Women in Cleantech Challenge announces 10 semifinalists

TORONTO, September 5, 2018 — MaRS and Natural Resources Canada are pleased to announce the 10 semifinalists for the Women in Cleantech Challenge. On September 18, these 10 cleantech entrepreneurs will pitch their innovations to a panel of judges and five finalists will be selected to participate in an intensive 30-month accelerator program and compete for a $1-million grand prize.

“Women are under-represented in the innovation economy with only a small percentage of Canadian tech companies being led by women,” said Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, Amarjeet Sohi. “Our Government wants to change that, and the Women in Cleantech Challenge is a significant step towards that goal.”

“MaRS Cleantech is thrilled to welcome these top innovators from across the country to the Women in Cleantech Challenge semi-finals,” says Jon Dogterom, managing director of MaRS Cleantech Venture Services. “We’re looking forward to working with the five finalists over the next two-and-a-half years to help them grow their businesses into game-changing companies.”

The 10 semifinalists, listed below, have developed innovative solutions in areas including climate change, green growth and the application of new technologies to reduce negative environmental impacts.

  • Evelyn Allen (Ontario) has developed a manufacturing platform for producing large-area nanofilms made of graphene and other 2D “wonder” materials. Such films are increasingly used in cleantech applications, including water purification, energy storage, corrosion prevention, sensing, and smart packaging. The process developed is more energy-efficient and aims to be dramatically less costly than existing approaches.
  • Julie Angus (British Columbia) has developed autonomous energy-harvesting boats that will transform oceanographic research, marine transportation, oil and gas, and defence. The boats will carry environmental sensors, cameras and communication devices that will allow them to make oceanographic observations, act as communication gateways for sub-sea sensors, and more.
  • Nasim Arianpoo (British Columbia) has developed a platform that provides process manufacturers with real-time data monitoring and process failure prediction to reduce waste and fuel consumption while increasing production by a remarkable margin.
  • Nivatha Balendra (Quebec) has developed a sustainable way of remediating oil contamination, such as spills or tailing ponds, using biodegradable lipids produced by a specific strain of bacteria. The lipids are capable of breaking down hydrocarbons in a sustainable manner, unlike conventional approaches that rely on chemical detergents that are harmful to the environment.
  • Bethany Deshpande (New Brunswick) is founder of a “precision-dairy” company that uses deep-learning to keep cows healthy, reduce waste in the supply chain, and help farmers run more profitable operations. Using proprietary sensors and artificial intelligence, the technology can identify disease and other sources of contamination in milk before production so that farmers can take preventative measures to reduce the quantity of milk that might otherwise be rejected. At the same time, farmers can use the information to increase the overall efficiency of their operations. It is expected that this technology can be adapted to other domains to achieve similar environmental and safety benefits as in the agricultural sector.
  • Amanda Hall (Alberta) has developed an improved method of lithium-ion resource extraction from produced brine water. The approach has the potential to create an inexpensive and sustainable source of green lithium for batteries used in electric vehicles, portable devices and mobile gadgets, all of which are fast-growing, multibillion-dollar markets.
  • Sidney Omelon (Quebec) has developed phosphorus capture technology from municipal wastewater treatment and agriculture operations. By reclaiming phosphorus nutrients from waste, the technology reduces the need to mine and process phosphate rock, an essential non-renewable resource, to produce phosphorus fertilizer for agriculture.
  • Gem Shoute (Alberta) has developed a solution that reduces the consumption of energy and raw materials in research and development and manufacturing. Using predictive technology, the product will simulate the growth of materials and discover ways to optimize product development and the overall manufacturing of advanced materials essential to many clean technologies.
  • Alexandra Tavasoli (Ontario) has developed a greenhouse gas (GHG) to fuel technology that converts waste CO2 or methane into syngas using solar energy and novel, nanostructured, light-activated materials known as “photocatalysts.” The approach could prove a powerful, energy-efficient way to turn CO2 captured from power plants or the atmosphere into clean chemicals and fuels.
  • Luna Yu (Ontario) has developed a solution that allows organic waste to be diverted from landfills and economically converted into a type of bioplastics called polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA). PHA bioplastics are fully biodegradable in marine and terrestrial environments. Products that can be manufactured from PHA bioplastics include packaging films, bags, containers, and utensils.

The five finalists will be selected by a five-member jury of experts in the fields of STEM, clean technology, business development and environmental awareness.

Each finalist will receive support including:

  • business incubator support (valued at $300,000) from MaRS;
  • the opportunity to work with federal labs to develop their technology (up to $250,000 in value); and
  • an annual $115,000 stipend for living and travel expenses for the two-and-a-half-year duration of the challenge.

After a two-and-a-half-year incubation period at MaRS, the five entrepreneurs will vie for a $1-million prize to invest in their new cleantech business.

To RSVP for the Women in Cleantech Challenge Semi-Finals, click here.

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Media contacts
Lara Torvi
MaRS Discovery District