B.C. government commits $11.5M toward cleantech adoption

The Integrated Marketplace Initiative links local cleantech companies with YVR, with more test sites following soon.

From left to right: Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery, and Innovation Ravi Kahlon; CPO and co-founder of cleantech company Moment Energy Gurmesh Sidhu; Vancouver Airport Authority president and CEO Tamara Vrooman; and Parliamentary Secretary for Technology and Innovation Brenda Bailey.

A new government initiative will put $11.5 million towards cleantech adoption. The Government of B.C. is investing in the creation of a unique marketplace that matches local cleantech innovators with industry buyers looking for green solutions. The newly-formed exchange will be known as the Integrated Marketplace Initiative.

Now departing: Putting the “pilot” in pilot project, the Integrated Marketplace Initiative kicks off with an initial endeavor to link YVR with B.C. cleantech companies. The project’s aim is to help the airport electrify its operations to meet its commitment to reach net zero by 2030, and become the world's greenest airport.

It will also provide B.C. cleantech companies with a platform to test their innovations on real-world challenges, while local industries get help solving tough business problems. This will result in domestic customers for B.C. cleantech companies, and proof-of-concept to support the scaling up and export of B.C. innovation. Gerri Sinclair, the province’s innovation commissioner, colloquially referred to the project as a “buyer’s club.”

Connecting flight: The Province’s Crown agency, Innovate BC, will lead the operations and implementation of the initiative. The B.C. government noted that a key value-add is the creation of jobs and economic opportunities for British Columbians. Speaking of new roles, Innovate BC will hire a team to continue to support and develop identified projects.

“We are thrilled to be working with the Province and YVR on the Integrated Marketplace Initiative,” said Raghwa Gopal, president and CEO of Innovate BC. “Many of the tech companies that we work with often run into obstacles when it comes to testing and supplying proof-of-concept to larger buyers. This model will allow for resource and risk sharing to develop results, which will allow B.C. companies to grow faster than ever before.”

Taking off: The Integrated Marketplace Initiative will first help YVR’s goal to transition airfield vehicles — primarily ground-handling equipment such as baggage tractors, belt loaders, and stair trucks — from diesel to electric power. At the airport, a team of providers and buyers will work together to identify business needs and source and test local cleantech solutions that reduce greenhouse gasses, increase productivity, and improve safety.

Boarding announcements: “With the strongest economic recovery in Canada, B.C. is leading the transition to a high-wage, low-carbon economy,” said the Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery, and Innovation, Ravi Kahlon. “The Integrated Marketplace Initiative is a part of a comprehensive economic plan that invests in our people, our communities, and our environment for a better tomorrow.”

“We proudly signed on as the first testbed partner with the Province,” said Tamara Vrooman, president and CEO of Vancouver Airport Authority. “At YVR we have a deep commitment to climate action and continuous innovation. That innovation can be seen with our digital twin, and with innovations such as this to electrify our operations and reduce emissions. These activities will continue to propel us towards our goal of becoming net zero by 2030, and the greenest airport in the world.”

Leading the skies: Innovation is nothing new to the airport. It has already committed $135 million over the next 10 years to achieve its climate goals, and signed on to the federal government’s Net Zero Challenge. The first airport in Canada to achieve the highest level of Airport Carbon Accreditation, YVR has installed 94 airside charging stations for aircraft-support vehicles, and currently more than half of its ground-handling vehicles are electric. It recently signed commitments with two Cascadian airports for further sustainability efforts.

For YVR, though, tech transformation doesn’t stop there. It won the Excellence in Industry Innovation prize at the most recent Technology Impact Awards, and launched YVR Express: a way for passengers to book an appointment for security screening, so they get on their flights to the U.S. faster. These wins lately build on YVR’s legacy of being at the forefront of tech, with Vrooman acknowledging that the airport was the first to digitize facets of the flying experience, including check-in and border patrol kiosks. “If it works at YVR, it probably works at other airports,” she said.

All this makes the airport an ideal pilot for the Initiative, which will see future projects and testbed sites. As the program develops, those B.C. testbeds may be able to tap into expertise outside of the province too. Kahlon suggests that, in the future, non-local companies may be selected for real-world testing if they have expertise unique to the Initiative.

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