Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

Inviting all students: Sustainable Engineers Association Conference @ University of Toronto

This Saturday, Nicolas Morgan (our co-founder and the original author of this blog) will be speaking at the 3rd Annual Sustainable Engineers Association (SEA) Sustainability Conference at U of T’s Hart House.

The conference is designed to bring together students of ALL disciplines who are passionate about sustainable development.

It seems like a good opportunity to refine a final year engineering project, or learn about what’s going on in industry/ government to consider career options. If you’re of the entrepreneurial bent, there’s a panel on that which may be of interest too.

The theme of the conference? Overcoming obstacles in sustainability. Nic will be on a panel discussing the future of energy; other key themes include transportation and public policy.

Here’s a run-down of the pertinent details:

Date: February 2nd, 2013, at 9 AM
Location: Hart House Great Hall. See the Hart House Website for directions.
Registration: $10 deposit via credit card, will be refunded to you in full only after checking in at the conference reception desk.

Breakfast and lunch will be provided.
Dress code: Business Casual

To register and for more conference details visit: http://sustainable-engineers.org/seac/.

2013.01_Sustainable Engineers Association

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The Canadian Innovation Commercialization Program – and intelligent blends of public-private investment to cross the ‘Valley of Death’

Last Friday, we were thrilled to be selected as 1 of 5 pre-qualified innovations in Toronto that the Federal Government may buy and test via its Canadian Innovation Commercialization Program.  In total, 36 innovations qualified across Canada, in what is the program’s second round. The full press release is available here.

As an added bonus, Public Works and Government Services Canada, who administer the CICP program, organized an event at 30 Ordnance to announce the  Toronto innovations. We had the great honour of hosting the Honourable Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade and Minister of the Asia-Pacific Gateway, as well as his PWGSC colleagues, representatives from the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation (MEDI), and other companies who either were selected for the program, or who are interested in applying for the next round.

Here are some photos I took from the morning, starting with John Paul explaining the Sun Simba™  technology to Minister Fast, as his father Eric Morgan (left), also the Strategic Advisor to our Board, and Manny Agiropoulos from PWGSC, look on.

Canadian Innovation Commercialization Program Media Event

John Paul Morgan, CTO of Morgan Solar, explains the Sun Simba™ technology to Minister Fast.

CICP Media Event - the Honourable Ed Fast's Speech

Minister Fast announces the Toronto-based innovations that qualified for the CICP Program, and speaks of the importance of innovation to the Canadian economy. Nic Morgan spoke after on the value of Canada's R&D support to companies like Morgan Solar.

Mantech, Morgan Solar, and Minister Fast announcing CICP pre-qualified companies
From left to right: Robert Menegotto, President of Mantech Inc.; the Honourable Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway; Nicolas Morgan, VP Biz Dev of Morgan Solar; John Paul Morgan; CTO of Morgan Solar; and Manny Agiropoulos, Chief of SME Stakeholder Engagement at Public Works and Government Services Canada. 

My initial impression from mentioning CICP to others in the industry is that it’s a little lesser known than other Federal and Provincial commercialization programs, perhaps because it’s relatively new. It fills a much-needed gap though, which is the space between the R&D support programs that have a hard stop at your first sale – e.g. Ontario’s Innovation Demonstration Fund and the Federal Sustainable Development Technology Fund Canada – and the incentives that governments offer more established companies to locate R&D and/ or manufacturing, and their associated jobs, in a given place – e.g. Ontario’s Strategic Jobs and Investment Fund.

That’s why programs like CICP, which encourage early adopters to purchase a new technology for demonstration, are so valuable. They represent  “intelligent blends of public and private investment”, as a 2005 Forbes article on new technology commercialization put it, that help start-ups traverse that affectionately called ‘Valley of Death’ – the gulf between R&D completion stage, and successful commercialization.

CPV in France

John Paul was in a different European country every day last week. Exhilarating, but probably exhausting.

On one of these days, he was in France meeting with SolarQuest, who we are partnering with on a medium-scale demo site in their home city, Aix-en-Provence. The regional newspaper La Provence wrote about the visit in this article, which gives an overview of the relationship between both early-stage companies. The article resolution isn’t great – apologies – but essentially, SolarQuest specializes in project development, we’ll supply Sun Simbas for a demo site, and we hope to grow the relationship beyond this.

It’s a fairly obvious point, but partnerships like this are key when trying to enter new markets – the business development, sales, commissioning, service and support resources and know-how can quickly become overwhelming. Regional partners that have these core competencies can be valuable tools for any solar energy start-up looking to expand.

A shorter write up from La Provence is available online, in better res, here: Morgan Solar: l’ami Canadien du SolarQuest.

I have to admit though, beyond knowing that the DNI is decent (5.7 kWh/ sq. m in the South), and that the government just put a 4-month moratorium on some solar projects while it drafts new FIT regulations, I don’t know a whole lot about the CPV or PV market in the country. Anything exciting going on that you know about?

Update:

This just in from the Photon Newsletter (Feb. 24, 2011): The French Government introduced a 500MW annual cap for photovoltaic installations and a 20% reduction of the feed-in-tariffs

(The Feb .22 Press Release from the French Government is here).

