Rock solid: Cleantech trailblazer Giatec Scientific nabs $5M in fresh funding to fuel foreign expansion

Giatec Scientific team
Ottawa-based software firm Giatec Scientific recently surpassed the 100-employee mark. Photo courtesy Giatec Scientific

An Ottawa cleantech company that’s aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from concrete production by hundreds of millions of tons a year has received another multimillion-dollar funding boost to accelerate its international expansion push.

Giatec Scientific has secured a $5-million contribution from BDC Capital, the investment arm of the federal Business Development Bank of Canada, the firm announced recently. 

It’s the latest major capital injection for Giatec, which received $5.1 million in federal funding last summer and brought German building materials powerhouse HeidelbergCement on board as a minority investor earlier this year.

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Founded in 2010, Giatec specializes in developing wireless sensors that use artificial intelligence to measure the quality and consistency of concrete during the construction process and beyond. 

One of its recent innovations is a web-based dashboard that uses AI algorithms to help concrete producers calculate the ideal amount of cement and chemical additives in their mixes in an effort to cut down on material costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

According to Giatec, about 20 billion tons of concrete are produced worldwide each year, resulting in about two billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions – or roughly eight per cent of global carbon dioxide pollution.

Giatec says its AI-based software and testing products can help reduce customers’ greenhouse gas output by up to 20 per cent. The firm’s goal is to cut the industry’s carbon dioxide emissions by 400 million tons annually, the equivalent of taking 110 million cars off the road.

“Giatec’s advanced suite of wireless concrete sensors, analytics capabilities, and AI-enabled software can enable a significant reduction in the use of cement, materially reducing (carbon dioxide) emissions whilst also saving concrete producers, contractors and developers time and money,” Matt Stanley, a partner in BDC Capital’s Cleantech Practice, said in a statement.

Giatec has been one of the Ottawa cleantech sector’s biggest success stories of the past decade. The company’s devices are now deployed on job sites in more than 80 countries, and the firm recently surpassed the 100-employee mark.

While pandemic-related headwinds slowed its growth for a couple of years, Giatec got back on track in its fiscal 2022 that ended in July. The firm’s revenues jumped nearly 40 per cent year-over-year, and Giatec recently made the Globe and Mail’s list of Canada’s top-growing companies with three-year revenue growth of 70 per cent.

Eyeing new markets

CEO Pouria Ghods said the firm plans to use the latest funding to expand into more foreign markets and continue refining its technology. 

Ghods said Giatec’s new partnership with HeidelbergCement is helping the company on both fronts. 

The German multinational, which operates in nearly 60 countries, not only has customers in regions that aren’t currently part of Giatec’s footprint, the 148-year-old company also offers valuable insights into what materials make the best cement as well as how recipes have evolved over time and how those changes have affected the quality of the resulting concrete. 

That accumulated wisdom will only make Giatec’s software even better at saving energy, Ghods said. The Ottawa firm’s AI engineers have already begun inputting Heidelberg’s data into the platform, a process he hopes will continue for years to come.

“So far, so good,” Ghods said. “As expected, we are benefiting a lot (from the partnership).” 

With more economic forecasters predicting Canada is heading for a recession, Ghods said he’s “watching the market carefully” for signs of a slowdown. 

While the residential construction market appears to be cooling slightly amid rising inflation and interest rate hikes, he said commercial projects like hotels and convention centres are ramping up across North America as the hospitality industry and other sectors start to rebound from the pandemic. 

That in turn is fuelling a surge in demand for concrete that can only mean good things for Giatec, Ghods said. At the same time, though, he says customers in Europe are being more cautious as sky-high inflation and geopolitical events like the war in Ukraine cast a pall over the economic landscape on the other side of the Atlantic.

“Optimistically, we hope we can repeat the same success we had last year,” Ghods said.

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