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Gabriel Saunders' Decomp Tops Canada Biotech CEC Youth Challenge

Decomp, a biotechnology start-up company run by local son Gabriel Saunders is the winner from Canada of this year’s Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) Youth Innovation Challenge.

According to Saunders, 24, son of Deputy Premier Hon. E. Jay Saunders, Decomp aims to break down plastics over the course of weeks rather than centuries.

After pitching the project to North America’s Top Environmental Officials recently, it was announced on August 31, that Decomp was selected as a winner of the fifth annual Youth Innovation Challenge.

The Youth Innovation Challenge invited youth in North America, aged 18 to 30, to pitch entrepreneurial solutions that facilitate communities becoming more resilient and adaptive to climate change, and foster equal access to healthy environments for all, particularly those underserved and vulnerable in Canada, Mexico, and the United States.

This year’s challenge focused on the theme of “Climate Change and Environmental Justice Innovations for Resilient Communities.”

The biotechnology start-up seeks to genetically modify plastic-degrading microbes to make them more efficient and effective in degrading plastics.

The judging panel, which consisted of nine experts in economic development, social entrepreneurship, and sustainable development, evaluated the ventures based on, impact, innovativeness, feasibility and scalability, and economic value.

Two start-ups were selected as co-winners representing Mexico, one start-up was selected as the winner representing the United States, and Decomp was selected as the winner representing Canada.

Young Saunders was elated at the major success.

“We couldn’t be prouder and more grateful to have been selected as a winner of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation’s Youth Innovation Challenge,” he said.

“The seed funding will supplement our research and development efforts, the mentorship from vetted entrepreneurs will aid us in avoiding obstacles on our entrepreneurial journey, and the opportunity to pitch to the top environment officials of Canada, Mexico, and the United States will allow us to network with some of the most influential environmental stakeholders in North America”, Saunders continued.

The win will see Decomp banking $15,000 in non-dilutive seed funding, and includes a year-long coaching and mentorship from the CEC and CoalitionWILD.

He also gets the opportunity to present its solution to Jonathan Wilkinson, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, María Luisa Albores González, Mexico’s Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, and the United States’ Michael Regan, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

“I’d like to thank the rest of Team Decomp for their determination and ambition in seeking to solve plastic waste pollution, as well as everyone who has supported us in our development,” Saunders declared.

He added: “Thank you to the Conrad School of Entrepreneurship and Business, the Social Venture Zone, Concept, GreenHouse, as well as to our family and friends. And thank you to the CEC for hosting the Youth Innovation Challenge. We will make you all proud.”

The Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) was founded in 1994 by the Canadian, Mexican, and American governments through the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC).

As of 2020, the CEC is recognized and maintained by the Environmental Cooperation Agreement. The CEC is governed and funded equally by the Government of Canada through Environment and Climate Change Canada, the Government of Mexico through the Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales, and the Government of the United States of America through the Environmental Protection Agency.

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