New Incubator Plans to Accelerate Clean Tech

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By Maura Forrest

October 9, 2014

A new clean technology incubator is starting up in Montreal this fall, and promises to give entrepreneurs the tools they need to succeed.

Ecofuel was launched last week by Cycle Capital, a Quebec-based venture capital fund. The incubator will offer a six-week program twice a year to selected clean tech start-ups.

The program will include training and networking workshops, as well as extensive mentoring. It will also provide seed financing of up to $100,000.

“Our objective is to help propel our entrepreneurs to build a robust and ambitious business plan to present to investors at the end of the program,” said Simon McDougall, the accelerator’s CEO, in a press release.

Incubators are becoming more popular in Canada, as fledgling companies seek guidance as well as funding. In fact, a 2014 report found that Canada has the highest rate of incubator participation in the world.

And the clean tech sector has jumped on the accelerator bandwagon. Sustainable Development Technology Canada, a not-for-profit foundation that distributes the bulk of government funding for clean technology, launched its virtual incubator program in 2012, after applicants to its tech fund said they would benefit from more mentoring.

In 2013, 10 start-ups were chosen to participate in a new Canadian Technology Accelerator program for the clean tech industry. The program partnered with Canadian consulates in New York and San Francisco to help entrepreneurs reach U.S. markets.

Foresight Cleantech Accelerator Centre, B.C.’s first clean technology incubator, was launched that same year.

Incubators have become increasingly common in recent years – a 2011 report estimated that around 7,000 exist worldwide.

But there is still very little concrete evidence that incubators actually work. The 2011 report found that the most successful incubators are not-for-profit and have public sector investment. But how the participating companies fare compared to those that don’t use incubators remains unclear.

Part of the problem is that many accelerator programs are quite new, making it difficult to gauge their long-term impact. And that means it could be quite a while before we find out if Ecofuel is a success.