Real World Solutions

From Bottle Caps to Bras, Innovation Factory’s i.d.e.a. Fund™ Cohort 2 Creating a Sustainable Future

By: Jen Brignall-Strong

When it comes to fostering a more environmentally conscious future, the pursuit of sustainable solutions extends far beyond the realm of electric vehicles and solar panels.

As the second cohort of Innovation Factory’s i.d.e.a. Fund participants illustrate, sometimes the concepts that make the biggest impact are the ones that solve everyday challenges; from improving food packaging to reducing waste in the fashion industry.

The i.d.e.a. Fund was created in 2022 to support and position businesses in southern Ontario for long-term growth. The goal is to provide high-potential businesses with the opportunity to receive non-repayable contributions (seed funding) and business advisory supports to develop new green products, services, processes, and technologies and/or redesign existing products, services, processes, and technologies to reduce their impact on the environment.

Supported by a $10 million Government of Canada investment, through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), the i.d.e.a. Fund is led by Boundless Accelerator in partnership with five Regional Innovation Centres (RICs): WEtech Alliance, Innovate Niagara, Innovation Factory, TechAlliance of Southwestern Ontario and Haltech.

Through the program, each RIC is able to distribute a maximum of $30,000 in matching seed funding to select innovative businesses in various sectors including medtech, agritech, social enterprise, advanced manufacturing and more.

“Canada’s growing green technology sector is solving complex problems while creating jobs. Our government is encouraged to see the promising companies that the i.d.e.a. Fund is supporting,” says the Honourable Filomena Tassi, Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario. “The innovations that Canadian companies are bringing to the table will help Canadians lead healthier and more prosperous lives. It is critical that we continue to support businesses that provide positive, sustainable solutions.”

In its inaugural year, the program garnered significant acclaim, culminating in the prestigious recognition of the 2023 TECNA (Technology Councils of North America) Innovation Award for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Innovation Factory’s Project Manager, Shannon Graszat, notes that not only did Cohort 2 feature a diverse array of founders from all stages of development, it also varied significantly from the first cohort in terms of industries represented in the program.

“In this cohort, we’ve definitely seen a bit of a shift from the last one,” she shares. “Last time the focus seemed to be heavy in life sciences, whereas this cohort we saw a big push on the manufacturing side; a lot of companies who were working on environmentally friendly products, like reusable and/or sustainable materials.”

Graszat points to Cohort 2 participant Pepper North Artisan Foods, whose i.d.e.a. Fund project involves creating a recyclable, coloured hot sauce cap made from 100 percent PCR recycled materials. Utilizing these new caps in their packaging will remove over 500 kilograms of plastic waste each year from Canadian landfills.

“Currently, all standard five-ounce glass woozy bottle caps are made from black plastic. In Canada, black plastic can rarely be recycled, meaning all these caps end up in the landfill,” says Pepper North cofounder, Ana Stevens. “By changing our caps to a custom made, gold-coloured 100 percent PCR material cap, we are reducing the waste heading to landfills in our country.”

Stevens says the i.d.e.a. Fund has been instrumental in helping move the company’s project forward.

“The funding provided has allowed us to pursue a project that aligns with our core values in being an environmentally conscious business. Having recyclable packaging is a huge point of pride for us, as many competitors rely on non-recyclable materials.”

The business supports provided by the program have also been vital, she adds, noting that with many years of experience in the CPG industry, their program mentor, John Holland, has been an invaluable resource throughout the course of the bottlecap project.

“Our overall experience working with the i.d.e.a. Fund was amazing and we could not be happier,” says Stevens. “The relationships we have formed along the way are so valuable to us that we can’t imagine not having them at this point.”

Also in the sustainable food packaging space, Inwit Solutions aims to disrupt the takeout and food service industry by introducing reusable packaging, leveraging behavioral science, and providing an end-to-end sustainability solution that brings together restaurant partners, delivery partners, and clients in a collaborative effort to reduce waste and foster sustainability.

Inwit Solutions co-founder, Erika Reyes, says the takeout industry has relied on single-use items since its inception. Moving from a linear to a circular economy will require nearly all business structures to reconfigure and re-evaluate their bottom line to facilitate customer behaviour change.

“By offering a sustainable alternative to single-use plastics and disposable containers, we are leading the charge in reducing waste and environmental impact, ensuring restaurants can adapt to a low-carbon future,” says Reyes, adding that Inwit is not just changing the game, but setting new standards and inspiring a broader shift towards sustainability in their industry and beyond. The i.d.e.a. Fund funding and mentorship have helped the company achieve sustainable growth and retain talent.

“It has validated our strategies and decisions by having another leader in the circular economy coaching us and leveraging decades of experience to take our business to the next level,” she explains. “We are very grateful for this program and looking forward to decarbonizing the takeout industry.”

Cohort 2 also featured participants looking to disrupt the fashion industry, like DOUBL; the first company to offer a made-to-measure bra through an eCommerce channel, allowing customers to purchase a bra that fits them perfectly, without leaving their home. This on-demand manufacturing model ensures a reduction in the number of finished goods that are made and potentially wasted, resulting in thousands of tonnes of materials diverted from landfills.

Cofounder Bryn Davis Williams says it’s been exciting to see a diverse array of companies participating in the program; companies that might not have received supports to see their idea come to fruition.

“This funding is really helpful in closing gaps, as a lot of funding has become quite niche within the sustainability sphere,” says Davis Williams. “There are lots of businesses out there trying to improve current processes and products to make the world a great place to live in for generations to come. We are so grateful for this.”

She also adds that DOUBL may not have been able to succeed without the i.d.e.a. Fund.

“The funding and mentorship we received was critical to getting us to the next step to begin sales. Given the difficulty of securing pre-sales funding (especially as an apparel business and especially as women), getting to the point to begin sales is a huge unlock for our business and for the future of on-demand manufacturing.”

 Graszat echoes Davis Williams’ sentiments, noting that solving those everyday problems are really what move us closer to a greener tomorrow.

“The issues these companies are tackling are really relatable,” says Graszat. “They’re really focused on making not only the world we live in right now a better place, but also ensuring that the earth is set up to be in a better place going forward for future generations.”

In addition to Pepper North Artisan Foods, Inwit Solutions, and DOUBL, Innovation Factory’s second i.d.e.a. Fund cohort includes 18 other businesses across a variety of sectors: Do Good Donuts & Café, K3 Green Tech Company Inc., Engagement Agents, Archocell, DCM Inc., Opilio Labs, Renergy Technologies Inc., Universole Fit, Neutronic ebike, Steadiwear, Talentfund, CloudExpat, Solv4x Inc., Prova Innovations, bfree, AgeRate, and Enerza.

To discover more about i.d.e.a. Fund, visit

To learn more about FedDev Ontario, visit