How MaRS stands out in the world of clean energy innovation

How MaRS stands out in the world of clean energy innovation

Two months ago, during the Future of Energy summit, MaRS announced that it was to begin work on the Clean Energy Institute. This institute would serve as a centre of information, innovation and collaboration among emerging fields of clean and renewable energy generation, storage and efficiency.

This is not a new trend; the market size for renewable energy is currently estimated to be several trillion dollars, making clean energy innovation a massive global opportunity. Dozens of like institutions have sprung up all over the world, supporting international co-operation, training programs for cleantech innovators and investment in clean energy startups.

After several weeks of research, I found and gathered information on 64 institutes around the world, all of which support innovative cleantech endeavours either on the local, national or even international scale. While this was only a cursory search—limited by time, language and the energy capacity of one person—a few of these institutes struck me as unique and noteworthy.

The following map shows where these institutes are based. To view further details about each institute, including its name and URL, download the summary document here.

Clean energy institutes around the world
  • Greenstart is a young company based out of San Francisco. They take on, house, educate, fund and jumpstart a select, small number of cleantech startups and offer them $15,000 in funding up front.
  • Innovation Park is a proposed self-sustained mini-city near Mumbai, India, devoted to becoming an international hub of global innovation, wisdom, knowledge and creativity.
  • The Israel Science Technology and Innovation Policy Institute is another large endeavour designed to be a “do-tank”—as opposed to a think-tank—that strives to be a cross-sector platform for industry, academia and government to address challenges of research and development.
  • Global Cleantech Cluster Association is an international network of cleantech innovation hubs around the world; they connect clusters of clusters to share ideas and commercialize innovative energy sources faster.

So what does MaRS have to offer when compared to all these organizations? Plenty. 

Only a quarter of the institutes found offer all five of the services that MaRS provides. Most offer advice, industry linkages and access to capital for startups, but MaRS goes the extra mile by offering these three services in addition to education classes and incubation space.

Additionally, only a third of the institutes offer space for in-house research, and hardly any of them offer a strategy for how to implement innovative energy solutions. MaRS excels at both of these things, and in particular, this is where the Clean Energy Institute really picks up speed.“The mission and the goal [of the energy institute] is to help drive energy innovation in the local market with the view of getting it into the international market,” says Jon Dogterom, Cleantech, Advanced Materials and Engineering Practice Lead at MaRS. The Institute will go about doing so by bringing in key stakeholders in energy — policy-makers and regulators — to help commercialize new and innovative energy generation methods more quickly and on a greater scale.

Such a step certainly does make the Clean Energy Institute unique, and such a model can promise success for Canadian clean energy startups.