Speeches | Sustainable Development Technology

09 December 2010

Honourable senators, in case you have not been here long enough, I thought I would make a few comments on something that has been a very good news story, but the risk is that if the government does not take some obvious and relatively, I would say, easy action, then it will become a bad news story.

I want to speak to Sustainable Development Technology Canada, an institution established in 2002 by the Liberal government as a policy instrument to deliver environmental and economic benefits to Canadians and to do that through well-placed, expertly analyzed investments in clean tech, high tech initiatives in Canada. Over these last eight years, it has fostered the development and demonstration of a variety of technological solutions that address, among other things, clean air, clean water, clean land and, yes, you guessed it, climate change.

It does this by forging innovative partnerships and building a sustainable development technology infrastructure, which has become literally one of the most highly recognized and appreciated such infrastructures in the world, consisting of expert technology analysts, investment analysts who have forged an immensely successful track record over those last number of years. I will refer to it as SDTC.

SDTC bridges the gap that has frequently been missed in the important chain of stages in the development of innovative ideas ultimately to commercially-viable products and services. There are many links in the innovation chain between research and commercialization. We think that it is from research to commercialization that successful projects and products evolve, but in fact there are a variety of steps along the way. Two of them are development and demonstration. These are, unfortunately, traditionally unsupported, but SDTC was established specifically to fill that gap and to take technologies from the laboratory, often literally, and to give them the resources or assist them in getting the resources to develop full-scale, real-world test situations from which they could derive greater funding and support, so that these could go on to be commercially-viable products and processes.

The track record has been truly outstanding. Over those eight years, SDTC has received $550 million in funding from the federal government. The majority of that came under the federal Liberal government. They have placed upwards of $500 million to this point. That $500 million has supported 195 projects. In turn, these projects have generated about three times again as much seed funding from the private sector and, in total, they have resulted in commercial projects in the order of $17.7 billion. This has resulted in thousands of jobs. I should point out that this money has been invested across the country, creating those jobs in each corner of this country.

They do this not by being interventionist in a classic sense or any kind of negative sense. SDTC has been very careful to develop its model of investment through collaboration among private, academic and public sector partners. As I mentioned earlier, they have provided tremendous leverage in the private sector equity markets for companies receiving their funding. In fact, there is tremendous analysis that demonstrates that companies that receive SDTC funding end up with a great deal more leverage for private sector funding than companies that do not receive that.

That is in part because the private sector capital markets have such confidence in the ability of SDTC to pick winners. Certainly, if they are not all winners, at least to pick very good technologies and companies that promise to have tremendous success. The very success of the SDTC is not something that they, in a sense, have to speak of themselves. It is proven by the private sector, which follows their lead in investing in these 195 companies.

I will mention two companies from Alberta that are very timely, given the debate right now about climate change and about the oil sands. Titanium Corporation is an Alberta company that extracts heavy minerals, primarily zircon — I know that Senator Day, who is an engineer, will know exactly what that is — and bitumen from tailings ponds. That is a prevalent problem in the media and in the environment at this very moment.

Titanium Corporation is developing a technology that promises to solve that problem in a way that is much quicker, reduces the water required in these tailings ponds, and can be done in a very economic way. That is one project that has received SDTC funding that is making real progress and promises to solve a huge problem for my home province of Alberta.

Quantiam Technologies Inc. is another Alberta company that has developed a coating for furnace tubes used to develop plastics derived from olefins, one of the most energy intensive petrochemicals to manufacture. This coating extends the lifetime of these furnace tubes and lowers the temperature needed for chemical reactions, which means the furnace is operationally more efficient, requires less fuel, is a less expensive process, and reduces the emissions of greenhouse gases as a result. It is particularly flexible in its application because this technology can be retrofitted to existing furnaces. The huge potential market for this technology could be as much as $1 billion globally.

I draw the attention of colleagues in the Senate, particularly on the government side, to this agency, SDTC, because it has done so much good in an area that is so important and in need of capital market support. It has distinguished itself in a way that we can only wish that every government agency that works with the private sector could distinguish itself. It has more than just distinguished itself, it is seen by the private sector to be a leader in this area of analyzing, for investment purposes, high-tech investment opportunities.

SDTC is truly a win for Canada. It is truly a win for our economy, for those people who have received jobs because of it, and it has tremendous potential for the future. There is no reason for it to stop, except one, and that is that it has not received any more funding from this government.

I simply raise this issue to encourage honourable senators, particularly on the government side, to approach their Prime Minister, the Ministers of Industry and Finance, to ensure that money is provided to SDTC so that it does not become yet another casualty of this government's inability to manage both the economy and the fiscal regime of this country.

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