Atlantic Canada’s commercialization and industry liaison network
Labfundr launched its first campaign
Eric Fisher, a scientific researcher founded Labfundr with the goal to help scientists to raise funding from non-traditional sources, all sorts of people who see the value of the research. Another goal of the platform is to bring the scientific community closer to the general public and inspire communication between them. Labfundr also allows the financial donors to follow the research, therefore giving them the opportunity to feel that they are part of the team.
The first crowdfunding campaign with CALIPER - the Canadian Laboratory Initiative on Paediatric Reference Intervals, is developing a repository of data on healthy blood samples for children and teenagers.
For more details and comments from Eric Fisher click here.
Dalhousie Ag Campus student team wins Canadian Engineering prize
Dalhousie Ag Campus students Patrick Wells, Alec McOnie, Nathaniel King and Alex Place won over 7 other Canadian post-secondary engineering school teams when entering the Canadian Engineering Competition in Calgary after beating the other regional teams in the qualifier in February in Moncton, NB.
In both competitions, the Dal team won, due to their level-headed approach and by simplifying their designs. To read all the details of how they won, go to the Chronicle Herald NowNS article.
Seaformatics is set to launch Waterlily, a mirco-turbine
Solving a very real problem for remote outdoor workers, backwoods camp owners and outdoor enthusiasts, Seaformatics latest product uses wind and water power to recharge any device with a USB connection. Named Waterlily, the microturbine is to be launched this year and has already 300 pre-orders.
Spun out from Memorial University, Seaformatics was formed in 2014. After working with Propel ICT’s Accelerator in 2016, Seaformatics received some money from the Genesis Centre (Seaformatics is a tenant of the Genesis Centre) to built a small-scale demonstration model of Sealily for trade shows.
Sealily is Seaformatics main product, built to harvest power from ocean currents to provide constant electricity for equipment. To learn the details of how Sealily became Waterlily and to read about the company’s production plan click here for the Entrevestor article.
New Partnership between UNB and Israeli Cybersecurity Initiative
The success of UNB's cybersecurity research continues to grow, evident in the signing of a memorandum to formalize the research partnership between Israel's CyberSpark and UNB, a first between the company and a Canadian University.
Launched only in May 2016 the Canadian Institute of Cyber Security (CIC) has 27 core team members and Ali Ghorbani, director of the Canadian Institute of Cybersecurity at UNB and the university’s dean of computer science, expects that more economic opportunities for New Brunswick and great innovations will come from this partnership.
Click here to read Huddle’s coverage of this announcement and here to read Betakit's article.
Memorial University researchers and Genesis Centre client receive $4.9M in provincial-federal support
Testing for water contaminants via MIPs (molecular imprinted polymers) is the smart technology that the Memorial University researchers team, led by Dr. Christina Bottaro, Department of Chemistry in the Faculty of Science, will be developing. Through a follow on Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s (ACOA) Atlantic Innovation Fund (AIF) project and provincial funding (Research & Development Corporation), this project received close to $1.2 million in support.
Avalon Holographics, the flagship of Memorial’s Genesis Centre is receiving close to $3.75 million in federal (ACOA AIF) and provincial (Research & Development Corporation) support to develop a holographic flat screen that provides true images for the gaming industry and other consumer markets.
The investment of $1.5 million in Memorial University’s Fisheries and Marine Institute (MI) made by the Government of Canada through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) Innovative Communities Fund and Business Development Program will support 3 projects that will enable NL’s marine and aquaculture research and industry to remain strong and focus on continued growth locally and internationally.
MI will establish a Regional Aquaculture Centre in the Coast of Bays region with the goal to close the gap in skills development, ensuring the sustainability of the aquaculture industry, while enhancing the technology transfer and research needs. MI will also make improvements to the institutes' simulator capacity, providing cutting-edge training opportunities for marine and offshore operations and it will allow MI’s ocean-mapping capacity to grow through new leading-edge technology. Going forward the funding will allow MI to establish a 2-year international business development program, geared towards advancing its international business activity in coastal sustainability, education program management and climate change.
Probably best highlighting and showing off MI’s capabilities and commitment to collaboration and continued growth is the recent demonstration of the newly developed crab processor, a truly collaborative project between MI, the College of the North Atlantic (CNA) and the Canadian Centre for Fisheries Innovation (CCFI). The new equipment will be more efficient, cutting back on the need for physical labour and is ready to be used by fish plants around the province and beyond.
Tesla battery researcher and Dal professor doubles lifetime of Tesla batteries, Apple purchases Tesla battery cell life-cycle machines
Close to one year after the establishment of the Tesla research agreement (achieved through the NSERC/Tesla Canada Industrial Research Chair), Jeff Dahn, professor at Dalhousie University and lead of his battery research group, has reported that he and his team have doubled the battery lifetime of Tesla products. While these batteries are not yet available for sale, the self-set goal was achieved 4 years ahead of its due time.
Dr. Dahn’s lab at Dalhousie has spun out Novonix and they offer expertise in material and cell testing, strongly focusing on the use of High Precision Coulometry for lifetime evaluation of lithium-ion cells. Dr. Dhan has recently confirmed that Apple is among Novonix clients, through one of Apple’s battery suppliers, which purchase from Novonix.
New Brunswick announces more funding for innovation
New Brunswick’s innovators can look forward to more funding to fuel their ideas, with $63.6 million for the NB Innovation Foundation (NBIF) and the NB Health Research Foundation over 4 years.
Additionally, the NB Innovation Voucher Fund will receive $1 million for research & development activities.
These announcements were made by Premier Brian Gallant during NB’s Innovation Week. The aim is to continue to grow New Brunswick’s innovation momentum and reflects Atlantic Canada’s trend over the last 2 years to develop more startups and to grow research at institutions. NS invests $40 million for Innovacorp’s investment fund and $25 million for a new provincial venture capital fund. 2 years ago, NL created the Venture NL Fund and PEI is considering a fund.
To read how NBIF and the Health Research Foundation plan to invest the funds, please click here.
PETER HALPIN: Investing in Atlantic Canada’s future
Atlantic Canada’s university leaders strongly support and endorse the recently released report of the Advisory Panel on Federal Support for Fundamental Science, Investing in Canada’s Future: Strengthening the Foundations of Canadian Research (the report).
It is comprehensive in scope and many of its recommendations reflect the point of view the Association of Atlantic Universities (AAU) presented to the advisory panel during its national consultations.
Our universities applaud the panel’s primary recommendation that annual federal spending across its four main research funding agencies be increased from approximately $3.5 billion to $4.8 billion (and maintain a rebalancing of federal research funding towards investigator-driven research projects across the full diversity of disciplines and areas).
There is a strong emphasis in the report on supporting early career researchers, as well as recognition for early-to-mid-career researchers who frequently face many obstacles in the current funding system.
The importance of this issue is well understood by Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science (a former associate professor of health studies). In her recent address to presidents at Universities Canada’s annual spring meeting, she emphasized the “great potential of early career researchers” but the “critical need to take action” on their behalf.
The panel’s recommendation to better coordinate efforts, processes, and programming across the major federal funding agencies aligns with our universities commitment to inter-institutional R&D collaboration, locally, nationally, and internationally to fully leverage the diversity and vitality of the research ecosystem in our region. Our commitment to collaboration and coordination is best demonstrated by Springboard Atlantic, a university-led research commercialization network.
The AAU also agrees with the report’s emphasis on the importance of diversity and greater equity in the federal funding of research with an appropriate focus on the important issues of gender and career stage diversity and equity in research funding, an opportunity referred to by Minister Duncan as “inclusive excellence.”
It also raised the need for much greater attention to Indigenous research. Atlantic Canada’s universities, many located in rural communities with longstanding relationships to Indigenous and First Nations peoples, are particularly well positioned to uphold the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations on research.
A core purpose is to improve the knowledge base of Atlantic Aboriginal economic development in order to improve the lives of Aboriginal peoples in the region. The research approaches community economic development from a broad, holistic perspective based on Aboriginal culture, languages, and direction from elders.
The report could have better articulated that research excellence is found in universities of all sizes across Canada – an important principle for the AAU. Our universities strongly support the idea that fundamental scientific research in Canada must be a level playing field across the country for awarding funding to universities regardless of their size. Atlantic Canada’s universities are differentiated in their respective roles, capacities, and needs in advancing research, a core aspect of every AAU member university’s mission.
Our universities are also pleased with the panel’s conclusion that “the recent erosion of Canada’s research competitiveness . . . has been exacerbated by a policy shift in favour of new programs that focus resources on a limited number of individuals and institutions.” We agree with the panel’s suggestion that these types of programs should be reviewed to ensure value for money. The report calls for a much stronger return to smaller, curiosity-driven research that does not require large matching fund commitments or extensive partnerships, which has historically disadvantaged our region.
Our universities believe that if the government can take the steps to implement these recommendations, the R&D enterprise at all Atlantic Canada’s Universities and the research ecosystem in our region will benefit. It is essential that our universities secure regional, national, and international industrial and government agency support for research that leads to commercialization opportunities, innovation, economic growth, and social development across the region.
Atlantic Canada’s universities look forward to working with the Government of Canada as it acts upon recommendations from the report.
- Peter Halpin is Executive Director, Association of Atlantic Universities (AAU). Phalpin@atlanticuniversities.ca
New Brunswick Scientist and Entrepreneur Wins Governor General’s Innovation Award
David Brown, co-founder of Mycodev Group, Tudo and Chinonova Bioworks, has been named a recipient of the 2017 Governor General’s Innovation Awards along with five other innovative Canadians.
The Governor General’s Innovation Awards are meant to recognize and celebrate outstanding Canadian individuals, teams and organizations whose work help shape the future.
Brown was nominated for his work with Mycodev Group to resolve a lack of supply of chitosan, a valuable pharmaceutical ingredient essential in a wide variety of medical devices and drugs. At its four year point, Mycodev is selling its chitosan to major pharmaceutical and medical device companies around the world.
“I’m very honoured to have won this award,” Brown said. “To me, it is a recognition of the hard work myself and others at Mycodev Group and Chinova Bioworks have done and it’s a recognition that innovation in biotechnology is not only done here in New Brunswick but its some of the best in Canada.”
Brown is currently working primarily with Chinova Bioworks on the research and development of natural preservative ingredients.
The award ceremony will take place on May 23 at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.
Leading-edge research at a million-dollar motion lab at Acadia continues to make big strides by improving varsity athletic performance, reducing injury and/or increasing the speed of an athlete’s rehabilitation, and also improving the lives of anyone who suffers from injury and chronic illnesses affecting mobility and well-being.
Travis McDonough’s Kinduct Technologies platform, used by pro-athletes in just about every league throughout Canada and the United States, will also use the university’s lab on occasion for more detailed analysis for sport injury research.
“It’s great to see Nova Scotia at the forefront of the sport performance industry,” said Dr. Scott Landry, an associate professor of kinesiology at Acadia.
Landry supervises the research at the lab, which is located inside the university’s athletic complex and is equipped with motion capture technology similar to that used in animation and video games.
Adidas has also used Acadia’s facility several times to test the performance of its shoes, and Landry said the company is looking for a new project to collaborate with again, after Landry spent a recent sabbatical working at their sport research lab in Portland, Oregon.
“We’re always looking for partners and get funding to keep things moving,” said Landry, who initiated and built the John MacIntyre mLAB (Motion Laboratory of Applied Biomechanics) with the assistance of a Canada Foundation for Innovation grant and matching funds. It’s named in memory of a popular all-star soccer athlete at Acadia.
The lab features 19 motion-capture cameras recording thousands of frames per second, with wireless sensors measuring real-time muscle activation patterns in 3D to understand risk factors for injury.
Reflective markers placed around the athlete’s body measure the finer details of any movement in any sport, be it walking, running, or jumping and landing.
“A goal is to get a long-term study following children under the age of 10 to see how their muscular patterns and biomechanics change as they mature, to see if how they move might cause an injury down the road,” said Landry.
Some of the sensor technology is portable, so it can even go out onto ice surfaces or soccer fields and then be analyzed back in the lab.
Smaller motion labs in the province, such the Dynamics of Human Motion lab at Dalhousie, are mostly for knee and hip osteoarthritis diagnostics used in surgical and non-surgical treatments.
“Acadia doesn’t have a masters program in kinesiology yet, so we also allow students from Dal’s program who want to focus more on sport applications to research here,” said Landry.
Landry and Dal’s lab supervisor Dr. Janie Wilson are co-chairing the 20th biennial meeting for the Canadian Society for Biomechanics in August 2018 at the Westin in Halifax.
Landry said it’s the first time the meeting has been held on the East Coast since 2004 and is expected to draw at least 400 of the best engineers, kinesiologists, ergonomists, physicians, physical therapists and occupational therapists from across North America.
“All of whom are interested in applying the techniques of biomechanics to study human movement in health and disease,” he said.
Members #Springboarding to Finalist Spots at KIRA Awards 2017
Springboard was cheering in our offices with the release of the #2017KIRAFinalists. It’s great to see so many of our partners, spin outs, and researchers getting recognized for their hard work #Springboarding the region forward. We wanted to take a couple of minutes to tell you a little bit more about the great work this group of deserving finalists is doing and how Springboard has been able to help.
