Former BlackBerry executive Jim Balsillie is being appointed to a five-year term as chair of Sustainable Development Technology Canada, a federal agency that helps companies in the emerging clean-tech industry.

Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis were co-CEOs and co-chairs of Research In Motion, now called BlackBerry, which grew from a small startup in Waterloo, Ont., into one of the world's leaders in electronic mobile communications.

Balsillie has also had a high profile through his unsuccessful attempt to bring another NHL professional hockey club to southern Ontario. He has also had less public roles, including on a United Nations panel for global sustainability.

"As the global economy becomes more competitive, Canada must continue to nurture the highly skilled individuals and new ideas that will help our businesses innovate, secure new markets and create well-paying jobs," said Industry Minister Joe Oliver, who announced the appointment at an event in Toronto.

The Harper government has allocated $325 million over eight years to SDTC to support the development and demonstration of new, clean technologies as part of its 2013 plan to assist the economy.

Among the Canadian companies highlighted by Oliver as successful recipients of SDTC assistance were Vancouver-based Westport Innovations (TSX:WPT), which makes low-emission engines fuelled by natural gas, propane or hydrogen, and Electrovaya Inc. (TSX:EFL) of Mississauga, Ont., which makes battery systems.