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The Challenge

Women are a powerful force in Canada’s innovation economy, but are significantly
under-represented in the area of clean technology. It’s time to change that.

The Women In Cleantech Challenge will identify top female innovators from across the country who are developing technologies to tackle the world’s most daunting energy and environmental challenges.

Following a national call and expert selection process, six women will be chosen to participate in an intensive three-year program, during which they’ll get business advice, and the technical and financial support they need to grow and succeed as cleantech entrepreneurs, including unprecedented access to federal labs and researchers.

Our collective mission: Rapidly advance breakthrough ideas into market-ready clean technology products with the potential for global impact.

At the conclusion of the challenge, we will award $1 million to the woman-led venture that has made the most progress advancing her technology and growing her business. We will also continue to support her venture through the commercialization journey that follows.

Why Apply?

We are looking for Canada’s best, most driven female innovators who are ready to dedicate nearly three years to tackling hard technology challenges that have the potential for major impact.

If selected as part of the six-competitor cohort, you will be invited to Toronto, where you will receive:

  • A lead business advisor and lead technical advisor to guide you as you build your business and develop your product.
  • No-cost access to scientific equipment and researchers at a federal government lab facility that is matched to your specific R&D needs.
  • A business mentor to provide guidance and advice during your journey.
  • An annual $115,000 stipend to cover living expenses and the travel costs for program events, lab visits and meetings with potential investors, customers and partners. This stipend will allow you to dedicate 100 per cent of your time to developing your technology, building a business, and growing as a cleantech entrepreneur.
  • Access to the market intelligence, talent, communications and educational support services offered through MaRS Discovery District, a major innovation hub based in Toronto.
  • Curated introductions to domestic and international investors and corporations.
  • Finally, the competitor that has made the most progress at the conclusion of the competition, as decided by our expert jury, will receive a $1-million award from MaRS, which will provide ongoing support and guidance for your venture.

Who Should Apply?

There is no cost to apply, but to participate in the Challenge you must be:

  • A woman.
  • A Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada.
  • The main technology innovator and individual leading the project.
  • Willing to dedicate yourself full time to the Challenge.
  • Prepared to travel frequently for events, meetings and lab visits, including spending up to 50% of your time participating in MaRS programs, workshops and events in Toronto.
  • Comfortable with the public nature of this Challenge (i.e. speaking with the media, appearing at events, etc.)
  • Prepared to register your business venture as a Canadian corporation once accepted into the final cohort.

In addition to applicant eligibility, your technological innovation should:

  • Fall under the definition of “cleantech,” which for the purposes of this Challenge is defined as “technology that uses less material and/or energy, generates less waste, and causes less environmental damage than the alternatives.”
  • Be disruptive and visionary (i.e. not incremental in nature).
  • Be proprietary and/or patentable.
  • Have potential to scale globally for major impact.
  • Fall within TRL2 and TRL5 on the nine-point Technology Readiness Level spectrum, with:
    • TRL2 marking the beginning of the invention process with a focus on practical applications.
    • TRL3 indicating that active R&D is taking place in a laboratory/controlled setting.
    • TRL4 being basic testing to validate the technology in a laboratory/controlled setting.
    • TRL5 showing early prototype development and testing in a simulated environment.