Women in Cleantech Challenge selects six finalists at live pitch session

TORONTO, September 18, 2018 — Six women have been selected to compete for a $1-million grand prize in the finals of a national competition to find Canada’s most promising female cleantech entrepreneur.

The six finalists in the Women in Cleantech Challenge were selected at a live pitch competition at MaRS Discovery District in Toronto on Tuesday by a panel of five judges that included author Margaret Atwood, who is a prominent advocate for the advancement of women, as well as experts in clean technology, STEM, business and environmental issues.

The finalists will now participate in an intensive 30-month business accelerator program before competing for the $1-million prize to invest in their business.

The jury had planned to name five finalists, but increased it to six because of the high-calibre of ideas presented.

The six finalists are:

  • Evelyn Allen (Ontario) has developed a manufacturing platform for producing large-area nanofilms, which are ultra-thin layers made of graphene and other advanced materials. These films can be used in a wide range of applications, including water purification, energy storage, corrosion prevention, sensing, and smart packaging. Allen’s process is more energy-efficient and less costly than existing nanofilm manufacturing techniques.
  • Julie Angus (British Columbia) has developed automated boats that will transform oceanographic research, marine transportation, oil and gas exploration, 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.
  • 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.
  • Amanda Hall (Alberta) has developed an improved method of lithium-ion resource extraction from brine water. The approach has the potential to create an inexpensive and sustainable source of lithium for batteries used in electric vehicles and mobile devices, which are fast-growing, multibillion-dollar markets.
  • Alexandra Tavasoli (Ontario) has developed a technology that converts waste greenhouse gases into useful syngas, a type of fuel, using solar energy and new light-activated materials known as photocatalysts. The approach could prove a powerful, energy-efficient way to turn waste CO2 or methane 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 bioplastic called polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA). PHA bioplastics can be used in packaging films, bags, containers and utensils, and are fully biodegradable in marine and terrestrial environments.

Each of the winners 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.

“Congratulations to all of the participants in the Women in Cleantech Challenge,” says Yung Wu, CEO of MaRS. “From new manufacturing technologies to renewable energy solutions, the ideas pitched today demonstrate tremendous potential for our cleantech sector. I would like to wish this incredible group of innovators all the best. And to the six finalists: I can’t wait to watch you scale your ideas into global success stories.”

“Today’s Women in Cleantech Challenge event is a great example of our Government’s commitment to promoting greater gender parity,” said Amarjeet Sohi, Minister of Natural Resources Canada. “This is nowhere more true than in cleantech, a sector that holds the key to Canada’s low-carbon economy. On behalf of all Canadians, I offer congratulations to the winners and all Challenge participants for their contribution to Canada’s cleantech leadership.”

The Women in Cleantech Challenge is jointly supported by MaRS and Natural Resources Canada. It received 150 applications from across Canada. Ten semi-finalists were invited to pitch their ideas before a live audience of more than 400 attendees.

The Challenge is the first of five challenges under Natural Resources Canada’s Cleantech Impact program, a $75-million initiative to introduce the use of prize challenges aimed at greater impacts from cleantech investments.

Additional links

Media contacts
Lara Torvi
MaRS Discovery District