The KIRA Awards (Knowledge & Innovation Recognition Awards) celebrate excellence in technological, social and economic innovation across all sectors and industries in New Brunswick. The awards recognise companies, organizations, and individuals in New Brunswick for their role in the development and / or application of innovative products, processes, services, technologies, or business models. KIRA seeks to encourage and foster a culture of knowledge and innovation in New Brunswick. Created in 1998 as a means to recognize the knowledge industry in Fredericton, the event has broadened its scope to showcase and honour innovation in all sectors and industries across New Brunswick.
First and foremost, it’s awesome to see Springboard Member UNB’s faculties recognized twice in both the Innovation Champion and Premier’s Award for Innovation categories. The Institute of Biomedical Engineering (IBME) is a world renowned multi-disciplinary research unit employing 30+ people in the pursuit of innovation that not only gives back to the local community but is also a world leader in upper limb prosthetics. The UNB Civil Engineering team through their partnership with the NBDTI Design Branch is moving public collaborations forward in a way that is exciting to witness. This partnership has really enabled NBDTI to offer their services in exciting new ways.
We are also excited to see some of our institutional spinouts getting recognized this year. Soricimed Biopharma who were born out of Mount Alison University has an exciting year ahead as they continue to build on their top-line results of Phase 1 clinical trials for peptide-based cancer treatments, and their FDA Orphan Drug designation for pancreatic cancer. LuminUltra, a UNB spinout, and brain child of Graham Gagnon and his team has grown to 33 employees and international distribution, they continue to be a leader in microorganism detection and elimination in water systems. SimpTek is also a UNB spinout and have recently raised $700,000 to continue to develop their product which enables utilities to better engage with their customers on energy usage.
While we are excited to see who walks away with the fancy hardware on May 4th it’s great to see so many of our friends and partners celebrated as finalists. Congrats to all!
An ambitious research project is underway between the Atlantic province of Newfoundland, and Ireland.
Scientists from six countries are aboard a research vessel making a slow transit across the North Atlantic stopping to measure carbon dioxide levels in the ocean at points roughly every 30 nautical miles along the route. Doug Wallace is a chemical oceanographer and a Canada Excellence Research Chair in Ocean Science and Technology at Halifax’s Dalhousie University. He is leading a team of researchers on the RV Celtic Explorer.
Quoted by the CBC he said, “Understanding this part of the ocean is really key to understanding how climate change is happening and how it will happen in the future”.
The world’s oceans have absorbed some 50 per cent of the C02 created by mankind over the past 200 years, mitigating climate change, but the process is slowing down. It has also made the oceans more acidic leading to other ecological concerns.
The currents in the North Atlantic are also vital in providing nutrients to the deep ocean, in cooling the planet, and creating a milder climate in western Europe.
Brad de Young, professor of physics and physical oceanography, Memorial University is also on board. Quoted in the Memorial U. Gazette, he says, “The Northwest Atlantic is one of the world’s largest sinks of carbon dioxide and, despite progress in our understanding, there’s still a huge lack of data as it relates to climate change’s impact on the ocean and what that means for the economy and society”.
In addition to Canadian scientists from Nova Scotia’s Dalhousie University, Memorial University Newfoundland and from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, researchers on board include those from the Marine Institute and National University of Ireland, Galway, GEOMAR from Germany, the University of Exeter, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Columbia University from the U.S., and Aarhus University, Denmark.
The trip falls under the new Ocean Frontier Institute and its goal to support multi-year research efforts. Ireland’s Marine Institute is a partner in OFI co-founded by Memorial University, Dalhousie University, and the University of Prince Edward Island. It was created last year through $220 million in funding from the Canadian government.
The ship left Newfoundland late last week and should be in Ireland by the end of the month.
The CEO of Charlottetown-based Retrievium is now piloting the company’s product – which produces predictive analytics for drug companies producing new compounds. As he proceeds with this work with a drug discovery company, he’s hoping to close a seed round of funding in June.
Meanwhile, he’s preparing to graduate from the Creative Destruction Lab in Toronto, and to enter another high-profile Toronto mentoring group, Next Founders.
It’s a rather hectic time for a company that began as a collaborative effort between Pearson, a computational chemist at University of P.E.I., and Ray Poirier, a chemist at Memorial University of Newfoundland. Working with another Charlottetown startup, discoverygarden, they came up with a platform that chemists could use to help find the best ways of combining chemicals to produce new compounds.
Targeting the pharmaceutical industry, Retrievium uses computational modelling to help find new drugs or materials, and to better understand the properties of chemical systems. It can tell researchers what happens when certain elements are combined, and suggests new combinations in seeking a desired result.
“It’s a young market right now – there’s not a lot of competitors in the space,” said Pearson in an interview last week. “We differentiate ourselves in a number of ways – our background, our target market. There’s a lot of room for growth as people have a lot to learn in using predictive analytics … especially in chemical structure.”
Among the achievements of this young company is being accepted into the Creative Destruction Lab, one of Canada’s leading entrepreneurial programs. What’s more impressive is that Retrievium is graduating from it. The CDL starts each cohort with a few dozen teams, which attend a one- or two-day mentoring session to receive a set of milestones from mentors. When the cohort convenes again about two months later, teams that missed their milestones are asked to leave. CDL repeats the process several times until the cohort comes down to a core of strong teams – one of which, this year, is Retrievium.
“It’s hard,” said Pearson. “We’re really scientists, and we think Dragons’ Den has got nothing on this program.” He added that the program has really helped because Retrievium gained exposure to so many top flight mentors.
Pearson is coy about the current pilot program, but he said he’s had a strong response from pharma companies. “We have clients ready to pay us money,” he said.
He is also getting a good response from potential investors and hopes to close a “relatively significant seed round” in June – a round that would allow the company to operate for 12 to 18 months. And Pearson will hone his entrepreneurial know-how by going through Next Founders, a program for maturing entrepreneurs offered by the Next Canada group.
With the money and the mentorship, Pearson is optimistic about Retrievium’s prospects.
“I’m also realistic – my scientific background tells me that we have challenges,” he said. “There are some significant things we have to prove. But the people in the room at the CDL are some of the most influential and connected in the world, really. So they’re the right people to be taking your idea and transforming it into a high-growth startup.”
Graduates of Dalhousie University’s new Creator Series, an entrepreneurship program for students interested in producing hardware, showcased their work Wednesday evening. The new program is intended to give students the basic skills they need to create their own prototypes.
Audience members were entertained by projects that included a globe-like 360-degree camera, complete with all-seeing ‘eyes’, an automated floor-sander, and a headset that uses virtual reality to train firefighters by positioning them in a room full of flames.
The prototypes were rudimentary, but the members of the student teams are now ready to improve upon their work and proceed with their business ideas.
Program creator Cat Adalay, head of Creator Initiatives at Launch Dal, said she devised the program to help non-engineers become technically literate and creative.
“With automation taking at least half of human jobs over the next 20 years, we need to give ordinary people a basic technical education as well as getting them to be involved in entrepreneurial pursuits,” she said.
“If job security existed once, it definitely won't soon. By creating more entrepreneurs, we create jobs… Teaching people how to create basic physical prototypes gives them an understanding of their products and what is possible.”
The students, all from Launch Dal’s Starting Lean and Innovation courses, learned skills such as 3D printing, CAD modeling, coding and circuitry design and assembly.
At the start of the program, most team members had little or no experience of these technologies.
Adalay said the students were helped by the fact that so much open-source technology is now available free online. (‘Open-source’ refers to resources where the original material is made freely available, and can be modified by other users.)
“Open-source materials are immense for the creation of both hardware and software,” Adalay said. “Students can find very similar projects online, which allows them to speed up the development of their own work.”
One team, for example, found an existing image-recognition project online, which assisted them in developing their own image-recognition system for use underwater.
Adalay said students also benefitted from being able to use tiny and affordable Raspberry Pi computers and Arduino microcontrollers.
The participants learned the curriculum in 10 workshops over 30 hours. They also had access to Dalhousie’s state-of-the-art 3D printer, the Form 2.
Mary Kilfoil, the Academic Lead for Starting Lean, said the university is working on forming partnerships that will hopefully make the program available across the country.
The participating teams included:
- AutoSand--a robot that sands wooden decks ad floors autonomously to save contractors time and money and safeguard their health.
- Camerly--a selfie-taking solution that consists of a 3D camera that can be attached to a drone, selfie-stick or tripod to take 360’ pictures.
- ROVault--a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) that educates users on ocean life and environments.
- V-RAD--a virtual reality system designed specifically for training first-responder professions like police and firefighters with the aim of reducing injuries and deaths.
- QuickTap--a mobile, touchscreen solution for restaurants so clients can order and pay for meals in a simple, streamlined way.
Knowledge seekers - Entrepreneurial collaboration and communication in Atlantic Canada
The project brings together faculty and staff from both campuses of Memorial University, St. Mary’s University, University of PEI, Université de Moncton, Cape Breton University and University of New Brunswick.
The group is mapping knowledge-seeking behaviours in the Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurial ecosystem in order to compare and contrast regions and recommend ways to strengthen the ecosystem. An entrepreneurial ecosystem is defined as a unique, complex environment that supports entrepreneurial activity
“Interest in mapping and better understanding these ecosystems will be valuable for policy-makers, industry associations, entrepreneurs, academics and other actors,” said Ken Carter, director, Office of Engagement at Grenfell Campus.
Grenfell’s Navigate Entrepreneurship Centre is working with key ecosystem partners, including the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and the provincial department of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation, entrepreneurial groups such as Humber Valley Entrepreneurs, and support organizations like Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs, to build an entrepreneurial culture in the Corner Brook area.
This includes initiatives such as startup weekends, entrepreneurial workshops and networking sessions, regional development conferences, and career and entrepreneurial expos for students. IT also involves close participation with Grenfell Campus’s business program.
“Interest in entrepreneurial ecosystems has intensified as successful regions have shown that high levels and intensity of support to entrepreneurs can be an effective regional economic development strategy,” said Dr. Blair Winsor, Faculty of Business Administration, St. John’s campus.
“Rather than competing, we need to work together to be the best in the world at what we do.”— Dr. Ellen Farrell
The project is a good example of co-operation between researchers and institutions in Atlantic Canadian. The group is also looking at other teaching and research opportunities.
“We need collaboration to make things happen beyond those that we are able to do on our own,” said Dr. Ellen Farrell from St. Mary’s University.
“We need to move forward in this world as a region. We have great universities, researchers and collaboration. Rather than competing, we need to work together to be the best in the world at what we do.”
If any exit can demonstrate how the economy benefits when a young company is bought by a larger company, it was IBM’s purchase of Q1 Labs of Fredericton in early 2012.
That purchase, reportedly worth more than $600 million, did more than just reward investors and staff at the cybersecurity company. It has led to hundreds of jobs in cybersecurity R&D in the New Brunswick capital, and made New Brunswick a genuine leader in research in cybersecurity, one of hottest segments of the IT world.
When the deal was announced in October 2011, Q1 Labs was officially headquartered in Waltham, Mass. But its 200 employees included a massive development team in Fredericton, where the company had started a decade earlier. What has been under-appreciated in Atlantic Canada is that IBM has invested heavily in its cybersecurity team in Fredericton, doubling its staff there, and Sandy Bird, the Q1 Labs Chief Technology Officer, is now the CTO for IBM’s global cybersecurity unit. From his base in Fredericton, he oversees 20 major R&D labs around the world.
“Cybersecurity over the last 15 years has gone through several cycles,” Bird said in an interview last week. “At the time of the acquisition, we were just entering this era of the cybersecurity world having an impact in the physical world. . . . All of a sudden, the rest of the world woke up to the impact of these of financial crimes. Big organizations were becoming the target for criminals.”
Bird said that since then there have been several waves of new threats entering the cybersphere, and cybersecurity professionals coming up with solutions. IBM’s QRadar platform — the heir of the Q1 Labs’ product — is a platform that allows the user to integrate more than 200 cybersecurity tools on a single interface. Five years after IBM closed the Q1 deal, QRadar still rates among the best in the world in Gartner’s assessment of the security field.
“You always reinvent yourself in security every few years, and one of the things we were really good at at Q1 Labs was keeping abreast of what was happening,” Bird said.
IBM’s growth in the Fredericton area has underpinned the provincial government’s efforts to make New Brunswick a centre of excellence in cybersecurity. Big Blue became the first research partner at the Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity, which opened earlier this year at University of New Brunswick with more than $4.5 million in funding. Fredericton-based Bulletproof opened a Security Operation Centre in February, immediately leading to the creation of 15 jobs. Other New Brunswick startups specializing in cybersecurity are coming along, such as Fredericton-based Sentrant Security Inc. and Saint John-based EhEye.
Not many people in the region realize there are Q1 Labs veterans who now sit on global cybersecurity standards boards, determining the standards for crime prevention around the world, Bird said.
He said the next phase of growth in the field will be to ensure the region can continue to train people to work in cybersecurity, starting with curricula at schools, colleges and universities. There are estimates there will be a global shortfall of 1.5 million cybersecurity professionals by 2019, which presents a huge opportunity for New Brunswick. Bird said the skills should be multi-disciplinary, like bringing in psychologists who can understand the thinking of cyber-criminals.
