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Innovation Sandboxes

Getting innovative to meet net-zero targets


Published in Policy Options on February 9, 2021 


The Innovation Sandboxes Project will help accelerate Canadian electricity and natural gas systems to a low-emissions future by creating frameworks to enable innovation sandboxes in Canada.

Jurisdictions worldwide have already implemented or are looking to implement sandboxes to accelerate the transition of energy systems. The goal of this project is to collaboratively create foundational policy frameworks and principles for Innovation Sandboxes that are tailored to participating Canadian province and territorial energy systems to enable technological, service and business model innovation. These foundational frameworks can then be used by policymakers, regulators, and other stakeholders to change existing policies and regulations or create more effective policies, regulations, and programs to accelerate the transition to a low-emissions future.

Innovation Sandboxes promote innovation by allowing for collaboration and experimentation to happen safely and in a controlled way in a real-world environment. Innovation Sandboxes include Innovation Hubs, where knowledge exchange is encouraged, and Innovation Enquiry Services, where innovators are helped in navigating the regulatory system and perceived barriers. Regulatory trials are another element that look at overcoming actual regulatory barriers to innovation and work to identify the costs and benefits of removing those barriers through real-world experimentation.

By learning through these experiments, Innovation Sandboxes enable governments, policymakers, regulators, utilities, entrepreneurs, and other stakeholders to identify barriers to innovation and remove them by introducing meaningful institutional changes.

Innovation Sandbox Toolkit

Innovation Sandboxes toolkit

READ the second Innovation Sandboxes report

Published on November 2020

This report reviews current innovation policy in Canada’s energy systems and identifies Innovation Sandboxes as a key policy tool to address non-technological barriers innovators face, and accelerate the deployment of innovation in Canada’s energy sector. In complement to current innovation programs focused on funding of technological R&D and demonstration projects, Innovation Sandboxes can help Canada’s energy sector achieve low-emission targets and economic growth.

READ the first Innovation Sandboxes report

Published on July 2020

The report, Enter the Sandbox: Developing Innovations Sandboxes for the Energy Sector, identifies best practices and lessons learned to design and develop Innovation Sandboxes in Canada by looking at sandboxes implemented, or being developed, in ten jurisdictions worldwide.
QUEST’s Aïda Nciri and Pollution Probe’s Richard Carlson, our two report co-authors, presented the report’s key findings during a September 2020 webinar.

The webinar is also available in French.
Download the presentation: in English | in French

Project Timeline

Phase I - Research

Phase II - Innovation Sandboxes for the Energy Sector - Framing Workshops

2021/22 – A series of workshops delivered in three Canadian jurisdictions and designed to explore how to enable innovation while considering both perceived and real barriers. They will identify indicators, measures, and criteria to evaluate the social, environmental, and economic costs and benefits of innovations tested within sandboxes.

Phase III - Visioning and Framework Reports

2023 – Final report on learnings from the research and workshops on a national vision based on jurisdictional realities for the role of Innovation Sandboxes in Canada’s low-emissions future.

Phase IV - Maintaining the Momentum

2023 – The project will wrap with a national conference to disseminate project results, maintain the project momentum, and explore the next phase of Innovation Sandboxes in Canada.

get involved

If you are representative of a utility, regulator, or government, agency, or research institution and would like your province or territory to be a part of this project – Contact Laura Gareau to learn more.

what's new?

Project updates

February 2021

QUEST has been published in the Policy Options magazine

From interviews conducted with provincial and federal agencies, QUEST and Pollution Probe found that most current energy innovation programs neglect the importance of creating conditions and capacity to get technological innovations, research initiatives and pilot projects into the real world. Read how Innovation Sandboxes can create spaces for innovators to test new business models that could help Canada meet its clean energy targets faster.

Read the article in Policy Options

November 2020

Second report launch. See the news release here.

Download the report

September 2020

QUEST and Pollution Probe host English and French webinars on first report. See the recordings.

Take the webinar survey

July 2020

First report launch. See the news release here.

Download the report

June 2020

Project official launch. See the news release here.

project partners and supporters



This project is made possible by support from the Suncor Energy Foundation (SEF) .

Other Projects

QUEST conducts and packages cutting edge applied research to empower practitioners and decision makers with the tools they need to advance Smart Energy Communities. Find out more about our projects: