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Imagine a Canadian technology replacing landfills all around the world.

On the banks of the North Saskatchewan River outside Edmonton, there stands a sort of monument to Canadian clean innovation. There, at the Edmonton Waste Management Centre, a biorefinery built by Montreal-based Enerkem is ramping up to divert 30 percent of the city's household waste from landfill and turn it instead into nearly 40 million liters of ethanol each year.

And this is just one application for Enerkem's pollution-slashing technology. At the core of the Edmonton biorefinery is an innovation that can turn non-recyclable waste into all sorts of commonly used fuels and chemicals.

That potential is what led to a $125-million-dollar deal to bring the Canadian technology to China. Imagine a Canadian technology hooked up to every waste management facility in the world, diverting waste and churning out valuable products.

A little help from its friends. 

Building a globally-appealing green technology isn't easy. It requires a bright idea, some solid leadership, and a lot of work. It also takes a little help.

For Enerkem, the first help came in the way of publicly-funded research. It was a partnership with the University of Sherbrooke in Quebec that got the waste-to-fuel technology into development. This early support was supplemented with research investments from the federal and provincial governments, as well as private venture capital funds, which got the technology into the demonstration stage. 

Then, later down the line, government leadership helped Enerkem get market access and secure its very first customer. The Alberta and federal renewable fuel standards, which oblige commercial fuel suppliers in the province to add renewable fuels like ethanol to their products, opened the marketplace and sent buyers knocking on Enerkem's door.

How do we help other clean innovations reach their first major customer? 

Canadian innovators like Enerkem have the ability to transform our economy, creating jobs and solving environmental challenges at the same time. They could use a little help. Government has a role to play in that.

To learn more, check out our two-minute video on Accelerating Clean Innovation in Canada.

ALSO: Watch Enerkem’s technology in action at the Edmonton Waste Centre