“There’s a huge, massive shortfall in cybersecurity skills in the workforce today,” he said. “We just need to grow more cybersecurity skill. We should be driving our world-class leadership and doing research that is relevant in the rest of the world.”
New Holland College course created for culinary scientists
Canada's Smartest Kitchen at Holland College has helped develop a course designed to help people become certified culinary scientists.
Culinary scientists and research chefs bring food products to life — from concept to the grocery store shelf.
While training programs for research chefs teach science to people already trained as chefs, this program will bring in people with a science background, and give them culinary training, such as knife skills or principles of nutrition.
Emilee Sorrey, the kitchen's marketing and communications co-ordinator, said there is a need for the course because the failure rate for people writing the Certified Culinary Scientist exam is high.
'Training piece missing'
"There was clearly a training piece missing because all of these [culinary scientists] out there on their own, bringing their books home and trying to study on their own and then going and kind of writing the test, really without any proper training, or really able to cement those skills," she said.
Emilee Sorrey says culinary scientists usually have strong food science backgrounds, but not necessarily culinary skills. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)
'Anywhere you see a food company there's probably a [culinary scientist] somewhere involved in the product pipeline.'- Emilee Sorrey
The course consists of online training and two five-day face-to-face training sessions at the Culinary Institute of Canada in Charlottetown.
Students can put the time they spend on the course toward their training hours requirement, Sorrey said.
The tuition fee is $8,000.
The next courses will be offered in November.
"Having this certification helps create better culinary solutions, it increases the product success rate, it decreases the time to market," Sorrey said.
"Anywhere you see a food company there's probably a research chef [or a culinary scientist] somewhere involved in the product pipeline."
Dal Research to help farmers adopt clean technologies and practices receives $1.7M
Faculty of Agriculture researchers are well on their way to helping the Canadian farming sector become a world leader in the development and use of clean and sustainable agricultural technologies and practices.
On Friday, April 21, on the eve of Earth Day, Member of Parliament Bill Casey (Cumberland—Colchester) announced a $1.7 million investment to develop technologies, practices and processes that can be adopted by farmers to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
This project is among 20 projects being delivered through the $27 million Agricultural Greenhouse Gases Program (AGGP), a science-based program to help the agricultural sector adjust to climate change and improve soil and water conservation by developing new farming practices and methods. It also will help farmers increase their understanding of GHG emissions.
“For decades, the Agricultural Campus has led the way in agricultural innovation and rural economic development,” Bill Casey, Member of Parliament for Cumberland-Colchester. “Dalhousie’s Faculty of Agriculture continues its leadership in tackling climate change and now with this investment from our government into their valuable project, they will be able to do even more. This is good news for both farmers and the environment, which we all depend on to sustain our livelihoods.”
Success through partnership
Faculty members David Burton and Derek Lynch at the Faculty of Agriculture are working directly with the agricultural community to assess soil health, carbon storage capacity and soil nitrogen supply as a basis for greenhouse gas mitigation planning.
This research will go a long way to increase the resiliency of Atlantic Canadian soils to climate change and extreme weather events which will be of broad benefit to the agriculture sector across Canada.
“The Federal Government’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth recently released the Barton Report focussed on the growth potential of key sectors,” explained Dr. David Gray, dean of the Faculty of Agriculture and principal of the Dalhousie Agricultural Campus.
“In this report, the Federal government aspires to global leadership in agri-food such that Canada will become the trusted global leader in safe, nutritious and sustainable food for the 21st century. The Faculty of Agriculture is proud to work with our government toward this vision through our leading edge teaching and research.”
The new AGGP investments will continue to support the work of the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases, which brings together 47 countries to find ways to grow more food without growing greenhouse gas emissions.
“This funding provides a wonderful opportunity to work with the Atlantic agricultural industry and provincial partners to improve our understanding of which soil, fertility and crop management approaches best contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation,” explained Dr. Lynch. “It also provides for a unique soil health laboratory facility and helps us train the next generation of researchers in soil science and agronomy, to contribute to these important goals.”
Venture for Canada, the program that matches leading Canadian graduates to jobs in the country’s startups, will announce its launch in New Brunswick on Tuesday.
The organization will hold a launch event, open to the public, at Planet Hatch in Fredericton at noon tomorrow. Tech evangelist David Alston and Chinova Bioworks CEO Natasha Dhayagude (a former Venture for Canada fellow) will be the special guests at the event.
Venture for Canada, or VFC, each year selects fellows from among the leading graduates at Canadian universities and matches them with startups that need talent. The application process for VFC is rigorous, consisting of essays, transcripts, resumes and interviews. The VFC website cites intelligence, character, founder potential, ability to contribute and grit as the characteristics required of VFC fellows.
Fellows attend a four-week training camp at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., where they become versed in subjects such as management practices, social entrepreneurship, family business, communications, sales strategies and conflict resolution. In the 2016-2017 Fellowship cohort, just over 60 fellows were chosen from among nearly 2,200 applicants. More than one-third of the successful candidates will be placed at Atlantic Canadian start-ups.
Sabrina Poirier, the Program Director for Atlantic Canada, posted on Facebook last week that this will be the first year that the program will be in New Brunswick, “so we want to celebrate with the many wonderful people, organizations and startups who've supported us along the way.”
The event will offer a chance to meet Founder and Executive Director Scott Stirrett, Program Coordinator in New Brunswick Kassi Clifford, and the 2017 fellows who have just been chosen for New Brunswick.
The New Brunswick event comes as VFC learned last week that it would receive $202,959 in funding from the federal government. It provided the funding through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Business Development Program (BDP).
"As a proud Nova Scotian, it has been wonderful to see the Venture for Canada program expand in Atlantic Canada,” said Stirrett in a statement. “It is fantastic to see the tremendous growth of entrepreneurship in the region and we are honored to work with amazing community partners and high growth start-ups.”
One snowy evening last month, the Spark Zone finally got a chance to show what it had been up to in the past year or two.
The entrepreneurship group hosted its New Product Competition finals at Saint Mary’s University, showcasing three student-led companies it has been working with for the past few months. What was notable was the quality of the presenting companies. It wasn’t just that the pitches were good; it was that all the products were based on novel ideas and showed clear and credible plans to get to market.
“We are starting to hit our stride and we’re getting a better feel for what we can do for people,” Jason Turner, the manager of the Spark Zone, said in an interview. “We’ve been at it now for three years and . . . it’s taken us a few years to learn what it all looks like. Do we want the things here at SMU that they want at the Atlantic School of Theology? Does NSCC want the same thing as NSCAD?”
The Spark Zone is one of Nova Scotia’s “sandboxes,” which are groups funded by the provincial government in which various post-secondary institutions can work together to nurture entrepreneurs. The Spark Zone is a collaboration between SMU, Mount Saint Vincent University, Nova Scotia Community College, NSCAD University and the Atlantic School of Theology. (The AST has been using its membership to learn how the institution and its students can use technology more effectively.)
The sandbox recently teamed up with the David Sobey Centre for Innovation in Retailing and Services at SMU to host the New Product Competition — a contest for teams producing a product to help retailers.
The winner of the $10,000 first prize was Blue Shell, which has designed a sort of anti-theft device that also tells consumers about the product they’re thinking of buying. The product is a plastic object that clips onto a garment in a shop and sounds an alarm if someone tries to remove the clothing from the shop. What’s new about this product is that the shopper can also zap it with a smartphone to find out information or learn of a special sale. It helps retailers move more product, and it could provide data that would help sales.
The runner-up was a company called Dou It Fresh, which we reported on a few weeks ago. The third-place company was Smart Cart, which has big ambitions but suffered in the judging because it hasn’t built a prototype yet. The team has designed shopping cart handles that can take biometric readings from the hands of the person pushing the cart. That means that they can chart the emotions of a shopper as he or she pushes the cart through the supermarket, and that produces data on what the public likes or dislikes in the shop.
The Spark Zone is helping these companies to grow and is involved in a range of other related activities as well. It works closely with Sobey School Business Development Centre and with Saint Mary’s Enactus organization, part of an international group that encourages social entrepreneurship.
Turner said the Spark Zone has a lot of fuzzy borders, its work blending with a number of institutions and groups whose work overlaps with its own.
“That is the meat on the bone for us,” said Turner. “We don’t have a big number of startups but we’re doing a lot. We are less focused on startups than we are on idea generation.”
Two Nova Scotia tidal projects have received a combined C$200,000 funding to develop novel environmental monitoring technologies.
Open Seas Instrumentation of Musquodoboit Harbour was awarded $135,000 and JASCO Applied Sciences of Dartmouth received $65,000 in funding with the combined C$300,000 balance of research costs sourced from partner contributions.
The projects were selected for funding through a joint research competition sponsored by the Offshore Energy Research Association (OERA) of Nova Scotia, the Nova Scotia Department of Energy and INNOVACORP.
The Open Seas project focuses on the redesign of a subsea platform for monitoring movement and behaviour of marine life close to the turbine.
The redesign integrates an adjustable structure into the FORCE FAST-2 (Fundy Advanced Sensor Technology) platform so that sensors can collect data from a wide range of viewing perspectives including the face of the turbine.
Project partners are the Nova Scotia Community College, Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy, Acadia University, DSA, and Ocean Moor Technical Services.
Testing will take place in the Minas Passage with project completion set for June 2017.
The JASCO project will develop a long-term monitoring program to measure how sound propagates in turbulent waters so we can better understand how these conditions impact on the ability to acoustically detect marine life.
Researchers will also estimate for different marine organisms, their ability to audibly detect turbines in turbulent waters. The proposed work will involve the novel integration of different hydrophones and sensor technologies, with testing to be conducted in the Bay of Fundy.
Project partners are Dalhousie University and Luna Ocean Consulting. Project completion is set for August 2018.
“The key to developing a sustainable and successful tidal energy industry in Nova Scotia is understanding how turbines interact with the environment in the Bay of Fundy,” said OERA executive director Stephen Dempsey.
“These research projects will not only help us enhance how we monitor the environment near an operating turbine, but is expected to bring technology innovation to the sector, that is developed here and exported abroad.”
Startup Zone Names Deacon as Entrepreneur-in-Residence
Startup Zone, the startup hub in downtown Charlottetown, has announced that Colin Deacon will be joining the Startup Zone team as Entrepreneur-in-Residence. Deacon brings years of experience and know-how from investment, venture capital, and business building, said the organization in a statement. Deacon is the Founder of BlueLight Analytics Inc., a dental technology company based in Halifax. It sells scientific equipment and data services to universities and dental manufacturers in more than 20 countries, as well as large international contracts that increase the success of dental sales teams. Previously, he helped build Canada’s largest health research venture capital fund, Canadian Medical Discoveries Fund Inc. He was part of the team that grew SpellRead Inc. from a single founder-run Charlottetown location to a fast-growing company with a scalable program delivering consistent results across 200 individual sites in North America.
Appili Lands Irap Funds
Appili Therapeutics Inc., an anti-infective drug development company, announced that it will receive an additional $400,000 from the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP), bringing IRAP support for this project to a total of up to $759,000. This funding supports the development of ATI-1503, an antibiotic targeting drug-resistant Gram-negative bacteria, including Klebsiella pneumoniae, Acinetobactor baumannii, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. These superbugs cause potentially deadly infections, including pneumonia and blood infections. “Doctors are fast running out of treatment options and IRAP funding is an important part of our financial strategy for helping Appili develop a new antibiotic that can treat these deadly diseases,” said Kimberly Stephens, CFO of Appili Therapeutics. ATI-1503 is a synthetic version of the naturally occurring Negamycin antibiotic. Using IRAP funding, Appili’s expert drug development team will employ advanced X-ray crystallography to visualize the exact structure of ATI-1503 binding to the bacterial target.
Dalhousie Holds Pitching Event Tomorrow
Launch Dal, the entrepreneurial hub at Dalhousie University, is moving from its winter programming into the summer offering. On Thursday, the group will host the Collide Pitch Competition at 6pm in the Collider, on the second floor of the Killam Library. Since January, participants in the Collide program have been working on their pitches through workshops, pitch nights and networking events. The five teams will present their final pitches to a panel of judges for their chance to win prize money for their ventures. Launch Dal also announced that it has extended the deadline to its 100K Competition to Friday, April 28 at 5pm. Ten teams will have the opportunity to spend the summer in Launch Dal’s summer accelerator and receive $10,000 each in development funding. Applications are available here.
CarbonCure Partner Wins Award
Ozinga and CarbonCure Technologies have announced that Ozinga is the winner of the 12th Annual Illinois Emerald Award for Green Building Innovation for its work with Halifax-based CarbonCure. The U.S. Green Building Council-Illinois (USGBC-Illinois) announced the winners of the Emerald Awards, which showcase the best and brightest contributors to a more sustainably built environment by recognizing outstanding individuals, organizations, projects and technologies. Ozinga is a fourth-generation family-owned American business providing ready mix concrete products to Chicago and the surrounding area since 1928. Ozinga installed CarbonCure's technology, which uses waste carbon dioxide to cure concrete, at its Chicago Chinatown plant in September 2016. Following extensive testing, Ozinga has been using the technology to optimize its carbon footprint.
