Dec. 6, 2022

UCeed Energy to advance Canadian-led innovations and strengthen the energy landscape

Newest UCeed venture fund launched with philanthropic support of industry leader Don Archibald
From left, John Wilson, Andrea Morris, Catherine Archibald, Don Archibald, Maggie Archibald, Matt Brister, Ian Gates, Bill Ghali, and Pete Santosham.
From left, John Wilson, Andrea Morris, Catherine Archibald, Don Archibald, Maggie Archibald, Matt Brister, Ian Gates, Bill Ghali, and Pete Santosham. Adrian Shellard, for the University of Calgary

The University of Calgary and Innovate Calgary announced Dec. 5 the launch of UCeed Energy, the fifth startup investment fund to be added to the UCeed portfolio. Early stage companies focused on the development of research that has the potential to bring innovation into the energy sector can now apply for funding.

UCeed invests in Canadian research-driven startups that have promising ideas, but may still be considered too high risk for venture capitalists or angel investors because the potential for failure is higher. Universities around the world have been developing research and technologies that address the global energy crisis, energy access and sustainability, but many of these technologies fail to reach their ultimate potential because of a lack of early stage investment. UCeed not only provides financial investment, but also business support, a thorough due-diligence process and support in acquiring further funding.

UCeed Energy is the latest example of the commitment that UCalgary, Innovate Calgary and other community partners have made to leverage research and innovation to help transform the energy landscape for a cleaner, more efficient energy future.

“As the global community looks beyond using existing technology and thinking to meet 2030 emissions targets, we must keep working to build and sustain momentum. We know meeting 2050 targets will require innovative, new technologies. The world needs university research to play its part,” says Dr. John Wilson, president and CEO of Innovate Calgary. 

Commitment to building connections with business and community

The launch of UCeed Energy comes on the heels of last month’s official opening of the Energy Transition Centre (ETC), a collaboration between UCalgary, Innovate Calgary and Avatar Innovations. The ETC provides incubation space and commercialization programming for startups in the energy industry. It’s one example of the university’s commitment to building connections with industry and community while using research and innovation to address growing challenges.

“UCalgary is Canada’s entrepreneurial university, and Calgary is its energy capital. Our research strategy has been very focused on advancing thought leadership and innovation that will drive sustainable energy solutions. UCeed Energy is the next big step in advancing this research to make lasting impact on a global scale,” says Dr. Ed McCauley, UCalgary's president and vice-chancellor.

The $3.75-million UCeed Energy Fund is made possible through a $2.5-million founding gift from Calgary entrepreneur and community leader Don Archibald, with additional philanthropic support from the Tamaratt Fund at Calgary Foundation and funding from UCalgary’s Global Research Initiative.

Strong entrepreneurial roots influence gift

Archibald has started several companies over the years and knows a thing or two about the intricacies of getting a business off the ground. He says he was inspired to support UCeed Energy to help other promising ventures make their visions a reality.

“Calgary has strong roots as an entrepreneurial city. When I started my first company, there was a community there to support me, and I want to be a part of strengthening that ecosystem and seeing it continue to grow,” says Archibald.

In his view, UCeed Energy can fill a critical gap in the energy industry by providing capital to startups whose ideas are still taking shape:

UCeed has a precedent of four other funds; there’s a growing track record and credibility. It’s difficult to raise money for young, energy-related ventures, especially technology-driven ones. But that’s where a lot of innovation comes from.

Archibald’s gift is a demonstration of how venture philanthropy supports UCalgary’s efforts to discover new knowledge and translate these discoveries into applications that benefit our communities. Venture philanthropists make investments in early stage ideas to not only generate a return, but also to create an impact that benefits society.

The Global Research Initiative (GRI) at UCalgary was compelled to invest in UCeed Energy to help advance its mandate to translate lab-based research into useful outcomes. “Success is not just measured by published papers and grad students graduating,” says Dr. Ian Gates, BSc (Eng)’90, PhD, director of GRI. "The act of commercializing what we do is a real measure of success for the endeavour we are in — producing cleaner energy."

Since its launch in 2020, UCeed has introduced five funds including Health, Child Health and Wellness, Social Impact, the Haskayne Student Fund, and Energy, all funded through philanthropic support from visionary partners and community members. Managed by Innovate Calgary, UCalgary’s knowledge-transfer and business incubator, UCeed makes commercially motivated, pre-seed and seed-stage investments with a mandate to help the most promising early stage companies bridge the gap between innovation and commercialization. 

Using the “evergreen” model, returns are reinvested back into the fund to ensure a sustainable legacy of impact. So far, UCeed has made investments in 30 companies and, with the introduction of UCeed Energy, that impact will continue to grow.

Learn more about UCeed Energy, including how startups can apply for funding.