Yukon’s got talents, but more importantly, it has people who work to foster those talents.
On Tuesday, the Yukon Research Centre’s Cold Climate Innovation centre won the 2016 entrepreneur support award from Startup Canada for B.C. and the North.
Cold Climate Innovation provides funding and assistance to Yukon entrepreneurs trying to create solutions for northern problems.
It’s a program based out of the Yukon Research Centre at Yukon College.
“I’m excited of course,” CCI’s director Stephen Mooney told the News Tuesday. “It’s an honour.”
Mooney said the CCI won in the B.C. and North category, which includes places like Vancouver and Victoria, both of which have strong startup cultures.
In 2015 alone CCI supported 43 projects with $3.6 million in cash and in-kind services.
CCI has a budget of $350,000 a year, but through partnerships is able to leverage that money, Mooney said.
On top of Mooney, there are two innovation officers who work with entrepreneurs.
Since Mooney took over CCI in 2010, there’s been a plethora of projects, from growing duckweed to feed ducks, to a radon-reducing gadget, to a high-tech aeroponics dome to grow food year-round.
“Everyone’s idea is the best,” he said. “There is no lack of enthusiasm coming through the door of our offices.”
And it’s been fun.
“I like helping people, I love technology and I love giving money away,” he said.
Mooney is most proud of Garret Gillespie’s plastic separator.
The invention separates plastic from compost in landfills.
The CCI has been working with him for five years. Last year he got a U.S. patent for his invention, and he recently signed a long-term contract with a U.S. company, Mooney said.
“Every landfill in the world could use one of these projects,” Mooney said.
Mooney insists the CCI’s door is always open to any Yukoners who think they have the next big invention to solve one of the North’s problems.
He said Alaska can be a potential market for many of the innovations CCI supports, because the state is facing issues similar to the Yukon’s.
The CCI will only take on projects it thinks can be commercialized, Mooney said.
Even though sometimes ideas require a bit of work.
“When Gillespie came through the doors five years ago … his idea around the prototype, I didn’t think was that good,” Mooney said.
But it had potential, and after successfully building the first prototype, Gillespie started innovating to make it viable.
The award means the CCI will advance to the national stage, competing with other similar organizations across Canada.
The award grand finale is scheduled for Nov. 29 in Toronto.
Contact Pierre Chauvin at email@example.com