Metamaterial Technologies Inc., the Halifax company that makes artificial materials that can alter light, has closed an $8.3 million round of funding, led by Toronto-based venture capital fund Radar Capital Inc.
Metamaterials is a prime example of how the right support at the right time coupled with hard work and leadership from good entrepreneurs and worldclass researchers can build a big company in a small pond. George Palikaras and his partners make a strong team. One that understands the opportunities available in Atlantic Canada such as world-class research and development opportunities, and a strong support network of funders and bridging organizations who work together to support companies just like this. The University of New Brunswick's Office of Research Services, was there at the beginning of Metamaterials development and helped the team to understand the eco-system and the tremendous support available. Thanks to this early support Metamaterials has harnessed those resources in order to continue springboarding forward. Catching the attention of Radar Capital with their strong team, good traction, and world class tech. It's exciting to see Radar investing in Atlantic Canada in a big way and we look forward to a continued trend of new investors discovering the amazing things lighting up in Atlantic Canada.
MTI company said that Radar Capital, investing in Atlantic Canada for the first time, accounted for almost half the funding round. The other backers were Innovacorp and angel investors, including members of the First Angel Network.
MTI has developed metamaterials, or compounds not found in nature, that can filter, absorb or reflect light in certain ways. Its first commercial project is MetaAir, a see-through screen that filters out laser attacks on aircraft. In February, MTI and European aircraft maker Airbus announced they would proceed with the commercial production of MetaAir, manufacturing it in Halifax.
“The main point of this new capital is to support the commercialization of our first product,” said Metamaterial Technologies CEO George Palikaras in an interview. “And we also need to put the right people in place – there are still a few gaps in our staff.”
Palikaras said the company began to work on this round of funding last summer and soon drew the interest of Radar, which decided to lead the round. He added that MTI, which has raised about $15 million since its inception, believes it won’t have to raise VC investment again. If it meets its targets, MTI should be cash-flow positive in calendar 2018, he said.
“MTI is a world leader in metamaterials and is at a stage of development where Radar’s investment can propel MTI to commercialization,” said Radar President and CEO Mark Lerohl in a statement. “We invest in companies looking for growth equity to access international markets while building towards a liquidity event for investors.”
Added Charles Baxter, vice president of investment at Innovacorp: “MTI continues to demonstrate the world-class capabilities of its technology platform as it commercializes its laser-protection solution for the aviation industry. We are confident in MTI’s ability to address significant challenges in many other verticals."
The big challenge that MTI has faced with MetaAir is to produce the screens in commercial volumes that are large enough to fit over an airplane windshield. Palikaras said the company can now produce the MetaAir sheets that are 80 centimetres wide and 100 metres long – which means they can be easily cut to fit over the standard 60-centimetre-wide cockpit window.
The company can produce them now through a semi-automated procedure, and the task before MTI is to evolve to a completely automated process, he added.
MTI now operates out of the Innovacorp Technology Innovation Centre in Dartmouth, but its staff has doubled to 30 people since last summer so it is now looking for a new headquarters.
In the longer term, MTI is in the research and development stage of two other product lines. MetaAir is a product that filters light, but the company’s technology can also absorb light and reflect light. MTI is working on finding major industrial partners to help with the development of products using these technologies.
Meanwhile, it looks forward to bringing MetaAir to market in the near future.
“What we do know is that our product is different than anything else that’s available on the market,” said Palikaras. “And the threat of laser strikes is only increasing so we’re quite optimistic about our prospects.”
NASA has been carrying out some very interesting studies under the ACCESS (Alternative Fuel Effects on Contrails and Cruise Emissions Study) project in conjunction with NRC and DLR. This research has focused on the positive impacts of blending biofuels with jet fuel to reduce soot particle emissions, as an interim step to the full use of biofuels in the aviation industry, and also to justify the use of bio only fuels in the next generation of NASA "X" planes.
The NASA press release, about the outcomes from ACCESS, is here. This was issued to coincide with the publication of the associated research paper in Nature on 17th March 2017 - the synopsis for which is here.
The conclusions are highly positive about the adoption of blended fuels. However, there is now a need to build the research case for widespread commercial adoption of systems and adoption of technology and capabilities:
"While the promising results may suggest it would be logical to only use biofuels, Dr. Moore said a number of engineering and infrastructural limitations, including some jet engines needing a certain quota of traditional jet fuel to function safely, meant that wasn't currently possible."
There is a high concentration of research being conducted in biofuels being done in Atlantic Canada. This is a great opportunity given the international interest in this space to align the region to pursue large scale projects with the CARIC project model.
The best opportunity of assembling this type of team is also about to present itself in the form of the CARIC National Research Forum being held August 2017 in Vancouver. Where green energy will be one of the 4 strategic themes of the forum.
There are some key alignments that can be made in order to identify focused and relevant end-user defined research, in order to overcome issues of widespread biofuel adoption in the aerospace sector. Many of these research themes may be eligible for funding through CARIC programs.
The prominence of green energy research, and ability to present to a globally recognized research and innovation forum, with an audience of technocrats from the world's leading aerospace companies is a highly unique opportunity.
Register here for the webinars about preparing and submitting project ideas for consideration and possible presentation at the event.
To explore this opportunity further, give Duncan McSporran, CARIC Atlantic Regional Director a call.
UPEI assistant prof gets over $460,000 to set up muscle research lab
With these funds from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) and the UPEI Research Services, Dr. Johnston will be able to continue his research on tissue adaptation and repair following injury through studying how to control stem cell activity and state of the art equipment.
“This generous investment will greatly enhance my research capability and provide me the opportunity to establish the UPEI Skeletal Muscle Health and Adaptation Research Laboratory,” said Johnston. “This laboratory, the only of its kind in Atlantic Canada, will be dedicated to excellence in research, training of highly qualified individuals, and fostering academic and industry collaborations.”
“The Skeletal Muscle Health and Adaptation Research Laboratory is the latest addition to the significant research capacity at the University of Prince Edward Island,” said MP for Charlottetown Sean Casey. “I’m proud to see this unique research happening right here in P.E.I., supporting our province’s growing biosciences sector.”
3 Atlantic Aerospace Startups are #Springboarding to the Stars
Three startup companies linked to members of the Springboard network have been selected as three of the ten global finalists for the Starburst Accelerator competition.
Starburst is the first start-up accelerator dedicated to the Aerospace & Defense industry, and provides support to start-ups seeking to develop their activities in the aeronautics, defense and space markets. The program links start-ups with a wide network of industry players and partner companies around the world to accelerate the development of breakthrough innovations.
Atlantic Canadian Companies QRA, Envenio and Agile Sensors were nominated as part of the global search for cutting edge capabilities to solve the technological challenges facing the aerospace industry. The event is being hosted for 2017 in the global aerospace hub of Montreal. The significance of their selection is evident in the broad span of the technologies and capabilities that the three companies have developed, and the immense amount of interest being shown in their development by some of the biggest names in aerospace, including Lockheed Martin and Bombardier.
We are very proud to see these companies #springboarding forward. All three have strong ties to the Springboard network and have been supported by the Atlantic innovation ecosystem as they have grown to where they are now - at the front of an exciting field of aerospace innovators in a highly competitive business sector.
The Amplify Growth Conference in Halifax Tuesday displayed something that’s becoming more common in startup events in Atlantic Canada: When the local speakers took the stage, they were generally as impressive as the experts flown in from the U.S.
Amplify focused on growth marketing — the process by which small companies efficiently reach huge numbers of people and convert as many as possible to paying customers. Global pioneers in the movement, like keynote speaker GrowthHackers CEO Sean Ellis, delivered tremendous insights on state-of-the-art online marketing to attendees at Pier 21.
In the middle of it, five experts from the region told their tales of hacking growth, and they meshed in seamlessly with the visitors from Silicon Valley — both in the quality of their presentations and the methodology they employed.
“I think there’s a big opportunity for people to be more sophisticated in the sales development space,” said Thomas Rankin, CEO of Dash Hudson, one of the local presenters.
Rankin and the other execs outlined the tactics they had used to “hack growth.” In the case of Halifax-based Dash Hudson, which provides analytics of social media reach for such industries as fashion and publishing, the company has developed a process for reaching new clients.
Interns cultivate lists of potential clients, who are emailed by sales development reps. Account execs, whose signatures are on the emails, follow up with introductory calls. And they always demo the Dash Hudson product.
“We always try to show our product to people, even if they’re kind of noncommittal, because our product is really kickass,” said Rankin.
Ardi Iranmanesh, a co-founder of Halifax-based Affinio, said his company tested a range of processes until finally deciding to use its own product, which identifies communities of individuals with complementary interests. Using Affinio’s technology, the company was able to identify potential clients and then use a range of techniques to contact them and convert them to clients.
“We identified our tribe,” he said. “And the lesson we learned is to never stop testing. We run inbound and outbound (marketing) in partnership.”
Matt Stewart, co-founder of Halifax’s Swept, said his company was challenged in growth hacks because it produces software for janitorial services, an industry group with a small digital footprint. It therefore strove to build up lists of potential clients, and found that some data providers had lists that were wildly out of date
“The problem is it’s really hard to come back from calling someone who’s been dead for seven years,” said Stewart.
The company found that it could build up a list through Yellow Pages and Yelp, and then use various processes to determine the quality of each lead.
One final Halifax company, Proposify, uses a “lead magnet” built right into its product to gain thousands of view a month and develop a group of 4,000 paying clients, said the company’s growth marketer Patrick Edmonds.
By lead magnet, he means offering something to potential clients that they can use and will make them view the product favourably. The key: The lead magnet has to demonstrate the value of the product that’s being sold.
One common thread that ran through all the presentations is that the companies arrived at their growth hacks after a painstaking process of trial and error.
“We’ve been hearing a lot about great growth hacks that work,” said Kate Johnson of Moncton-based Alongside. “What falls under the radar is how many failures there were to get to that point.”
Saving whales, fighting cybercrime, putting out fires – all in a day’s work for Canada’s Tech Scene
Canada is a hub of innovation. From reducing killer ocean noise, to helping small businesses fight cybercrime, to developing a gelling agent that smothers fires up to 55% faster while using 60% less water – Canada is where it’s at for cutting-edge technologies, ground-breaking research, and top-notch talent.
The new publication Canadian Innovation News (CIN) outlines some of the ways that Canadian innovation is changing the world, and provides information on how you can connect and collaborate with the top researchers, innovators and organizations in Canada.The spring issue of CIN is focused on Atlantic Canada. Each quarterly publication will focus on a Canadian region while celebrating innovation from across Canada.
Springboard Atlantic is proud to be a Content Partner for Canadian Innovation News and excited to share the spring issue with you, it's time to celebrate Atlantic Canada's cutting-edge research. So please, share the good news!
The Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI) in Canada is poised to become one of the world’s leading research efforts to understand the complex changes happening in the most vulnerable ocean regions, and find solutions to ensure their safe and sustainable development for future generations.
Atlantic Canada: Where cooperation is a competitive advantage
Universities and colleges in Atlantic Canada have discovered the secret to winning huge research mandates and partnerships with major multinationals like IBM, Siemens, Cisco, Royal DSM and Lockheed Martin. The secret? Compete less and cooperate more.
Meet Canada’s Cybercrime Fighters
Cybercrime costs the global economy about US$455 billion annually. One of the primary targets for these cybercrimes are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Learn how Canada is fighting back.
Getting started on a collaborative model of innovation
Throughout the year, curious executives and leaders from companies and governments from all over the world come to tour the Communitech Hub in Waterloo Region. Invariably, they are astounded by the mix of startups, mid-sized companies and large multinationals all working in the same building.
Bridging Canadian academic R&D with the biotherapeutics economy
How does one translate quality research from a thriving scientific environment into consumer products or technologies that hold tremendous benefits to the world? The Centre for the Commercialization of Antibodies and Biologics (CCAB) aims to achieve this goal in the field of biotherapeutics.
Interested in learning more? Contact Rebecca Melville by email firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone +1-416-481-7070 ex 2.
Breakthru Awards a Combined $1.1 Million in Prizes to Four Atlantic Canadian Startups
NBIF held their much-anticipated Breakthru awards dinner at the Fredericton Convention Centre Thursday night, awarding a shared $1.1 million in prizes for the biennial startup competition to Newpy, Pfera, SomaDetect and WEnTechSolutions.
Product photography social app Newpy was award the national grand prize of $301,250 in cash investments and professional services.
The grand provincial prize of $374,250 was awarded to Fredericton-based biotech company Pfera, which uses a digital milk strip analysis tool designed to improve birth date predictions for horses.
Runners up in the provincial category were SomaDetect, a milk analysis system that uses light scattering technology to evaluate the quality of the milk and the health of the cow producing it; and WEnTech Solutions, a software system that allows project engineers to evaluate and recommend effective scenarios for waste-to-energy projects. The companies will take home a combined $180,000 in cash investments and professional services.
The winner of the Viewer’s Choice award, which includes a front-of-the-line Golden ticket to the April 1 Dragon’s Den audition in Toronto was Quber, a fintech app that lets people set savings goals and channel that money saved.
Memorial University has a new entrepreneurship centre that aims to support early-stage entrepreneurs to develop and launch their own businesses.
The Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship (MCE) — a campus-wide centre led by a partnership between the Faculty of Business Administration and the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science — was created to promote entrepreneurship, support students, faculty and staff in developing their startup business ideas, and contribute to developing an attractive entrepreneurial ecosystem in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Isaac Adejuwon is a student entrepreneur at Memorial who has already benefitted from the new centre. He says he is “so grateful” for the support he has received from MCE.
“I had no idea of what a pitch, a business model or venture capitalist was,” said Mr. Adejuwon.
“MCE helped me to pick up the skills I needed to run a startup in a very short period of time. I am exploring the entrepreneurship path and I’m enjoying it so much. Every day brings a new challenge and opportunity, which I find really exciting and fun.”
The centre offers individual coaching and mentorships, entrepreneurial work terms, startup funding programs, a student ambassador team, events and networking opportunities.
“Through the MCE, we can engage and support innovative thinkers to help them develop their ideas into local enterprises that encourage economic growth.”— President Kachanoski
“By fostering innovation among our students from the moment they enter our doors, Memorial University plays a critical leadership role in developing the entrepreneurs who will contribute to the future of this province, country and beyond,” said President Kachanoski.
“Through the MCE, we can engage and support innovative thinkers to help them develop their ideas into local enterprises that encourage economic growth. It is also an incredible example of interdisciplinary collaboration and I applaud our business and engineering faculties for their own innovative approach in establishing this centre.”
The centre will play a key role in developing academic capacity that aims to increase understanding of vibrant entrepreneurship within the Memorial community, to improve the economic success of new business ventures, and to foster a stronger entrepreneurial culture at Memorial and throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.
It will also support university- and community-led research to better understand the unique challenges and opportunities of the entrepreneurship ecosystem in the province.
Funding of $486,816 was provided by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) and $486,816 by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation (TCII). The John Dobson Foundation and other private donors also provided financial support.
“The centre will help foster and promote business and innovation, on campus and throughout the province.”— Seamus O’Regan
“I congratulate Memorial University on the official launch of the Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship,” said Seamus O’Regan, member of Parliament, St. John’s South-Mount Pearl, on behalf of Navdeep Bains, minister, Innovation, Science and Economic Development and minister responsible for ACOA.
“The centre will help foster and promote business and innovation, on campus and throughout the province. Through investments like this one, the Government of Canada is supporting a culture of innovators and entrepreneurs that will help businesses grow.”
“We remain committed to growing a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation in our province.”— Christopher Mitchelmore
“The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is pleased to support the Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship as we remain committed to growing a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation in our province,” said Christopher Mitchelmore, minister, Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation. “The launch of this new centre will help advance our Business Innovation Agenda, which is one of more than 50 initiatives in The Way Forward: A Vision for Sustainability and Growth in Newfoundland and Labrador, to be released in the coming months.”
For more information about the MCE, please visit the website.
CNA is studying invasive insects to protect Newfoundland ecosystems
The lily leaf beetle, with its shiny scarlet back, “is a cute little beetle,” admits Barry Hicks, who established the Applied Entomology Lab at the College of the North Atlantic (CNA) in 2008. But it’s a ravenous bugger, too. If your garden is full of lilies, “they will eat them right down to the ground,” he says.
It’s just one of the invasive insects showing up in Newfoundland and Labrador that could mess with the island’s ecosystem, and that Hicks and some of his first-year biology students are studying.
Situated at the Carbonear campus on Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula, the lab’s purpose is to conduct research to help maintain the native insects in the province, vulnerable to the introduction of invasive species. “Here in Newfoundland there are not very many entomologists,” says Hicks, explaining he set up the lab so biology students could help with practical research aimed at understanding and reducing insect-related problems.
The students do their work in summer. “My wife gets mad, because basically that’s when I am on annual leave,” laughs Hicks. “But that’s when all the bugs are out.”
Each year, one, two or three students help Hicks, which includes studying European fire ants and spruce budworm. After causing mass defoliations in the 1970s and 1980s in parts of Newfoundland, Labrador and New Brunswick, another spruce budworm outbreak could pose a serious threat to the lumber industry.
Sheila White, who now teaches high school science in Igloolik, Nunavut, was a first-year biology student in Hicks’s 2009 class. While studying for her applied science degree at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, she spent a summer at the CNA lab, researching methods to mass-produce the Beauveria bassiana fungus, which can infect and kill spruce budworm larvae.
“I was using barley and rice to produce the fungus,” explains White, who then harvested Beauveria spores from the grains, inoculated budworm larvae and recorded mortality rates. White’s research could one day lead to techniques for producing sufficient spores to be sprayed in a formula over forests “instead of using nasty chemical insecticides,” explains Hicks.
The European fire ant is particularly hated for its miserable sting. Hicks has been studying the ant’s arrival and impact on local invertebrates. Former CNA student Kristen Baker helped with the fire ant research during the summers of 2013 and 2014. “Surprisingly, I did not get stung by any fire ants even though I was working so closely with them,” says Baker, who set traps in gardens and front yards of people’s homes.
Baker put pairs of ants from different colonies in a tiny tubular glass ring to battle. The aggression tests helped determine whether Newfoundland’s fire ants spread from one colony or more. Ants from a genetically similar colony will just pass each other by in Baker’s little wrestling ring. But if an ant, using its antennae to detect chemicals on another ant’s exoskeleton, senses it is genetically different, they’ll duel to the death.
“I suggest that the ants may have been introduced from Britain [to Newfoundland] many years ago, maybe before the initial documented introduction into Massachusetts,” at the turn of the 20th century, says Hicks. Once he understands the ecology of the invasion, it “may provide additional information on how to manage these ants.”
A team called Innowave, which is proposing to use wave-generated energy to recharge automated underwater vehicles, won the $4,000 first place at the Launch Oceans event at Dalhousie University this weekend.
But that wasn’t really the biggest news to come out of the marine entrepreneurship event. The biggest news was that the business development exercise took place at all. It shows that the wheels are turning in developing innovative businesses that can use the abundant resources for ocean industries in Halifax and the region. The event was organized by Launch Dal, the university’s entrepreneurship initiative.
Innowave is proposing a docking station at which automated underwater vehicles, or AUVs, can recharge without returning to the surface. The system would rely on energy derived from wave action, and would allow these under water drones to work for longer periods and at greater depths without having to return to the surface.
Innowave’s team members were Maria Kilfoil of University of Massachusetts, David Rowe of Nova Scotia Community College, and Katherine Lin and Canberk Bal, both from Dalhousie’s engineering program.
Launch Oceans followed the format popularized by the international group, Startup Weekend. Participants came together Friday night, breaking into teams and spending the weekend developing a business idea. The teams pitched late Sunday afternoon and a panel of judges named the winners.
What was different about Launch Ocean was all the business ideas had to revolve around ocean technology. The ocean tech space has been getting a lot of institutional support in the Halifax area, as government and industry is committed to opening the Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship, or COVE, in Dartmouth next year. And in September, government, private investors and academia came together to announce $220 million in funding for the Ocean Frontier Institute, a new research group led by Dalhousie University.
What has been slow to develop is a stable of ocean-related startups as most of the young innovation-based companies in Halifax (indeed, the region) have focused on something other than the potential of maritime industries. The goal now is to engender the culture of entrepreneurship in nautical and biomarine scientists that is so prevalent in computer science faculties.
Though the 14 Launch Ocean participants had less entrepreneurial background than many people who turn out for Startup Weekends, there was a wealth of technical expertise. The ideas focused on education, and on the AUV market, which is expected to grow to $4 billion by 2020.
The second prize, which was worth $3,000, went to a team called Aquim, which proposed gathering data on underwater marine environments using cameras mounted on AUVs. ROVault, which envisages an educational tool that uses AUVs to show children marine life, won the $2,000 third prize.
Ed Leach of Launch Dal said $1,000 in development funding would also be awarded to the other two teams: Marine VR, which wants to build a virtual reality system to help aquariums and museums provide a rich experience for visitors without holding marine life in captivity; and Deep Sounds, which proposed installing a network of underwater microphones in inlets to monitor whales and other marine species.
All five teams have been invited to participate in Oceans Week, which is being staged in Halifax in June.
UPEI professor receives $461K in funding for research equipment
A professor at UPEI will receive funding worth $461,221 from two federal funding programs and the university to further his research in tissue adaptation and repair following injury.
Adam Johnston, an assistant professor in UPEI's Department of Applied Human Sciences, received $184,490 in funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation's John R. Evans Leaders Fund, $129,011 from the Business Development Program of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and $16,500 UPEI Research Services.
Johnston also received $131,220 worth of "in kind" — or non-cash — contributions from industry partners.
"This generous investment will greatly enhance my research capability and provide me the opportunity to establish the UPEI Skeletal Muscle Health and Adaptation Research Laboratory," said Johnston in a news release.
Funding will buy new equipment
Research from that laboratory will happen in the two labs Johnston uses at UPEI, and the funding will be used to buy new equipment for both.
It will go towards buying specialized microscopes, a cell culture suite and equipment that will help researchers study gene and protein expression for his biochemistry lab.
In his exercise physiology lab, the funding will help him buy several pieces of equipment that measure muscle and exercise performance, collect muscle biopsy samples, and oversee clinical exercise trials.
"UPEI is delighted that one of the most recent additions to our faculty has been able to establish his outstanding research laboratory so rapidly and we are very grateful to ACOA and to CFI for helping to make that possible," said Dr. Robert Gilmour, vice-president academic and research at UPEI.
"We look forward to many new insights from Dr. Johnston's unique and clinically relevant studies."
Terrestrial Energy Announces Collaboration With University of New Brunswick
Terrestrial Energy, a vendor of Advanced Reactor power plants, and the University of New Brunswick (UNB), have entered into a contract for validation and verification work for the company's ground-breaking Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR™). This is part of Terrestrial Energy's program of regulatory activities that are required before an IMSR power plant can be deployed.
UNB has a long and rich tradition of technology and scientific leadership. UNB's Department of Chemical Engineering facilities are well-suited to Terrestrial Energy's validation and verification requirements. The Centre for Nuclear Energy Research (CNER) in Fredericton is a university research institute that has a formal relationship with Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), Canada's premier nuclear research organization, which maintains staff on-site at UNB. This relationship helps ensure that CNER can undertake activities that are compliant with nuclear regulatory standards.
IMSR work at UNB/CNER is being managed by Dr. William Cook, Professor of Chemical Engineering at UNB, and Director of CNER. Dr. Cook has a PhD in Chemical Engineering from UNB.
"We are very pleased with our engagement with Terrestrial Energy," said Dr. Cook. "Everyone here is enthusiastic to be involved in this Canadian-grown project that holds tremendous potential to drive a new age of clean industrial-scale energy. UNB students will benefit greatly from exposure to Terrestrial Energy's Integral Molten Salt Reactor technology."
Dr. Cook and his team at CNER last year completed the second phase of R&D work for Super-Critical Water Reactor (SCWR) development for the Generation-IV International Forum (GIF) and look forward to focusing on Terrestrial Energy's IMSR, which is another GIF-recognized reactor system.
"UNB is well positioned to meet the needs of our IMSR work program, owing to their experience with the SCWR program and the integration of CNL into their nuclear engineering facilities," said Dr. David LeBlanc, Chief Technology Officer of Terrestrial Energy. "We are excited about the long-term potential of our collaboration with UNB and the Province of New Brunswick, especially given that the Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station has brought a robust nuclear supply chain to New Brunswick."
About Terrestrial Energy
Terrestrial Energy is developing an Advanced Reactor based on its Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR™) technology. The IMSR represents true innovation in safety, cost and functionality. It will offer safe and reliable power solutions for electricity production and energy for industrial process heat generation. These together extend the applicability of nuclear energy far beyond its current footprint. With this profile, the IMSR is capable of driving the rapid global decarbonization of the primary energy system by displacing fossil fuel combustion across a broad front. It is complementary to renewable power sources and ideal for distributed power systems on existing grids. Using an innovative design and proven Molten Salt Reactor technology, the IMSR will be brought to global markets in the 2020s. Terrestrial Energy USA Ltd is an affiliate company that is developing IMSR technology for US market deployment.
About University of New Brunswick Department of Nuclear Engineering
The University of New Brunswick (UNB) is Canada's oldest English-language university. Founded in 1785, the multi-campus institution has a rich history and a dynamic focus on innovation, experiential learning and entrepreneurship. UNB has nearly 10,500 students from nearly 100 countries while several thousand more take UNB courses online and at partner institutions around the world. UNB contributes significantly to the province with an annual economic impact of $1.2 billion on the provincial economy over the course of one year-equivalent to 4.5 per cent of the gross domestic product of New Brunswick. www.unb.ca
What’s striking about interviewing Caitlin Pierlot today is just how much she has grown as an entrepreneur in 18 months.
Pierlot is the co-founder and CEO of Covina Biomedical, a Halifax company that is developing a non-toxic bone cement to help osteoporosis patients who’ve broken bones.
The company first gained attention in October 2015, when it won the $45,000 first place in the BioInnovation Challenge, the annual pitching competition for life sciences companies in the region.
