Founded in 1985 with a mission to provide financing and strategy for entrepreneurs, NCFDC (also known as the Northumberland Community Futures Development Corporation) recently announced $7.7 million in funding from FedDev Ontario to support early-stage tech companies and green recovery for SMEs. We spoke to John Hayden, CISO & Manager – Enterprise Programs, to learn more about how the organization is supporting southern Ontario’s clean technology sector.
Describe your core offering(s). How is your organization contributing to a cleaner, greener future?
We provide financing, strategy services and non-repayable performance-based contributions to entrepreneurs and innovators, and recognize the critical importance of clean, sustainable and impact-driven investment in innovation capital: in talent and tech.
Hyperlocally, NCFDC delivers FedDev Ontario’s Community Futures Program, lending up to $250,000 to businesses in Northumberland. We also deliver regional and national innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives such as StrikeUP, Canada’s leading digital conference for women entrepreneurs; DELIA, a Women Entrepreneurship Loan Fund backed by ISED Canada; and thriveFORWARD, a $7.7-million Jobs and Growth Fund initiative with the support of FedDev Ontario. thriveFORWARD is focused on matching investment in the sustainable cleantech and digital industries of the future.
Other than coffee, what gets you out of bed in the morning? How does this work connect with your core beliefs and values?
We work to maximize the commercialization potential of new and innovative products, services, and processes that position our communities for economic advancement in the global context. That means strengthening the bedrock economy as well as supercharging up-and-coming next-generation and innovation-driven enterprise.
Our team is motivated by the opportunity to help advance timelines for change with all the funding, financing, and strategic tools we have in our toolkit, to unleash opportunity and potential. The industry leaders, founders, and creative champions we work with keep us motivated and compelled to contribute to a better and more prosperous future.
Tell us about a recent win (or wins) or your organization.
Whenever NCFDC has focused on cleantech, the results have been inspiring. Whether through our previous N1M initiative (FedDev Ontario – Investing in Business Innovation) when we partnered with GreenCentre Canada to provide matching seed funding to accelerate early-stage ventures coming out of the IHC4 competition, or our current thriveFORWARD initiative, we know that Canadian cleantech is a powerful opportunity.
The N1M portfolio included companies like Enersion (adsorption chiller), H2Nano (solar-activated contaminant treatment), and Tandem Technical/Hyperion Global (CO2-to-materials conversion technology) that went on to raise millions in follow-on investment and are bringing ground-breaking solutions to the world.
Through our Regional Innovation Initiative Eastern Ontario and Collaborative Economic Development Projects, we co-invested in dynamic advanced manufacturing and physical technology projects with companies like Food Cycle Science, Bubble Technology Industries, Screaming Power, Advonex International and Haliburton Forest Biochar.
With partners like Cleantech North and OCTIA, we’re able to share the stories of innovation in action and underscore the importance of this emerging sector, with continuing partnerships embodied in our thriveFORWARD Collaborative Panel, from Bioenterprise Canada, GreenCentre Canada, Spark Angels, the Canadian Aboriginal and Minority Supplier Council and, of course, OCTIA.
Coming from a smaller, metro-adjacent region, we also always work to ensure that all of our communities can rise to the challenge—we believe that innovation can happen anywhere (in rural and remote Canada) and not just in the established metropolitan centres. For instance, Solvest, Northern Canada’s leading solar panel installation company, has offices in the VentureZone at Venture13 in Cobourg.
What’s next for your organization?
In 2022, we became a national lender with DELIA, while launching our thriveFORWARD initiative. We are currently working to synthesize these dual strategies to find ways to multiply inclusive growth with sustainability impacts. Stay tuned for the next phase of that evolution in 2023.
Finally, what’s on your team’s wish list for Ontario’s cleantech sector?
While VC investments are generally slowing and we’re experiencing macro-economic headwinds domestically and globally, we can still see an urgency and optimism driving continued strategic investment in cleantech. We believe in maintaining strategic discipline in cleantech innovation as a competitiveness imperative.
Performance-based government funding for high-growth-potential cleantech firms along the course of their development (from start-up to scale-up) remains critical, as well as redoubled commitment from the private sector to green up. Let’s continue to build momentum for Canadian entrepreneurs and innovators across Northumberland, Southern Ontario, and across the country.
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