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How do I apply?

ANSWER: Visit the Challenge website at and click on the Apply Now link, after which you will be walked through the application process. As part of that process, you will be required to agree to the Challenge Rules.

What technologies fall under “cleantech” according to Challenge rules?

ANSWER: Generally, we are looking for disruptive, potentially scalable technologies that use less material and/or energy, reduce waste, and cause less environmental damage than the alternatives. The list below gives some examples of the types of technologies that would be considered:

  • Critical Materials
  • Direct Thermal Energy Conversion Materials, Devices, and Systems
  • Wide Bandgap Semiconductors for Power Electronics
  • Materials for Harsh Service Conditions
  • Advanced Materials Manufacturing
  • Additive Manufacturing
  • Composite Materials
  • Roll-to-Roll Processing
  • Process Intensification
  • Process Heating
  • Smart Manufacturing: Advanced Sensors, Controls, Platforms and Modeling for Manufacturing (ASCPMM)
  • Waste Heat Recovery Systems
  • Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Systems
  • Sustainable Manufacturing
  • Solar photovoltaics
  • Wind energy
  • Biogas
  • Energy harvesting
  • Microgrid controllers
  • Superconductors
  • Materials for high-voltage transmission
  • Electric vehicle charging
  • Grid-scale energy storage
  • Forecasting technologies
  • Sensors
  • Customer side energy storage
  • Energy efficiency
  • Water efficiency
  • Demand response & demand control technologies
  • Industrial electrification
  • Application specific integrated circuit (ASIC)
  • System-on-Chip (SoC)
  • Hardware accelerators
  • Circuit design tools
  • Heterogeneous integration
  • Mixed-signal integrated circuits
  • Novel materials
  • Three-dimensional chips
  • Semiconductor processing and fabrication
  • Machine learning
  • Data intensive-algorithms
  • Printed circuit boards (PCB)
  • System-in-package (SiP)
  • Physical design

Can I keep my day job and still participate in this Challenge?

ANSWER: No. The demands of this Challenge – research, workshops, travel, meetings – require a full-time commitment, so we would advise that you do not apply if you can’t dedicate yourself 100 per cent. Building a cleantech company is not a part-time job. The reason this program provides an annual stipend of $115,000 is so you can focus singularly on this important mission without having to worry about covering living costs.

If I apply, how will the information I submit be used?

ANSWER: Your privacy is immensely important to us, and we respect the need for confidentiality. If you do apply, all of the information collected through our online application form will only be viewed by our selection committee (MaRS advisory staff and outside technical/industry experts), Challenge support staff and jury members for the purpose of cohort selection. Information will also be shared with Natural Resources Canada, which is funding the challenge, for program evaluation purposes. While we encourage you to be as open as possible in your application, we would advise against including any critically sensitive proprietary details. If you do not make it to the final cohort, your application will be deleted unless you tell us otherwise. During the application process, we will also ask you if you would like to opt in to receive future communications about the Challenge or MaRS Discovery District, including newsletters.

If I am selected for the final cohort, will information about my research and project – i.e. intellectual property, financial information, etc. – be kept confidential?

ANSWER: We will sign an agreement with you that will detail how your information will be treated by MaRS and when this information might be shared, for example, with investors and potential customers/partners. Your information will be kept confidential and will not be shared unless you have given us permission.

Do you take any equity in the projects?

ANSWER: Equity is not a requirement. At the conclusion of the Challenge we will be awarding $1M to the most improved and likely to succeed company as selected by the jury. The terms and conditions on how the final award will be spent will be negotiated in an advance agreement between the Challenge participants and MaRS. MaRS Discovery District will not receive any portion of, or derive any direct benefit from, the award.

Can a single applicant submit multiple applications?

ANSWER: Yes. A single applicant can apply to the challenge to develop different projects. However, only one project per applicant may be selected. Multiple applications cannot be submitted for the same project.

What are your selection criteria?

ANSWER: Our primary selection filter will be based on your individual strengths as a Challenge participant. We are looking for entrepreneurial technical leaders who have the drive and ability to build a transformative technology and lead a team in its development. We also work to ensure that the initial project concept is technically sound, reasonably differentiated, and addresses a well-framed problem with potential for significant long-term impact. Please refer to the “Process” tab for a timeline and details of how participants will be selected.

