Ecosystem & Growth

Unlocking the Other 50% Through Innovation Challenges

Guest article written by Jeanette Jackson, CEO of Foresight. Foresight is a program delivery partner for Project Greenlight.

One of my favourite statistics was recently the subject of international media attention, when US Climate Envoy John Kerry told the BBC that 50% of the reductions we have to make to get to near zero emissions will come from technologies we don’t have yet. While Kerry was criticized for being overly optimistic, I prefer to focus on the challenge within that statement: we need to energize cleantech innovation – and we don’t have a lot of time to do it.

“Business as usual” is not going to address urgent climate challenges. The world is full of businesses promising to plant a tree for every purchase or donate to an environmental fund, while continuing to manufacture goods that are in and of themselves harmful or using processes that contribute to emissions or negative climate impacts (aka greenwashing). We need real innovation, and we need it now! It’s time to move beyond “business as usual”.

In the traditional pitch format, companies sell their products or services to potential customers. But what if the customer is looking for something that doesn’t exist yet? And they can’t wait for long development cycles? That’s where the reverse pitch is an elegant and effective solution.

One of the best ways to accelerate innovation is through challenge programs that match needs with solutions. Foresight’s Industry Challenge program connects corporate leaders facing sustainability hurdles with market-ready cleantech innovators. From Canada’s oil sands to wind turbine manufacturers to forestry, we have helped industry explore novel cleantech solutions. By working with businesses to identify market driven opportunities and source solutions that address urgent needs, we can maintain and grow jobs in industries that are critical to Canada’s economy, while developing world leading innovations and technologies.

As the program delivery partner for Project Greenlight, a multi-partner Innovation Challenge series, Foresight is delighted to be involved in this groundbreaking program. We applaud the initiative of the Vancouver Economic Commission and the support provided by TD and PacificCAN.

The five organizations that have put forward the first round of Open Challenges – the City of Vancouver, FortisBC, TransLink, QuadReal, and the City of New Westminster – are demonstrating leadership by clearly outlining their needs and providing an opportunity for innovators to pilot their solutions. To innovate effectively, we need to have clear direction from industry on these critical gaps. Project Greenlight provides that direction. We can’t wait to see what emerges.

This is a time for bold leadership and big thinking. Foresight is working to accelerate the global transition to a green economy on several fronts. Our flagship accelerator programs help cleantech ventures launch and grow. Our sector-specific initiatives, such as waterNEXT and carbonNEXT, bring stakeholders together to accelerate the commercialization and adoption of cleantech. We host and take part in webinars, workshops, and conferences almost every week of the year.

It’s our privilege to work with problem-driven cleantech innovators who are pushing boundaries and thinking big. It’s this kind of thinking that will unlock the 50% we so urgently need to protect this precious planet of ours. We hope you’ll join us!

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