As posted on LinkedIn.

I’ve always believed that innovation and technology are critical drivers behind economic growth and sustainability. Companies, governments, universities and other organizations can either facilitate and accelerate this trend, and contribute to improved economic growth and employment – or they can detract from it. It’s imperative that organizations strive to focus on how to accelerate innovation. This may seem like stating the obvious but it’s actually following through with concrete actions that matter.

That’s why Nutrien supported two business innovation competitions this year – the Nutrien Radicle Challenge Canada and the C.L.I.C. Challenge. I had the privilege of serving as a judge for both competitions, and I was greatly impressed with what I saw. Canadian entrepreneurs are playing on the world stage, and I find this tremendously exciting.

The Nutrien Radicle Challenge Canada was a US$1.25-million ag innovation competition we were proud to host in collaboration with Radicle Growth, a San Diego-based acceleration fund focused on ag tech and food tech. The challenge identified Canadian entrepreneurs who are using groundbreaking technologies to solve ag and food challenges, and invited eight finalists to outline their proposals during a pitch day in Saskatoon in October. The Nutrien Radicle Challenge provided a $1-million investment to a growth-stage company and a $250,000 investment to a seed-stage company. Winners also gained access to the Radicle and Nutrien platforms to accelerate company and product development in these sectors.

The Communities of Leaders Innovating for Corporations (C.L.I.C.) Challenge – spearheaded by the Business Council of Canada and BDC Capital – matched CEOs from leading companies with pioneering Canadian-based startups that offer promising technological solutions in their industries. More than 1,000 startups were screened and 20 were shortlisted, and each of the 10 judges chose a company to mentor through the final stages of the competition.

I mentored a Vancouver firm called Terramera, which ended up being one of the three winners of the C.L.I.C. Challenge – after also winning the $1-million growth-stage category in the Nutrien Radicle Challenge! The other big winner of the Nutrien Radicle Challenge was Livestock Water Recycling of Calgary, which took home the $250,000 prize in the seed stage category. Both companies are committed to making modern agriculture more sustainable – as is Nutrien – and we’re honored to have helped them in their journey.

Collaborating to organize, promote and provide financial backing for innovation competitions is one way business can contribute to the development of new solutions that not only spur improved economic growth, but can also deliver significant environmental benefits. I want to encourage business leaders across Canada and beyond to look for opportunities to support innovation in their space. It’s a challenge worth reflecting on – and more importantly, acting on.