The company has made considerable gains in the last year-and-a-half. It has raised about $350,000 through the First Angel Network. Pierlot and her cofounder Brett Dickey are now in the final stages of building on that funding and closing what they hope will be a $1-million equity funding round.
Meanwhile, the company has been accepted into the Canadian Technology Accelerator in Boston, a program offered by the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service to help Canadian startups access foreign markets.
Most important, Pierlot has been plotting a clear path to market for the medical device company. She’s developing in painstaking detail a seven-phase plan to move through the regulatory process and produce something the company can sell to customers.
It’s a sign that she and Dickey, who seemed so new to the entrepreneurship space when they competed in the Challenge, have taken on a lot in the past 18 months.
“After the big push and all the public attention we got around the BioInnovation Challenge, we thought it would die down and we can putter along as we had before, but things just don’t work that way,” Pierlot said in an interview. “It feels like we’re still in the rush. It’s been fast-paced for sure.”
Covina grew out of research conducted at the Dalhousie University laboratory headed by Daniel Boyd, assistant professor of biomedical engineering.
The lab received $1.7 million in funding from ACOA’s Atlantic Innovation Fund in 2011 to research “non-invasive bone augmentation”.
That research led to the Covina product — a non-toxic bone cement that can be injected into the vertebrae of osteoporosis patients who have suffered a fracture. There are now 700,000 such fractures a year in the U.S., and Biofix is pioneering a minimally invasive procedure to cure them that would be inexpensive for hospitals and convenient for patients.
Pierlot is proud that, as the company has evolved, the basic product has not changed at all. In the next year, she and Dickey will take Covina through seven phases — things like concept development and design planning — so it will be ready to apply for regulatory approval in about a year.
Another thing that hasn’t changed for Covina is the core team, comprised of Pierlot, Dickey, Boyd and Bob Abraham. Boyd and Abraham are also the co-founders of ABK Biomedical, which aims to improve efficiency and safety when treating women for uterine fibroids, or benign tumours, in the uterus.
ABK is a more mature company than Covina, and Pierlot said her company has benefited immeasurably because Boyd and Abraham have helped Covina in navigating the complex path of bringing a medical device to market.
“We’ve really benefited in learning from them in terms of the hurdles and landmines along the way,” said Pierlot.
“We have a lot of heads up that when we head in a certain direction, this is a hurdle we might hit.”
Now Dickey is spending a lot of time in the Boston area, gaining knowledge and a network in one of the world’s biggest markets for medical innovation and commercialization. But Pierlot stresses that Covina is and will remain a Nova Scotia-based company
“We feel strongly about being a Nova Scotian company and we want to build the company here. As much as one thinks that going down to Boston is taking away from that, it’s actually doing the opposite.
“One of our major asks is to help us figure out how to build a company in Nova Scotia and get support and finance we need from the U.S . We don’t want it to be a defensive story, we want it to be a strong story.”
Local business student reaps reward at Funder Speed Dating
Holland College Business Administration student, Jeremie Arsenault, smooth talked his way into earning $1,000 for his pitch to prospective funders at a business “speed dating” event in Halifax recently.
Arsenault, who comes from Evangeline, was one of three Business Administration students who attended the Starting Point Entrepreneurship Conference at St. Mary’s University.
In the Funder Speed Dating event, student entrepreneurs had five minutes to pitch their business, or a concept they had for a business, to judges, in the hope of securing financing and partnerships.
Arsenault was one of approximately 45 participants, and was the recipient of one of the $1,000 cash prizes that were awarded to the top six presenters.
Jeremie already has great culinary ability, combined with the business skills he is acquiring, he is well on his way to creating an Island-wide food empire.- Shaun Patterson
In addition to being a full-time business student, Arsenault owns and runs Simple Feast Catering and Meal Club, which delivers meals made from locally sourced ingredients to homes and workplaces, as well as offering dishes for pickup.
Business Administration Instructor Shaun Patterson said the competition paved the way for Arsenault to successfully pitch his company to potential mentors and investors.
“Jeremie already has great culinary ability, combined with the business skills he is acquiring, he is well on his way to creating an Island-wide food empire,” he said.
Generous support from Springboard Atlantic and Holland College’s Applied Research division made the trip possible.
More information about Simple Feast Catering and Meal Club is available at: www.facebook.com/SimpleFeast
Three university presidents and one vice-president research, from schools spanning all four Atlantic Provinces, made the trek to Ottawa this week to talk about each other.
Well, not just to talk about each other; their main purpose was to connect with MPs and Senators from Atlantic Canada to discuss the important role universities have to play in the region’s economy.
But it was noteworthy how much each speaker’s remarks at Monday evening’s reception focused on their colleagues’ institutions.
Memorial President Gary Kachanoski noted UPEI’s Climate Change Research Lab and the work of Dal battery researcher (and recent Herzberg Gold Medal recipient) Jeff Dahn. UPEI President Alaa Abd-El-Aziz paid tribute to notable alumni from the region like Frank McKenna (UNB), General Rick Hillier (MUN) and Nobel Prize-winner Art McDonald (Dal). UNB Vice-President Research David Burns highlighted spin-out success stories like Memorial’s SucSeed hydroponic system and Spring Loaded, developed by Dal alumni.
And in discussing the new Ocean Frontier Institute— built on a partnership between Dalhousie, Memorial and UPEI — Dal President Richard Florizone highlighted how collaboration between Atlantic Canada’s universities is key to the region’s future.
“We are joining forces with each other, and with our partners in private industry, in government and in the community, to be the catalysts our region’s economy needs to grow and create a clean, inclusive and prosperous future,” he said.
Universities: An integral partner
Among the attendees were Dal alumni the Honourable Geoff Regan (Speaker of the House), the Honourable Scott Brison (President of the Treasury Board), the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc (Minister of Fisheries and Oceans) and Andy Fillmore (MP for Halifax). The event was an opportunity for them and other government representatives from the region to hear about some of the latest news and developments from the four universities and to discuss how research-intensive universities are central to Atlantic Canada’s success.
“Universities are integral in helping shift our economies from being based primarily on volatile natural resources and commodities, to much more resilient and stable knowledge-based economies that build upon our abundant natural resources,” said Memorial’s Dr. Kachanoski.
“Our four institutions are Atlantic Canada’s largest producers and attractors of talent, from every industry and sector you can imagine, and maybe a few you can’t,” said UNB’s David Burns, adding that, “together, UPEI, MUN, Dal and UNB will continue to shape the region through innovation, creativity and collaboration.”
Transforming Atlantic Canada together
Bernadette Jordan, chair of the Atlantic Caucus, and MP for the Nova Scotia riding of South Shore—Saint Margaret’s, served as master of ceremonies for the reception. It was kicked off by a poetry recitation of sorts from MPs Fillmore, Matt De Courcey (New Brunswick), Nick Whalen (Newfoundland and Labrador) and Sean Casey (Prince Edward Island) — members of the Innovation Committee of the Atlantic Growth Strategy, each celebrating university research from their own province.
Fillmore also paid tribute to the region’s universities in the House of Commons earlier on Monday, noting that “these four Atlantic universities are putting our region on the leading edge of innovation. Working together in close partnership with the federal government, these universities are transforming our shared challenges into shared opportunities.”
It was a message of collaboration that came through loud and clear at the reception itself.
“Working together is the way forward,” said UPEI’s Dr. Abd-El-Aziz. “Together, we can transform our region.”
WEnTech Solutions’ increasing traction with customers is a sign of how far the waste-to-energy market has progressed in the past few years.
The Fredericton company has produced software that can assess a proposal to convert waste into energy and make suggestions on the best technology to achieve the task. Many of us still think of products that transform garbage into energy as a new frontier. But WEnTECH’s success with consulting engineers shows there now so many technologies that can convert trash into biofuel or electricity that experts need advanced software to sort through them.
WEnTech’s W-SAS product is a Software-as-a-Service solution that helps consulting engineers assess the needs of a waste-to-energy project and pick the right system to carry out the task. It takes into account such variables as the regulations in the jurisdiction, the environmental concerns, the materials being converted and the desired product.
Municipalities of all sizes want to reduce their mountains of garbage, and produce more green energy, and the market is growing steadily. In fact, Akbari said the total market for W-SAS is now about $2.6 billion, and there are now more than 900 consulting engineering firms specializing in waste-to-energy products in Canada alone.
WEnTech has completed one project for a paying customer in Nova Scotia, and is on track to complete another, far larger project this month.
“We are negotiating closely with five other customers, four in Canada and one internationally, to start projects with each of them,” said WEnTech CEO Amir Akbari. “We are hoping to finalize the projects and close the deals with them as they have all provided LOIs [letters of intent] and have shown their interest to our tool.”
Akbari added that the company is in early discussion with nine other outfits, both in Canada and elsewhere, about possible contracts.
The positive response from customers is impressive for a company that is still developing its product. It has a “beta version” of the technology and is continuing to develop it.
One of the challenges faced by Akbari and his partners Farough Motasemi, Kevin Shiell and Kenneth Kent is that new products are coming into the market all the time.
“Some of these conversion technologies are at a lab scale and they have not been proven yet,” said Akbari. “W-SAS only includes the commercially available conversion systems in the technology database. However, W-SAS is built such that new technologies can be easily added once they reach a commercial level.”
The company, which has gone through the Propel ICT accelerator in Fredericton, is now raising capital with the hopes of raising about $250,000. It is one of five finalists in New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s Breakthru competition, the winners of which will be announced next week. Placing in the top three could bring $125,000 to $250,000 in investment as well as a range of in-kind services.
“Our plan is to improve it based on the feedback that we are getting from our early adopters,” said Akbari. “We are adding a few more modules and functionalities to launch the first commercial version of W-SAS by the end of 2017. Our plan is to initially expand our market in North America and then globally.”
New database launched to help researchers in Atlantic Canada
SYDNEY, N.S. – A database designed to connect entrepreneurs and researchers in Atlantic Canada officially launched this week.
The new program, known as AFRED (Atlantic Facilities and Research Equipment Database), has been developed to outline equipment availability at universities across the region.
AFRED is an initiative designed by Science Atlantic, a non-profit association of 16 post-secondary and research institutes in Atlantic Canada.
David McCorquodale, professor of biology and dean of Science and Technology at Cape Breton University, serves as the chair of Science Atlantic.
He said the organization has been in the planning and building process of this database for the past six or seven years.
“The goal is basically a networking and cooperation initiative,” said McCorquodale, a resident of Georges River. “What we want to do is put researchers and equipment together,
“There is also an economic development spin-off in that some small and large companies work on research, and it’s all about university researchers and equipment and it also gives them access to equipment and the expertise as well.”
AFRED is an open-access database that links users with facilities and equipment needed. The program saves time, while also saving people from buying equipment, which already exists. Currently, over 400 pieces of equipment are available.
The innovative will help make costly projects possible, accelerate research projects as well as bringing innovative products and processes to the market faster, helping grow Atlantic Canada’s economy and creating jobs.
“The networking, putting people together, it’s got benefits for researches in that it puts them in contact with other researchers that have the equipment that they potentially could use,” said McCorquodale. “It can put the business industry in contact with researchers that have equipment and the expertise.”
The Cape Breton Fish Harvesters Association already has its equipment and facilities in the database.
“One of their motivations is that they can be connected with researchers that have interest and questions that their interested in, including fish stocks, pollution in the lakes, water quality, and that sort of thing,” said McCorquodale.
Although the program is developed for Atlantic Canada, McCorquodale said the interest in the program is growing.
“We’re ahead of the curve as we’re now getting interest from national organizations (in Canada) saying it’s a pretty good model, can we work with you to go national,” he said. “We would have to partner with someone, if they we were going to expand beyond the Atlantic region.”
McCorquodale said the organization feels the database is a service to the public.
“We think it’s important to facilitate research in Atlantic Canada,” he said. “We also think it’s a way to facilitate interaction between industry and the universities of Atlantic Canada.”
The federal government is also showing its support for the program.
Funding for the project was made possible through a non-repayable contribution of $181,897 from the Atlantic Canada Opportunity Agency Business Development Program. The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada has also supported the program, providing $16,850, for total funding of $198,747. Springboard Atlantic also made a contribution.
McCorquodale said the next step for the program is to promote it and have scientists and industry get use to the idea of looking at the database.
The database can be found at www.afred.ca. For more information about the database, contact Patty King by email at email@example.com or McCorquodale at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Several Atlantic Canadian service providers and co-working spaces have banded together to create a passport program, which allows startups to tap the resources of facilities around the region.
Growing out of the partnership between Planet Hatch in Fredericton and ConnexionWorks in Saint John, the Atlantic Canada Entrepreneurial Services Passport was launched last week. Planet Hatch said it has been formed for cross-promoting events, sharing best practices, opening their doors to members in partnering locations, and supporting the common goal of assisting entrepreneurs in the region. A membership with any one of the Passport’s organizations provides free or discounted pricing across the participating locations.
“As co-working spaces and entrepreneurial service providers on the East Coast collaborate and align their programming and spaces, the benefits for Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurs will become stronger and more valuable,” Doug Jenkins, co-founder of ConnexionWorks, said in a statement. “We are always looking for new and innovative opportunities to grow our ecosystem.”
