Discover the solutions that can transform our world — for the better

Discover the solutions that can transform our world — for the better

The challenges presented by climate change and the pandemic can seem insurmountable. But there are viable solutions. These innovations, models and technologies will be centre stage at MaRS Impact Week, a five-day immersive online conference with keynote talks, workshops and panel discussions. From new ways to fund social change to systems that trap greenhouse gas emissions, there will be no shortage of transformational ideas to discover. Here are some of the sessions where you will find bold answers to the key questions we face.


How do we give the innovation economy a leg up?

Business and philanthropy used to occupy two separate worlds, but a new wave of foundations and entrepreneurs are building funding models that borrow concepts from both. As philanthropists develop a greater appetite for experimentation and risk, they are opening new ways to fund innovative ventures creating impact and driving progress on social and environmental issues.

What: Innovative funding models: Venture philanthropy

When: Monday, Nov. 30

Who: Sally Boulter, ImpactAssets; Sarah Kearney, Prime Coalition; Katie Ellias, JDRF T1D Fund; Jim Bildner, Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation; Kristin Romaine, VertueLab


What clean technologies are on the horizon?

Four of Canada’s most promising cleantech entrepreneurs discuss their cutting-edge technologies, including systems for storing electricity in metal and capturing carbon in concrete. All four panelists were winners of the federal government’s Breakthrough Energy Solutions Canada competition.

What: Breaking through

When: Monday, Nov. 30

Who: James Larsen, e-Zinc; Russell Pullan, Havelaar; Rob Niven, CarbonCure; Evelyn Allen, Evercloak; Kathleen Gnocato, MaRS (moderator)


How should we fund social change?

The pandemic has created a growing need for effective social programs to tackle hard-to-solve issues, such as homelessness, poverty and chronic ill health. A new financing model is emerging that incentivizes service organizations to innovate and deliver quality programs, by tying funding directly to the measurable outcomes they create.

What: Innovative funding models: Outcome funding

When: Wednesday, Dec. 2

Who: Alasdair Maclay, Global Steering Group for Impact Investment; Radana Crhova, Government of the U.K.; Kia Kavoosi, MaRS (moderator)


Can our communities become more resilient?

Smart technologies should enable city services to become more agile and better able to respond to crises. With climate change increasingly putting communities in the path of threats like floods or wildfires, what lessons can be drawn from the pandemic to help prepare for — and recover from ­­— the next disaster?

What: Intelligent cities

When: Wednesday, Dec. 2

Who: Remi Desa, Pantonium; Ken Cartmill, LED Roadway/Livable Cities; Alex Zakreski, Parity; Santhosh Kumar Madathil, Wipro; Sasha Sud, MaRS (moderator)


What’s needed to make cities smarter?

Uncharted Power is quite literally laying the groundwork for connected cities. The company installs networks of tiny data and power centres under streets, turning the entire urban landscape into a platform for IoT devices. The goal: transform the way cities operate by making it cheaper and easier to deploy smart technologies anywhere.

What: Power talk

When: Wednesday, Dec. 2

Who: Jessica Matthews, Uncharted Power; Manjula Selvarajah, CBC Radio


How can we increase diversity in business?

Arlan Hamilton was the first ever Black, queer woman to build a venture capital fund. And she started it while homeless. Hamilton now manages Backstage Capital, which has invested nearly $12 million into startups led by founders who are women, people of colour or LGBTQ. Her guiding principle is that founders who are often overlooked by other investors have to be resilient, so offer the best chances of outsized returns.

What: Arlan Hamilton in conversation with Michelle McBane

When: Thursday, Dec. 3

Who: Arlan Hamilton, Backstage Capital; Michelle McBane, StandUp Ventures


How do we get carbon emissions under control?

To avert the worst-case scenarios for climate change, global carbon emissions have to fall by 45 percent by 2030. Game-changing technologies are urgently needed. Three entrepreneurs discuss their bold ideas.

What: Climate moonshots

When: Thursday, Dec. 3

Who: Marcius Extavour, XPRIZE (moderator); Ibraheem Khan, Smarter Alloys/Extract Energy; Grant Strem, Proton Technologies; Steve Oldham, Carbon Engineering


What role can companies play in fighting climate change?

One of the hurdles in cleantech is securing early support to help fund the development of the technology. This is where large corporations can play a vital role. Stacy Kauk, director of Shopify’s Sustainability Fund, talks about the commerce leader’s unique approach to investing in carbon reduction technologies.

What: Creative capital

When: Monday, Nov. 30

Who: Stacy Kauk, Shopify Sustainability Fund; Alex Ryan, MaRS

Check out the full schedule for MaRS Impact Week here.