Yesterday’s announcement of the RBC Generator‘s $500,000 investment in the MaRS Cleantech Fund is a big deal. Why? Because it shows that large, credible institutions are beginning to move their money toward solving big problems. That’s impact investing.

Impact investing is much more than just being a goody two-shoes. In a market economy, if you solve a big problem then you get a big reward. That’s how it works. And here at MaRS Cleantech, we’re working to solve what I believe is the mother of all problems – climate disruption.

Atmospheric carbon counts are fast approaching very dangerous levels. The International Energy Agency (IEA) confirmed in its 2011 World Energy Outlook (reconfirmed in 2012) that we’re on track for 5–6 C of warming this century. Ouch! To me this means our collective car is heading toward a climate cliff!

Clean, low-carbon energy technologies are our brakes. And that’s where RBC has put their money.

We at the MaRS Cleantech Fund take the long view. Cleantech is not a fad, game or passing fancy. The world will de-carbon, sooner or later, and companies that can deliver value in the market today – by reducing energy costs, lowering material inputs, making the grid smarter and more responsive, or just plain competing head-to-head with fossil fuels – will find themselves facing enormous demand in the years ahead. And our investors will, quite rightly, reap those rewards.

Here are some of the MaRS Cleantech Fund companies working to deliver those rewards:

  • Woodland Biofuels can produce ethanol from woodchips that’s cheaper than the gasoline it replaces.
  • CircuitMeter analyzes, at very low cost, every bit of energy consumption in a building – that means energy (and money) savings.
  • SPARQ Systems make the world’s lowest-cost micro-inverter – bringing the cost of rooftop solar down even more. Rooftop solar is cost-competitive in many parts of the world today –with no subsidies.

All of these companies are well-positioned for growth in a carbon-constrained world.

We at MaRS Cleantech believe the ‘impact’ of impact investing can increase returns if you’re smart. The global cleantech market is projected to be more than $2 trillion by 2020. It’s in the hundreds of billions now.

Welcome to MaRS cleantech, RBC. It’s going to be quite a ride!

Feature photo credit: RBC Media Newsroom

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…