Feds invest big in green innovators across Southwestern Ontario

Trevor Wilhelm/The Windsor Star

The federal government is making big investments in green innovation across Southern Ontario.

The feds committed Friday to multimillion-dollar investments in green initiatives in separate announcements, offering money to companies doing electric vehicle research, and support for entrepreneurs focused on green technology.

The Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) announced it is making a $10 million contribution to Innovation Guelph and its partners, including Windsor’s WEtech Alliance.

The money will help with delivery of the i.d.e.a Fund, an initiative focused in Southwestern Ontario to support businesses focused on green technology and clean innovation.

“Today’s investment in Innovation Guelph and the i.d.e.a. Fund will provide Canadian entrepreneurs and businesses with the support they need to produce innovative solutions that continue Canada’s transition to a green economy,” said Helena Jaczek, the minister responsible for FedDev Ontario. “This investment will create good, secure jobs for Canadians, protect Canadian supply chains, and ensure that the Canadian economy is positioned to be a global leader, now and into the future.”

The i.d.e.a. Fund will target companies with a focus on agri-innovation, cleantech and advanced manufacturing in urban and rural communities.

The government said at least 50 per cent of the businesses receiving support will be owned or led by women. At least 30 percent will be owned or led by Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, Black communities, racialized communities and members of the LGBTQ2+ community.

Innovation Guelph is leading the initiative in partnership with five Southwestern Ontario Regional Innovation Centres (RICs). Those centres include Haltech in Halton Region, Innovate Niagara, Innovation Factory in Hamilton, and London’s TechAlliance of Southwestern Ontario.

WEtech Alliance will deliver the fund in Essex County and Chatham-Kent, providing eligible businesses with up to $30,000 for working capital to support growth and commercialization efforts.

“Every day, in communities across Southern Ontario, entrepreneurs are advancing innovative solutions to our nation’s most pressing challenges,” said Yvonne Pilon, president and CEO of WEtech Alliance. “Through this collaboration, WEtech Alliance will unlock the capital needed to support a sustainable, inclusive, and equitable recovery for founders and companies and help advance game-changing innovations right here in Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent.”

For more information about the initiative in Essex County and Chatham-Kent, go to wetech-alliance.com/idea.

The RIC announcement came on the heels Friday of another media release pledging $76 million in funding for zero-emission vehicle research, including about $25 million for three projects involving Windsor companies.

About $36 million of the total is coming from the federal government through Next Generation Manufacturing Canada (NGen), the industry-led organization behind Canada’s Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster. The rest of the money is private sector investment.

Ventra Group will oversee two projects, with company and government investments totalling $16.9 million, out of its parent company’s recently announced Flex-Ion Battery and Innovation Centre in Windsor.

One of the projects is aimed reducing the formation and aging time of the average Li-Ion cell to cut manufacturing costs and double the output. The purpose of their second project is to develop more advanced techniques for the production of lithium ion EV battery cells, leading to an increase in productivity, quality and energy efficiency.

Windsor’s AIS Technologies is part of a $7.8 million project, led by Hydrogenics Corporation in Mississauga, exploring high-volume manufacturing of hydrogen fuel cells.

Their main objective is create a process making it possible to manufacture up to 20,000 fuel cell units a year by the end of 2022, with a target cost of U.S. $100 per kW. The current cost, at 1,000 units per year, is $1,000 per kW.