Clean tech and the diverse technologies that comprise the sector are shaping up as a key plank of the Liberal government’s forthcoming innovation agenda but a major fund intended to elevate Canada into the major leagues has proven to be an ill-timed bust.
The Next Generation Biofuels Fund (NGBF) was a $500-million commitment by the previous government unveiled in its inaugural 2007 Budget. It was aimed at supporting the creation of large-scale facilities that produce renewable fuels from agricultural and wood waste (R$, March 26/07). Ten years later, the first two projects funded under the program have been funded to the tune of about $91 million. The remainder of the money will sunset in 2017 and return to the treasury (see page 3).
Predicting market demand and investing in innovation involves a degree of risk, but the magnitude of the misjudgement is astounding. The money was idle for so long that even the Forest Products Association of Canada proposed that it could better utilize the money to make its sector more sustainable and globally competitive (R$, September 24/14).
Regardless of the clean tech provisions in tomorrow’s Budget, there will be new investment coming as the government learns more about the capabilities, opportunities and barriers faced by companies seeking to capitalize on sustainable development initiatives in Canada and globally.
Hopefully the unspent money in the NGBF can be put to good use with a sound plan in place to ensure maximum uptake, leverage and impact.