The passport program has been adopted by 13 facilities across the region, though some of the larger incubators or co-working spaces are not in the new network – such as Volta in Halifax, the Genesis Centre in St. John's, Venn Innovation in Moncton and Navigate Startup House in Sydney.
The participants in the passport program are:
- Business Portals, St. John’s;
- CO3 Space, Bridgewater, N.S.;
- Common Ground, St. John’s;
- ConnexionWorks, Saint John;
- The HUB South Shore, Mahone Bay, N.S.]
- LaunchPad, Charlottetown;
- New Dawn Centre for Social Innovation, Sydney;
- North Queens, Caledonia, N.S.;
- Planet Hatch, Fredericton;
- Sackville Commons Co-op, Sackville, N.B.;
- Social Enterprise Hub, Saint John;
- Startup Zone, Charlottetown;
- And The Ville Cooperative, Marysville, N.B.
It’s not known yet if other facilities will join the group.
When asked why Volta wasn’t in the passport group, Volta CEO Jesse Rogers said the Halifax facility had told Planet Hatch that it already had its own network membership program, which grants founders access to its facility and events regardless of where they are based.
“I met with a few folks from across the region, and have also shared with them our open door policy for Atlantic Canadians,” said Volta COO Melody Pardoe in an email to Planet Hatch.
The organizers of the passport program intend to produce other pan-regional programs, though they’re keeping mum on the details.
“This is ideally only the first of many initiatives that are being put in place across Atlantic Canada,” said Lisa Kinney, Entrepreneurial Services Coordinator at Planet Hatch.
Significant investments totalling more than $2.6 million from industry, government and Memorial University will help to improve offshore safety of human and workplace performance while at sea.
Dr. Brian Veitch, an ocean and naval architectural engineering professor with the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, has been appointed as the NSERC/Husky Energy Industrial Research Chair in Safety at Sea.
Critical to ocean industries
Over a five-year period, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and Husky will each contribute $550,000, the Research & Development Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador (RDC) will contribute $500,000 and Memorial will provide $1 million in collaboration with St. John’s-based Virtual Marine Technology, which will provide in-kind support.
“Enhancing marine safety is critical to the sustainability and advancement of our ocean industries,” said Christopher Mitchelmore, minister, Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural Development, and minister responsible for the Research & Development Corporation.
“This investment demonstrates the provincial government’s commitment to strengthening R&D expertise in support of enhanced safety and efficiencies for personnel working at sea.”
As the research chair, Dr. Veitch will bring a strong practical perspective to the program using simulators that he and his team have developed as virtual marine environments to investigate human performance in offshore settings.
Training of master’s and doctoral students will be a key element of the chair program.
“[The simulators] will provide a research setting to enable studies of human factors in offshore emergencies.”— Dr. Brian Veitch
The students will work with Dr. Veitch, each other and industry partners to develop new marine simulation technologies in the area of safety at sea.
“The simulators will have a dual purpose and will reinforce each other,” said Dr. Veitch.
“They will provide a research setting to enable studies of human factors in offshore emergencies and other safety critical operations, and training tools to enable the transfer and mobilization of knowledge to the offshore workforce where it can have immediate impact.”
Dr. Ray Gosine, vice-president (research), pro tempore, says the appointment further enhances Memorial’s reputation for excellence in ocean engineering research and education.
“Memorial has a longstanding relationship with industry collaborators to develop innovative solutions to key technical challenges,” said Dr. Gosine.
“The ongoing work of faculty members such as Dr. Veitch strengthens Memorial’s capacity in the area of marine simulation. Through this new appointment, Dr. Veitch and his graduate students will provide industry with critical insights into improving operational safety and effectiveness in harsh offshore environments. I wish him much success in his future research activities.”
“NSERC is proud to support this vital collaboration between industry, government and Memorial University’s Dr. Brian Veitch, an internationally recognized expert in the field of marine safety,” said Dr. B. Mario Pinto, president, NSERC.
“The different approaches and expertise of all partners provide an ideal training ground for the next generation of workers in the offshore industry, a key economic driver for Newfoundland and Labrador.”
“The safety of our people is our top priority and the reason we continue to support the work of Dr. Veitch and his team,” said Malcolm Maclean, senior vice-president, Atlantic region, Husky.
“Simulators and virtual training environments can better prepare workers and influence the design of future projects to improve safety.”
“Dr. Veitch’s research is critical to better understanding human factors in challenging operating environments,” said Mark Ploughman, acting chief executive officer, RDC.
“We are pleased to support collaboration between local and international industry and academia, and invest in simulation technology research that will grow the province’s R&D capacity in marine and offshore safety.”
Research to market
Industry partner Virtual Marine Technology (VMT) is also collaborating and adding value to the team by bringing insights from the research outcomes to the market in the form of commercial marine simulators.
“VMT has worked with Dr. Veitch and Memorial University in the past on initiatives such as a lifeboat simulator, which has been adopted globally by oil and gas companies to enhance the competency of lifeboat operators on offshore facilities,” said Anthony Patterson, CEO, VMT.
“Working with Dr. Veitch in this new role represents a unique opportunity to develop advanced simulation technologies for the global marketplace.”
Dr. Veitch has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Memorial University. He completed his doctorate at the Helsinki University of Technology, and has been a professor in the Department of Ocean and Naval Architectural Engineering since 1998.
“We’re going to move this research from the lab to practical applications for the workplace.”— Dr. Brian Veitch
His current research focuses on the human elements of safety using the simulators that he and his research team have created. He says he is looking forward to fulfilling the mandate of the chair to improve safety for individuals who work at sea.
“I’m very lucky and grateful,” said Dr. Veitch.
“Husky and VMT are great partners. We’re going to move this research from the lab to practical applications for the workplace. With their support, and the support of NSERC, RDC and Memorial University, our research team here has a wonderful opportunity to innovate.”
Halifax-based Metamaterial Technologies Inc. and its partner Airbus are moving into commercial production of metaAIR, and plan to manufacture the laser-filtering screens in the Halifax area.
MTI and the European aircraft maker held a news conference on Tuesday to announce that they would work together to “validate, certify, and commercialize” the product. In 2014, the two parties agreed to test metaAIR, which is a screen constructed from man-made compounds that screens out laser beams even though natural light can pass through it.
The first commercial application for the product is to stick in on aircraft cockpit windows to protect pilots and co-pilots from laser attacks, which are becoming more common each year. The Federal Aviation Administration in the U.S. says the number of reported laser incidents in 2015 nearly doubled to 7,703 in commercial aviation. There were 1,439 laser incidents reported to the Civil Aviation Authority in the U.K. and almost 600 reported by Transport Canada.
"Today marks another milestone in our strategic partnership with Airbus,” said MTI Founder and CEO George Palikaras in a statement. “We are given the opportunity to propel our platform technology and learn from some of the top aerospace engineers while understanding the rigours of developing a product for the aerospace industry.”
MTI will work with Airbus through the aviation giant’s Start-up 2 Partner program, which works with startups developing disruptive technology in the aerospace industry.
In an interview, Palikaras said the company will develop a manufacturing facility in Halifax that can produce commercial volumes of the screens large enough to fit over a cockpit window.
“When we started, we wanted this to be available by the end of this year, but there are always things that come up,” he said. “We keep pushing for speed. In the meantime, there is great development happening. We’re getting excellent technical feedback.”
He said the Halifax operation will produce the screens and Airbus will be responsible for taking them through the certification process, which is required for any safety feature on an aircraft.
"We know from facts and conversation with clients that cockpit illuminations are real, immediate and increasing in frequency, [so] metaAIR will benefit our customers," said Pascal Andrei, Airbus’ Vice-President and Chief Product Security Officer. "We also see an increasing number of possible applications for metaAIR, beyond the commercial aircraft division."
Last April, MTI paid an undisclosed amount to buy a Silicon Valley company called Rolith to accelerate the development of its manufacturing facility. Palikaras said that purchase, which gave MTI a Silicon Valley office and lab, has helped it gain expertise in the manufacture of the screens. In 2015, the company announced a round of funding valued at at least $3.1 million, led by Innovacorp and the First Angel Network.
On Tuesday, MTI also announced a partnership with German materials-maker Covestro – a significant move given that Covestro has a market capitalization of 14.1 billion euros (C$19.5 billion). The German company supplies materials used to make MetaAIR. Now MTI and Covestro plan to work together to produce eyeware for the ballistics market – a product that calls for much simpler certification than aerospace product.
Said Palikaras: "MetaAIR will provide vision protection to pilots in the aviation industry and can offer solutions in other industries including the military, transportation and glass manufacturers."
Bringing Memorial research ideas to market took another step forward with a recent federal funding announcement for the university’s Technology Transfer and Commercialization Office (TTCO).
Springboard Atlantic Inc., a network of Atlantic Canadian universities and colleges that includes Memorial, received more than $9.2 million in federal funding in January to turn promising research into new products and services.
Atlantic Innovation Fund
The three-year funding commitment was made under the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s (ACOA’s) Atlantic Innovation Fund to support 30 commercialization officers in the Atlantic region.
Memorial’s share of the funds supports four officers within TTCO, which was created last July to support industrial liaison, technology transfer and commercialization at the university.
Dr. Ray Gosine, vice-president (research) pro tempore and a member of Springboard Atlantic’s board of directors since 2014, thanked ACOA for its continued financial support.
“It enables Memorial to continue fostering a progressive culture of technology transfer and commercialization at the university and throughout the province,” he said.
“Through our Technology Transfer and Commercialization Office, Memorial is committed to encouraging an environment in which entrepreneurial graduate students, university researchers and the business community are able to work together, succeed in bringing research ideas to market and contribute to the provincial economy.”
TTCO team in place
The creation of TTCO was one of the key recommendations in university’s Technology Transfer and Commercialization Strategy.
The new office, located in the Bruneau Centre for Research and Innovation on the St. John’s campus, is part of the vice-president (research) portfolio.
Its director is Tim Avis, a familiar name to the Memorial community and former chief financial officer of the Genesis Group. He’s joined by a team that includes Drs. Paula Mendonça and Matthew Grimes, Daniel Hoyles and Melissa Brothers.
“We offer the services of intellectual property assessments and commercialization, and the Springboard funding enables us to continue fulfilling that mandate,” said Mr. Avis.
Mr. Avis said the office assesses a researcher’s idea to determine if there’s a good business case for commercializing it.
“If we accept it, we’re able to access additional funding above and beyond the baseline funding that we receive from Springboard. We also have proof-of-concept funds to help researchers leverage that money with other grants to produce a prototype or prove that their concept actually has an industrial application.”
Products and services
ACOA’s Atlantic Innovation Fund encourages partnerships among private-sector firms, universities, colleges and other research institutions to develop and commercialize new or improved products and services.
Springboard Atlantic receives core support from its members and from the federal government through ACOA.
Halifax-based Appili Therapeutics Inc., which is developing anti-infective drugs, said last week it will receive a $2.8 million loan from the Atlantic Innovation Fund, a research fund operated by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
The company said the funding will allow it to take its first drug, ATI-1501, through clinical trials to be ready for market approval. Last year, Appili received a key U.S. regulatory designation for this drug candidate, which treats Clostridium difficile infection, or CDI, in children.
"Having ACOA recognize the potential of our antibiotic reformulation to become a new weapon against anaerobic infections is outstanding,” said Appili CEO Kevin Sullivan in a statement. “This AIF funding supports our strategy to advance ATI-1501 into human clinical trials as soon as possible.”
Appili plans to take the antibiotic into clinical trials this year and is now manufacturing the clinical batch of ATI-1501 to good manufacturing practices, the standard required by the Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The FDA has granted orphan drug designation to ATI-1501, which removes the bitter taste from Metronidazole, a drug that has been used to treat the condition since the 1970s. Metronidazole is effective, but it tastes awful, so children often won’t take it, thereby limiting its effectiveness. By removing the bitter taste, ATI-1501 improves the results of the drug.
The FDA granted the application because CDI is one of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s most urgent antibiotic-resistant bacterial threats. It affects more than 500,000 Canadians and Americans each year and causes 29,000 deaths annually.
Just two years old, Appili has been actively raising money. The company in December closed a $2.15 million equity funding round. In 2015, it raised $2.3 million in equity financing, which allowed it to tap $1.2 million in additional funding from such organizations as ACOA.
Altus Group and St. Francis Xavier University Announce Innovative Technology Collaboration Agreement
Altus Group Limited ("Altus Group") (TSX:AIF), a leading provider of commercial real estate services, software and data solutions, and St. Francis Xavier University ("StFX") today announced that they have signed a technology collaboration agreement. The agreement provides Altus Group with exclusive worldwide commercialization usage rights of StFX's vehicle-based Emissions Attribution via Computational Techniques ("ExACT") gas leak detection technology. Altus Group's Geomatics division will offer StFX's ExACT technology as a service for energy providers and regulators.
The patented ExACT technology allows for detecting and mapping the emission of ground-sourced greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The ExACT sensor is mounted on a vehicle and collects near-ground geochemical readings that are uploaded to a cloud-based database and allows for real-time analysis.
"Collaborating with StFX is another example of how we're continuously innovating to serve our clients," said Dave Gurnsey, President of Altus Geomatics, Altus Group. "We're pleased to have the exclusive rights to commercialize this leading-edge best-in-class technology. This new service will add value to our clients by providing greater visibility into emissions and will complement our geospatial data management solutions."