 

Report: Canada and U.S. Renewable Energy Spending Compared

An interesting report just released by Environmental Defence (a Canadian non-profit) and the United Steelworkers (one of the largest private sector unions in Canada) draws attention to Canada’s lag on renewable energy spending as compared to the U.S.

The report argues that job creation, economic recovery, and environmental health in Canada will trail behind other countries if the federal government does not throw its weight behind this new economic sector.  According to the report, in 2008, Canada ranked 31st out of 42 countries for clean energy sales relative to GDP, barely ahead of Tunisia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Egypt.

Of course, the renewable energy sector does have seemingly unstoppable momentum at the moment, a number of sound green energy policies are popping up in the country (see British Colombia’s recently announced Clean Energy Act, or the federal  government’s Sustainable Development Technology Program), and progressive policies in some countries can’t help but bring up the industry globally.

Ontario’s Green Energy Act, passed on May 14, 2009, put the province on the world map as a lucrative, supportive renewable energy market, so it might have been easier to lose sight of the big picture.  But it’s worth taking a step back.  The Canadian Solar Industry Association has a lead on this.  Recognizing the lack of a coherent national strategy for solar energy, they’ve realigned their priorities to develop one.  We look forward to reading CANSia Solar Vision 2025 which, according to their Spring/ Summer 2010 newsletter, they will present at their December conference in Toronto.

Relatedly – Happy Canada Day everyone!

Happy Canada Day!

Three upcoming renewable energy events

3rd Solar Energy Investment & Finance Summit USA

In the next few weeks, I’ll be speaking at three events.  The first is the 3rd Solar Energy Investment & Finance Summit USA, on May 5th & 6th in San Francisco.  I’ll be speaking on the afternoon of Wednesday the 5th, discussing how we secured our funding.  I’ll also participate in some Working Group discussions, and I’m looking forward to these.  If you’re in San Francisco, but not attending the conference, I’ll be there from Monday, May 3rd to the afternoon of Thursday, May 6th.

The second conference is the 9th Ontario Power Summit, here in Toronto from May 6th to 7th (I’ll have to miss the first day as I’ll still be in San Francisco).  There, I’ll be focusing more on our technology than our company as a whole, although there will definitely be overlap between the two sessions.  Both of these conferences are fairly expensive to attend, but if you’re going to either, let me know.  After the events, I’ll post my presentation materials here, and a summary of the talks or video if they’re available.

The last one I’ll be speaking at is the 5th Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) Discovery conference, also in Toronto, held from May 17th to 18th.  I’ll be speaking on a panel on solar innovations – more details and the time of this panel to come.  Morgan Solar will also have a booth for both days of the conference.

Matching innovation and investment in the solar industry

MaRS came to our office the other week to make a documentary for their ‘Meet the Entrepreneurs’ series.  You can watch the video, which focuses the lens squarely on John Paul Morgan and on the innovation process, here. It compliments another just-released MaRS video – this one of a seminar on solar energy investment that they hosted with Deloitte and Ogilvy Renault. Nic Morgan was one of the industry panelists.

A key point that comes through in both videos is the need to match risk-taking innovators with risk-taking financiers – of course, the risk has to be carefully evaluated, and grounded in what’s possible.

3 points made on this topic:

1. Innovation is not a single event.  It occurs well before start-up and well after. (said most directly in the second video by Professor Ted Sargent, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Toronto)

2. It takes 4-5 years for a technology to be tested and integrated into the market.  The implication of this for renewable energy is that grid parity – the point at which renewable energy production meets or exceeds the cost of conventional energy production – is in sight.  Likely around 2016, according to Scott Nichol, President & CTO of 6N Silicon Inc. (or sooner).

3. There is no room for technologies that aren’t groundbreaking.  If your whole business plan is based on opening up a factory in China, making cheap silicon panels, and hoping to attract customers – you may not be around for the long term (Kerry Adler, Director, President, & CEO, SkyPower).

Book Release: Tom Rand’s “Kick the Fossil Fuel Habit”

Tom Rand, Cleantech lead at the MaRS Discovery District – also engineer, entrepreneur, philosopher, and venture capitalist – has just released a new book detailing 10 (already existing) clean technologies that can enable a 100% shift to renewable energy by 2050.  The first chapter of his book? Dedicated to solar.

10 Clean Technologies to Save our World

Several Morgan Solar employees will be going to see Tom, who’s been a big support to us, speak at the book launch, held at the MaRS auditorium on April 15th, from 6 – 7:30 PM.

Tom has also made a video promoting the book.  It shows his clear and approachable style, sums up some key points about the clean technologies he focuses on in the book, and it’s pretty funny too.

* If you pick up a copy of the book, which is big, square and has stunning photographs of clean tech examples from around the world – clearly marketed as a coffee table book, you’ll see us mentioned on page 24: “Morgan Solar uses an injection-molded Plexiglas optic, instead of a lens, to guide sunlight onto the cell.  Morgan’s power could be far cheaper than coal.”