MaRS, Schulich partner on promoting climate innovations

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A creative partnership between MaRS and the Schulich School of Business at York University gave eight undergraduate and graduate business students an inside look over the past year at the many challenges climate tech ventures face as they try to grow their businesses for global impact.

MaRS Discovery District is North America’s largest urban innovation hub. A registered non-profit, MaRS supports high-growth startups and scale-ups tackling key issues in the health, cleantech, fintech and other sectors. In addition, MaRS convenes all members of the tech ecosystem to drive breakthrough discoveries, grow the economy and make an impact by solving real problems for real people – in Canada and around the world.

The students proved integral to the Mission from MaRS: Climate Impact Challenge, an initiative launched by MaRS in spring 2021 to help 10 of Canada’s most promising climate ventures accelerate deployment of their commercial solutions and overcome barriers that have held back their potential.

“Giving business students exposure to different careers that touch sustainability themes, particularly those focused on innovation and entrepreneurship, was also an important aspect of the MaRS-Schulich partnership,” said Dirk Matten, professor of sustainability and founding director of the school’s Centre of Excellence in Responsible Business.

As part of the program, a special coalition of industry experts and corporate partners was established to act as industry advisors for each of the 10 ventures. Each participating Schulich student was also assigned to a venture as a coalition Fellow. The students attended monthly roundtables and workshops, conducted research, and drafted strategy documents that captured coalition work.

In exchange, the students earned academic credits and got the chance to connect and interact with a broad network of stakeholders, including entrepreneurs, scientists, engineers, investors, government officials and other subject matter experts who supported coalition activities. They also learned about some groundbreaking technologies that can help Canada and the world achieve net-zero by 2050.

“Theory and business books are no doubt important parts of a university education, but at the end of the day students looking to launch or advance their careers also need to get out of the classroom and start building their own networks,” said Tyler Hamilton, director of cleantech at MaRS and program lead for Mission from MaRS. “What better way to do that than sit in the trenches with professionals and entrepreneurs trying to solve big challenges and seize opportunities in real time?”

“Schulich and MaRS are the premier thought leaders when it comes to leveraging business to address climate change in Canada,” says Matten. “Our collaboration is an innovative step to harness the creativity and vision of the next generation to lead disruptive change.”

MaRS and Schulich plan to extend this successful partnership into the next phase of the Mission from MaRS program, called Net-Zero Missions, which will continue the model of building multi-stakeholder industry coalitions focused on busting down the barriers to innovation adoption in Canada’s cleantech sector.

“This program is a unique learning experience. It provides tremendous resources and insights for young professionals eager to contribute to the path to net zero. Personally, my favourite experience was being part of a team and working with stakeholders to accelerate the development and scaling of climate solutions,” says Ambrose Li, Mission from MaRS coalition Fellow and recent MBA graduate.

More about Mission from MaRS

Mission from MaRS is an ambitious technology adoption program that tackles society’s greatest challenges by rapidly accelerating the widespread deployment of Canada’s most effective innovations to address them. Our first mission, the Climate Impact Challenge, aims to identify, implement, and scale Canadian climate-tech solutions with the highest potential to reduce GHG emissions while economically meeting industry needs, at scale. The mission aims to eliminate barriers to adoption that prevent such solutions from realizing their global potential.

The Climate Impact Challenge has received generous donations from its founding funders – HSBC, RBC Foundation, Trottier Family Foundation and Thistledown Foundation. Program donors and partners also include Peter Gilgan Foundation, Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), Export Development Canada (EDC) and Mitsubishi Corporation (Americas).