Highlights in 2020
Highlights in 2020

High impact innovation activity triggered by MI

MI has played a significant role in spurring increased federal investments in clean energy RD&D such as major fiscal announcements made in Budget 2017[1] that specifically referenced Canada’s commitment to the MI doubling commitment.  Budget 2017 implemented a number of measures in the areas of green infrastructure and clean technology that helped Canada meet and exceed the doubling commitment while generating more good, well-paying jobs in the clean growth economy.  Canada remains committed to supporting and investing in clean energy RD&D.

Update on clean energy innovation policies and strategies

Canada is working to address the threat of climate change by bringing together innovation from across the financial sector, businesses, and communities to exceed its current 2030 greenhouse gas reduction target and reach the target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.   In the fight for climate action and in response to COVID-19, the Government of Canada outlined in the 2020 fall economic statement[2] investments that will lay the foundation for a green recovery enabling Canadians to reduce their carbon footprint and lower their energy use and expenses. In December 2020, the Government of Canada released A Health Environment and a Healthy Economy[3] , Canada’s strengthened climate plan of federal policies, programs and investments to build a stronger, cleaner, more resilient and inclusive economy. Notably, the plan announced plans to increase the price on carbon pollution to $170/tonne by 2030, and includes 64 new measures and $15B CAD in new investments. The strengthened climate plan also ensures the Government of Canada’s operations reflect Canada’s ambition; the Government has updated its Greening Government Strategy[4] to align with the new federal target of net-zero emissions by 2050 and accelerates the interim target for federal facilities and conventional fleet to a 40% reduction by 2025 (instead of 2030).  A new Hydrogen Strategy for Canada[5] was also released in December 2020.

Canada has successfully met and exceeded the MI doubling pledge and remains committed through the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change[6] to keep pace with the global economy in moving towards a greener future.  Natural Resources Canada (NRCan)[7] continues work towards increasing the creation and adoption of clean technology in energy, mining, and forestry, the three key Canadian economic sectors.

Major innovation initiatives and programmes in 2020/21

In 2020-21, NRCan continued to award funding through its existing programs[8], while also supporting proponents through COVID-19 by exercising maximum flexibilities within programming parameters to provide real-time support through increased funding allocations and timeline extensions. Highlights include:

  • Two projects with a combined value of over $56M CAD were selected under the Canadian Emissions Reduction Innovation Network (CERIN)[9] call in July 2020, as part of NRCan’s flagship Energy Innovation Program (EIP)[10].
  • Forty-two projects were underway through the Clean Growth Program (CGP)[11] in 2020, including six new agreements totalling $16.3M CAD in contributions.
  • The five finalists of the $4.5M CAD Charging the Future Challenge[12] were announced in July 2020. The challenge aims to accelerate battery innovations that have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Prize winners will be announced in 2022.
  • The Green Infrastructure (GI) Program[13] launched a third call for proposals in 2020, with $20M CAD available for Energy Efficient Buildings RD&D to spur deeper energy retrofits for commercial and institutional buildings. The demonstration component of the GI program for Smart Grids[14] is investing up to $35M CAD over 5 years (FY 2018/19 to 2022/23) for 13 demonstration projects to enable cleaner, more efficient and resilient electrical grids which will improve service delivery, reduce pollution and create jobs.
  • The Indigenous Off-Diesel Initiative[15], which is aimed at reducing diesel reliance in remote Indigenous communities, announced $7M CAD for 14 Energy Champions[16] ($500K CAD each) to deliver training and develop community energy plans and clean energy implementation plans. In January 2021, the first Energy Champion was awarded $800K CAD in prize[17] funding to begin implementing a community clean energy project.

As part of Canada’s December 2020 strengthened climate plan, $5B CAD over 5 years was announced for the Strategic Innovation Fund Net Zero Accelerator to rapidly expedite decarbonization projects with large emitters, scale up clean technology and accelerate Canada’s industrial transformation across all sectors.

Private sector engagement in 2020/21

In December 2020, NRCan hosted the first Breakthrough Energy Solutions Canada (BESC)[18] Accelerator session for the 10 BESC finalists[19]. This Accelerator session was the first delivery of Tech to Market (T2M) support from the program, enabling proponents to access additional capital from investors such as the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) and Breakthrough Energy Ventures. To date, BDC has closed two deals with BESC finalists: a $2.3M CAD investment in e-Zinc and a $3M CAD investment in Ekona Power Inc. A second Accelerator event will take place in 2021.

