For Canada's high-tech sector, it appears that when U.S. president Donald Trump closes a door, someone else opens a window.
Canada is suddenly looking like a friendly haven for high-tech sectors, especially clean technology and the specialized, often international, talent its development acquires.
It helps that the United States, Britain and Europe are preoccupied.
"We're at a unique moment in history to invest heavily and early and support commercial efforts, to take advantage of a lot of uncertainty that exists around us," says Naheed Kurji, president and chief executive officer of Cyclica Inc., a Toronto biotech company that is harnessing artificial intelligence (AI) to develop new medicines.
"Now is a time I don't think we have ever seen and maybe we will never see again."
Mr. Kurji and others in Canada's tech sector are encouraged not only by the United States's and Europe's turbulent trade winds, but also by supportive initiatives promised by the federal government.
"There should be a double, or a triple, down to invest in new technologies coming out of Canada and support the startup ecosystem more vigorously than ever," Mr. Kurji says.
The federal government appears to have picked up the same geopolitical signals, particularly concerning the clean-technology sector.
Ottawa's March budget proposed an innovation and skills plan to "make it easier for Canadian innovators to access and benefit from government-led innovation programs."
Ottawa has also promised to invest up to $950-million over five years on business-led innovation superclusters "that have the greatest potential to accelerate economic growth," such as the Toronto-Waterloo corridor.
The idea is to "enhance Canada's global competitiveness by focusing on highly innovative industries such as clean technology, advanced manufacturing, digital technology, health/bio-sciences, clean resources and agri-food, as well as infrastructure and transportation," the budget said.
In addition to this promised general support for high tech and innovation, Ottawa is putting special focus on clean technology, promising more than $2.2-billion in new clean-tech spending.
While the clean-tech move comes at a time when the Trump administration is rolling back environmental protection and deregulating polluters, there is an ever-growing $1-trillion worldwide market for more energy efficient and eco-friendly technology, especially in Europe, Asia and even some parts of the United States.
"We're active in Hawaii, where electricity is expensive and one in five homes on the island of Oahu has solar on the roof," says Brent Harris, founder and chief technology officer of Eguana Technologies, a Calgary-based company that produces a control system for homeowners and businesses to store electric power.
"It's starting to become a real challenge for the utility in Hawaii to manage, so they're putting batteries alongside storage to manage the flow of electricity more effectively," he says.
The federal support for clean tech is truly welcome, says Mr. Harris, but he and others in the sector hope that the funding will be targeted strategically. Support has to go beyond helping startups; existing clean-tech companies could benefit from support in building and entering markets.
"We have been in business here [in Calgary] for 17 years. We make some pretty fancy equipment that tends to be expensive at the front end. We do 99 per cent of our business overseas," he says.
Like Mr. Kurji, Mr. Harris believes there are opportunities for Canada in Mr. Trump's insistence in renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement and Britain's impending departure from the European Union.
"NAFTA is working okay for us now, but I'd like to see more standardization of standards," he says. It would be easier to do business with the U.S. and Mexico if measurements and calibrations in clean tech are all the same.
As for Brexit, "from my perspective I think it gives us an extra market," Mr. Harris says. The company is already successful in Germany; in the United Kingdom "we're pursuing some business right now and it [Brexit] has opened peoples' minds to business opportunities there."
Another advantage for Canada right now is its more welcoming immigration policy, Mr. Harris adds. It makes it easier for Canadian high-tech and clean-tech companies to attract and hire the well-educated international talent they need.
Jeff Taylor, CEO of Calgary-based MyHeat Inc., says any government initiative that makes Canadians more competitive globally will be welcome. But Ottawa needs to do more than just announce good news, says Mr. Taylor, whose technology digitally maps homes and buildings to determine energy efficiency.
"One of the challenges that I see often, even within Canada, is Canadian technologies are overlooked in favour of technology coming out of the U.S. I think the key will be whether the government can effectively roll out funding programs without jumping the gun on announcements," he says.