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A new Canadian investment fund that puts people and planet alongside profits is about to make its first investments, providing an important source of capital to businesses that are helping to solve entrenched social problems.

The $5-million MaRS Catalyst Fund, run by Toronto’s MaRS Discovery District and backed by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Unite Foundation, will invest in early-stage Canadian companies that are motivated by a desire to tackle a social or environmental issue and have the potential to generate strong profits.

MaRS Catalyst is a major step in the fast-growing field of social finance, the new kind of investing that puts the advancement of society alongside financial returns as a key goal.

The fund will leverage the investment pipeline and expertise at MaRS, Canada’s largest innovation hub, to find promising ventures and help them grow. It is currently looking to close two seed-stage investments for $250,000 each in the health and education markets.

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