The Clean Growth Collaboration Community 2.0 was launched at the end of 2020 to bring together key players of the innovation ecosystem including federal research centres, provinces and territories, and clean tech producers. The Collaboration Community was originally created for the CGP[20] but has since been expanded to NRCan’s other funding programs. By the end of 2020, fourteen projects under CGP had received funding for resources at federal research centres to help proponents overcome a lack of technical expertise and research infrastructure.

NRCan also provided funding for the 2021 Indigenous Clean Energy Gathering[21], an integral event for networking and engagement on Indigenous clean energy projects in Canada.

Major activities in support of the Innovation Challenges in 2020/21

Canada participates in all eight Innovation Challenges (IC) and co-leads IC4 (Sustainable Biofuels)[22] and IC6 (Clean Energy Materials)[23].  Additionally, playing a leadership role co-leading the Analysis and Joint Research (AJR)[24] Sub-Group, identifying and analysing clean energy innovation needs, priorities, challenges and opportunities for collaboration amongst MI members.

As MI members prepare to launch a second phase of MI (‘MI 2.0’), Canadian IC representatives have contributed their expertise and engaged stakeholders to inform the development of new and refreshed RD&D activities under MI 2.0 including:

  • The Power Mission (“Green Powered Future”) (IC1 on Smart Grids[25]),
  • A proposed MI Mission related to the Bioeconomy (IC4),
  • The continuation of IC4,
  • The continuation of IC7 (Affordable Heating and Cooling of Buildings)[26], and
  • Leading the development of a proposal for future and expanded international collaboration on clean energy materials through a continuation of IC6.

Canada contributed to wrap-up activities for IC1, including efforts to transition the Smart Grid Innovation Accelerator (SGIA) to the new work program under the Power Mission.

Other Mission Innovation related activity in 2020/21

Canada continues to play a leadership role within MI as Vice-Chair of the Steering Committee, leading on elements of the Beyond 2020 workstream, and contributing resources to the MI Secretariat. Canada continues participating through the MI Steering Committee and MI Secretariat to provide feedback and advice on the framing, structure, and governance for the second phase of MI. Additionally, as former host of MI-4[27], Canada participates in the Ministerial Planning Team, working to support Chile in the development of MI-6.

Canada is also a participating member of the MI Champions program and developed a fulsome program for the first cohort of Champions at MI-4. Canada’s 2020-21 Champion, Phil De Luna leads a $57M CAD multi-disciplinary collaborative research program to develop made-in-Canada technology for a sustainable energy and chemicals sector.  Dr. De Luna was named to the 2019 Forbes Top 30 Under 30 – Energy list[28] and was a finalist (1 of 10 worldwide) in the $20M CAD Carbon XPRIZE[29].

Public sector RD&D investment

New Collaborations

  • Collaborator: Japan
    • Name of collaboration
      • Canada-Japan Energy Policy Dialogue
    • Brief Description
      • Collaboration between Canada and Japan will focus on the following key areas: oil and gas, carbon capture and storage/carbon recycling, hydrogen, atomic energy, and critical minerals. Working together, this relationship aims to advance technical cooperation and build on existing partnerships to deepen knowledge exchange and develop sustainable industries.
    • Sectors
      • Public – public
    • Type of collaboration
      • Policy discussions leading to potential RD&D collaborations
    • Duration
      • 2020-2022


  • Collaborator: Germany
    • Name of collaboration
      • Canada-Germany Energy Partnership
    • Brief Description
      • Canada and Germany to foster energy transformation through exchanges on policy, best practices and technologies as well as through cooperative activities and projects focused on: energy policy, planning and regulations; resilient electricity systems that can integrate high levels of renewables; energy efficiency; sector coupling and low-carbon fuels; and, innovation and applied research.
    • Sectors
      • Public – public
    • Type of collaboration
      • Policy discussions leading to potential RD&D collaborations
    • Duration
      • 2021 – ongoing
    • Additional information
      • Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Natural Resources Canada and the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy of the Federal Republic of Germany on the establishment of an energy partnership[30]


  • Collaborator: EU
    • Name of collaboration
      • Canada-EU High-Level Energy Dialogue (HLED)
    • Brief Description
      • Updated the Canada-EU High-Level Energy Dialogue (HLED) Cooperation Framework to better reflect collaboration opportunities in clean energy innovation.
    • Sectors
      • Public – public
    • Type of collaboration
      • Policy discussions leading to potential RD&D collaborations
    • Duration
      • 2021 – ongoing