Are applicants selected on a rolling basis, or, will project selections only begin once the application deadline has closed?

ANSWER: Selection of applicants will begin once the application deadline has closed. Applications will not be reviewed and selected prior to the deadline.

Do I/we have to be incorporated to apply?

ANSWER: Applicants are not required to have an incorporated entity in order to apply; however, selected participants will be required to establish an appropriate legal entity for their project if selected to receive support through the Challenge.

Can applicants with projects currently receiving funding from other government sources apply for the challenge?

ANSWER: Yes, funding from multiple government sources is allowed as long as you are not seeking to cover the same project costs with multiple government funding sources. In other words, total government funding for a project may not exceed total project costs.

Why can’t men apply for this Challenge?

ANSWER: Women are significantly under-represented in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). According to a 2017 report from the organization #movethedial, only 5 per cent of Canadian tech companies have a solo female founder or CEO, and only 13 per cent have one female co-founder. This is particularly true in clean technology, where men significantly outnumber female founders and executives. While women have an important role to play in the clean innovation economy, research shows that they have a more difficult time raising capital, lack an adequate support network of mentors, and face a number of other barriers that men typically don’t face. An objective of this Challenge is to level the playing field for five high-potential women innovators, and in celebrating their achievements, inspire an emerging generation of woman who will be key to solving some of the world’s most daunting challenges.

Do I have to move to Toronto?

ANSWER: Participation in the program requires that you spend a considerable amount of time at MaRS Discovery District in Toronto as part of mandatory MaRS workshops, events and meetings with advisors. While you would have a limited travel budget built into your annual stipend, temporary relocation to the Greater Toronto Area is recommended, but not mandatory, if you currently reside outside of Southern Ontario.

Some of my team is based outside of the Greater Toronto Area, do they also need to move?

ANSWER: No. As long as the cohort participant is located in the GTA, she can continue to work with collaborators elsewhere.

If selected, will I remain sole owner of my intellectual property?

ANSWER: Any IP you have prior to entering the Challenge remains yours. Once you are matched with a federal lab to support your project, ownership of any IP you generate on your own remains yours, and Natural Resources Canada or other federal government entities (collectively “NRCan”) will own any IP developed by NRCan or its representatives, and also any IP jointly developed with you. Before any work begins, an agreement will be put in place outlining specifics around access to federal lab facilities, equipment or assistance from federal lab personnel. Pursuant to that agreement, any NRCan IP generated during the development of your project is automatically licensed to you for your use in perpetuity for commercial purposes. The federal labs do not get any rights to use your IP after the project is over. (In the event that you want to acquire any additional rights to the federal IP, or to place restrictions on anyone else’s use of federal IP, a separate negotiation would have to be undertaken.)

Are innovations based on AI, Blockchain or “platform” technologies eligible?

ANSWER: Yes, though the applicant must demonstrate the novel and disruptive nature of this innovation and directly link it to environmental benefits.

Is there a screening process to ensure that the technology is not infringing on other patented technology?

ANSWER: It will be the responsibility of the applicants to ensure their projects do not infringe on patented technologies.

Are technologies developed under the challenge expected to commercialize at the end of the challenge?

ANSWER: The commercialization of technologies is not an expectation, nor a requirement. However, if an applicant were to indicate that this is a possibility, it will certainly serve as an advantage for the applicant. Evaluation of technologies at the end of the challenge includes overall progress on technology and business development, as well as potential for growth.

What if I ultimately decide that a start-up is not right for me or my technology?

ANSWER: That’s ok. We believe that housing your effort within an incorporated entity provides the best structure to support you as an entrepreneurial innovator. That said, our goal from day one is to support you in finding the best path to drive your technology concept toward impact in the marketplace. That can take many forms, from high-growth venture to licensing or early acquisition. Or you may realize that the idea has a fatal flaw you didn’t expect. In any case, our primary goal is your personal success and with it the impact of your idea, regardless of the form that takes.

If I have other questions, who can I contact?

ANSWER: We realize there are other questions you may have that are not answered here. If you’d like to ask us something, email