breadbaskets turned to desert, and storms like Sandy and Katrina will be the new norm. Companies that can deliver solutions will face unprecedented global demand as the world scrambles to rebuild our infrastructure and energy systems.

Cleantech is the technology component of a sustainable economic relationship with our ecosystem. If we want to reduce carbon emissions, for example, we rely on just behavioural change. Energy needs are growing and will continue to grow, no matter how noble our intention to conserve. We need massive amounts of clean energy—next-generation solar and biofuels—as well as energy storage and a smart and responsive electrical grid.

These are all technologies in which MaRS Cleantech Fund is invested. We find game-changing clean technology companies and provide something absolutely crucial: early-stage venture capital.

Here are a few examples:

  • Hydrostor is building the world’s first underwater compressed-air energy storage systems, both here in Toronto and down in Aruba. Low-cost storage combined with low-cost renewables will change global energy flows.
  • Woodland Biofuels Inc. is turning woodchips into ethanol at its pilot plant in Sarnia, Ontario.
  • Smart Energy Instruments has built the world’s most advanced sensor for the smart grid. It is so sensitive that it can tell which direction power is flowing at any point on the grid.

To see other innovative cleantech companies that we have invested in, visit the MaRS Cleantech Fund website.

Early-stage cleantech venture capital has been rare… until now

It is well documented that there has been a dearth of venture capital in Canada for some time, but rarer still is early-stage cleantech venture capital: that first few million dollars a cleantech company needs to build, demonstrate and validate its technology. That’s where we come in.

But we do more than just provide money. As part of the larger MaRS ecosystem we provide advice, connections to strategic partners, potential senior management and down-stream capital. Our goal is to build globally competitive cleantech companies: companies that will help stop our rush over the climate cliff.

We’re the Earth’s venture capital. By delivering returns to our investors, we’ll bring more capital into this space and just maybe turn down the heat.

Tom Rand

Tom leads MaRS’ role in the Canadian cleantech ecosystem and works with our Advisory Services group to support our growing portfolio of cleantech ventures. See more…