The ExACT survey technology is capable of covering a large region at a very fine scale which provides operators with the detailed data and analytics they require to detect leaks before they become a regulatory issue. The ability to identify emissions in an efficient and cost effective manner allows producers to minimize the economic cost of lost commodities and maximize environmental protection.
"Altus Group is perfectly positioned to make the most of this technology, given its expertise in big data and analytics, and its great people across the country. The industry is moving towards greener, cleaner, and lower risk operations, and Altus Group will play an important role in that transition," said Dr. Dave Risk, Associate Professor and Project Lead, St. Francis Xavier University.
For more information on this service offering by Altus Group's Geomatics division, please contact Ryan Maloney, Branch Manager, by email at email@example.com or by telephone at 1-306-842-6060. For more information on ExACT technology, please contact Dr. Dave Risk by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 1-902-867-4854.
WellTrack, the Fredericton company that provides online help with mental health issues, has been accepted into the prestigious 500 Startups accelerator in Silicon Valley – only the second Atlantic Canadian company to do so.
The accelerator group announced Wednesday through a post on TechCrunch that it had named 44 companies to its 20th cohort, one-third of them from outside the U.S. WellTrack – which has graduated from Atlantic Canadian IT accelerator Propel ICT not once but twice – was among the new group.
The only other company from the region to be accepted into 500 Startups was Moncton-based recruitment software company Alongside, which was known as Qimple when it attended the program in 2015.
Psychology professor Darren Piercey started WellTrack in 2010 to create an online tool to help treat mental health issues like anxiety and depression. After the company, whose official name is CyberPsyc Software Solutions, received funding in 2012, he hired Natasha O’Brien, who is now the company’s COO. Together, they altered the product and its target market so they are now making sales.
WellTrack is a product that helps organizations improve the mental health of its members, especially those suffering from stress, anxiety and depression. The company has had some sales to corporations, but it found a more responsive clientele in universities.
The reason is that depression and anxiety afflict about 45 per cent of university students in North America — more than double the percentage of the general population.
According to the company’s website, its clients now include University of Windsor, Ball State University, Providence College, Ryerson University, and University of California – Santa Cruz, among others.
WellTrack has an interesting history with accelerators. Piercey took the company through its first cohort of Propel’s first accelerator, Launch36. Then he and O’Brien enrolled in Propel’s Build program last year to help position the company to scale.
Early on in its existence, the company brought on funding from East Valley Ventures, and it has tapped New Brunswick Innovation Foundation a couple of times for money – most recently a $50,000 investment in the 2015-16 fiscal year. As a member of the 500 Startups accelerator, the company will receive some funding. O’Brien and Piercey last summer were looking to close a $1 million funding round.
Atlantic Canada Profiles: CNA’s Wave Energy Center
Established by College of the North Atlantic in 2011, the Wave Energy Research Center (WERC) was originally part of a research project to develop land-based aquaculture using water supplied by an ocean wave-powered pump. Recognizing potential research opportunities within this specialized sector, the center has since expanded to include the development of wave measurement instruments and the testing of anticorrosive and antifouling marine coatings – all set in the harsh North Atlantic waters off Newfoundland’s southeast coast.
The facility, which is housed in a former fish plant in the community of Lord’s Cove, has grown to include a variety of automated data acquisition systems including a weather station, Doppler and capacitive wave measurements, an inspection class ROV, and both land- and sea-based multichannel systems capable of recording outputs from a wide array of instruments.
These abilities, coupled with six fully permitted mooring sites, access to on site wharf and workshops, and high speed data connections, make the WERC a unique facility in Eastern North America for studies involving engineering, oceanography and biology in coastal high energy wave environments.
In addition to on-site facilities, researchers at the center have access to the metal fabrication, welding, instrumentation, electronics and nondestructive testing shops at the nearby College of the North Atlantic - Burin campus, as well as a myriad of other facilities and expertise at CNA’s 16 other campuses throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. “While existing projects at the center continue to move forward, we are about to enter a collaboration with Rutter, to test various RADAR-based solutions for near shore monitoring, including the measurement of surface waves and currents, using these measurements to verify and compare numerical model predictions of ocean wave propagation,” said Dr. Michael Graham, WERC’s Project Administrator. “Rutter specializes in innovative radar solutions designed for harsh conditions and challenging environments, so having them partner on this initiative speaks highly of the facility, our surrounding environment and what we are able to offer to researchers in this sector.”
Dr. Graham says another company has expressed interested in testing buoy-based inertial measurements of wave parameters, further noting that as the number and kind of wave instruments being utilized in the test area increase, the opportunity for “instrument fusion” arises. This type of cooperative environment will allow for direct comparison of instrument types and identification of which are most suitable for particular measurement conditions and data requirements.
“As the Wave Energy Research Center continues to develop, we are actively pursuing both public and private partners who are looking to collaborate,” said Dr. Graham. “These initiatives – research and development, the testing of engineering solutions, processes and environmental effects of human activity in a harsh coastal environment – can all be done through the sharing of equipment, data, facilities and expertise. It’s virtually a one-stop shop for testing sea-based technologies in a naturally extreme environment.”
To further support the center’s work and its clients’ studies, the development of a collaborative group to design, build and test a low-cost, portable, surface-based power supply and telemetry system for submerged instruments has been put in place. Although similar systems currently exist, they have relatively low data throughput and none as of yet also provide reliable power in the needed range(s), resulting in frequent, costly and wasteful subsurface instrument battery replacements.
Supercharged Success: Battery Researcher Jeff Dahn Wins Herzberg Gold Medal
On the third floor of Dalhousie’s Dunn Building, you’ll find the labs of the Jeff Dahn Research Group, spanning several rooms of blinking lights and buzzing machines. There, you’ll also find Dr. Dahn’s office: a tiny space mostly used to hold boxes upon boxes of batteries for testing. (It’s fair to assume Dr. Dahn spends most of his time in the labs.)
On the office’s wall hang two Calvin and Hobbes cartoons — a personal favourite of the world-renowned Dal battery researcher. One in particular stands out: originally published in July 1987, the comic strip finds Calvin outraged over garbage and litter, and how humans treat the planet more generally.
“That’s what it’s all about, right here,” says Dr. Dahn, who says his continuing quest to build better, longer-lasting batteries has always been informed by an environmental consciousness.
“We can’t just keep burning fossil fuels; we’re going to heat the planet into death. And if you like the sea shore, and you want to continue to have land that you currently see not be submerged, you have to do something about it.”
For more than 35 years, Dr. Dahn has been at the forefront of research and innovation in battery technology. Through a mixture of fundamental and applied research, the work of his team can be found in some lithium-ion rechargeable batteries used in power tools, electric vehicles and other devices around the world today. Now, collaborating with Tesla as an industrial research chair, his lab is helping improve lithium-ion cells for electric vehicles and energy storage.
And on Tuesday (February 7), that body of work was recognized with the highest scientific honour in Canada.
“Dal’s Herzberg Canada Gold Medal recipients exemplify research excellence in Canada,” says Martha Crago, Dalhousie’s vice-president research. “In Dr. Dahn’s case, his leading work in materials science and lithium-ion batteries has attracted the attention of many all over the world and launched him into a class of his own.”
Dr. Dahn says he was “stunned” when he heard he would be receiving the Herzberg, which comes with a $1-million research prize.
“It was pretty flattering, and the award will support our research going forward,” he says. “We’ll use it wisely.”
He adds the Herzberg Gold Medal award to an impressive set of awards and honours throughout his career. They include the inaugural Governor General’s Innovation Award (2016), the Yeager award from the International Battery Materials Association (2016), induction into Nova Scotia's Science Hall of Fame (2016), fellowship in the Royal Society of Canada (2001). He even has a second Herzberg award — a different medal, also named after Nobel-winning German-Canadian physicist Gerhard Herzberg, from the Canadian Association of Physicists.
“Writing the book” on Li-ion batteries
Dr. Dahn first came to Nova Scotia at age 13, emigrating with his family from Connecticut. He studied Physics at Dalhousie as an undergrad before completing his PhD at the University of British Columbia. He worked at the National Research Council of Canada, Moli Energy Limited and Simon Fraser University before returning to Dalhousie in 1996 as the NSERC/3M Canada Industrial Research Chair in Materials for Advanced Batteries. (Since 2003, he’s also been the Canada Research Chair in Battery and Fuel Cell Materials.)
From the beginning, his research focused on the science of batteries and energy storage. In the 1980s, researchers were beginning to explore using lithium compounds as the core electrode materials in lithium batteries. Today, lithium-ion batteries — which don’t actually contain lithium metal at all — power rechargeable devices of all sorts, from cell phones and laptops to tools and electric vehicles.
“We wrote some of the very important papers on lithium-ion batteries in the very beginning,” says Dr. Dahn of his early career, highlighting his work at Simon Fraser characterizing which carbon compounds could effectively serve as the negative electrode. “We sort of wrote the book on what type of carbon you should use in a lithium-ion battery to make the best one.”
It was at Dalhousie, though, where Dr. Dahn and his team would make perhaps their most significant contribution to lithium-ion batteries. Post-doc Zhonghua Lu, graduate student Dean MacNeil and Dr. Dahn developed certain grades of lithium nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) oxide compounds, ones that when used as the positive electrode, increase the safety and stability of the batteries at larger sizes.
Seventeen years later, these grades of NMCs are widely used in power tool and electric car batteries around the world — and represent several of the 65 or so inventions that his team has patented. And 3M (Dahn's industrial partner at the time) has licensed the use of these NMC grades for commercial use to many companies around the world.
Dr. Dahn’s team has also made significant contributions to research on lithium-ion battery lifetimes: understanding what causes lithium-ion cells to die, and how to get them to last even longer.
“A cell phone battery only needs to last three or four years and then the phone is changed for a new model,” says Dr. Dahn. “Power tools are the same thing; you can just get a replacement pack. But once the batteries start to get big — like in electric vehicles — they cost a lot, so they have to last a long time.”
Graduate student Chris Burns and research associate David Stevens, who were involved in this research, created the Dartmouth-based spin-out Novonix. The company produces ultra high-precision charger devices — the sort that allow their customers to predict lifespans of Li-ion cells on the scale of not just years, but decades.
“It’s amazing to have such a world-renowned researcher within the field of batteries here at Dalhousie,” says Chris Burns, Novonix co-founder, who completed both his master’s and doctoral degrees with Dr. Dahn’s group. “He provides a foundation for students to learn and work at the cutting edge of an exciting field with access to top tier industrial collaboration around the world, which is an amazing opportunity within an academic group.”
Indeed, Dr. Dahn — who, even with his two research chairs, has taught first-year Physics classes at Dal for more than 20 years — says his proudest achievements are in the careers of the graduates who’ve come out of his lab.
“I’ve trained a lot of graduate students — probably over 50 PhDs, 20 to 25 postdocs. And virtually all of them have gone on to careers in the battery materials or lithium-ion battery space… Some are millionaires because they’ve formed their own companies and done really well. A lot of them are vice-presidents research or chief technical officers and so on.
“It makes me really proud, what these folks have accomplished after they’ve left the group.”
A new era with Tesla
After helping lay the basic scientific foundation for lithium-ion batteries in the 1980s, the bulk of Dr. Dahn’s career has been in close collaboration with dedicated industry partners. It’s a path that’s allowed him to focus his research on applied solutions to the problems faced by battery manufacturers.
“Working together with industry ensures that, if you want to have a long-term relationship [with them], that we’re doing something useful,” he explains. “And why not do something useful, when you have a chance to do anything you want?”
His latest collaboration, launched in 2016, is with Tesla as the NSERC/Tesla Canada Industrial Research Chair. The company is one of the largest manufacturers of the electric vehicles in the world and its new Gigafactory, based in Nevada, is bringing roughly one-third of global lithium-ion battery production to North America. But when it came time for the company to sign its first ever university research partnership, it went north — and east — to Jeff Dahn’s door.
Tesla — which aims to not only improve electric vehicles, but “accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy” more broadly — signed-off on a five-year exclusive collaboration with Dr. Dahn’s lab, focused on increasing the lifetime, decreasing the cost and improving the energy density of lithium-ion batteries.
“The goals are really simple, but the problems are hard,” explains Dr. Dahn. “The area is of such importance, and the problems are so interesting and challenging that it’s fun.”
Some of the lab’s work could be incorporated into the company’s products shortly — perhaps within a year, Dr. Dahn speculates. As he talks about the future of renewable energy, and the vision of mass-scale energy storage, there’s an incredible enthusiasm in his voice. He sees a better future for how we power our planet — and it’s a future he and his students are helping build.
It’s really cool,” says Dr. Dahn. “My students, I hope, are getting a sense of just how cool it is.”
Investment Announced for Emera & NB Power Research Centre for Smart Grid Technologies
FREDERICTON – This morning, University of New Brunswick (UNB) president and vice-chancellor Eddy Campbell announced a $6.2 million investment by Emera Inc. to establish the Emera & NB Power Research Centre for Smart Grid Technologies.
The investment will go towards an Emera Chair in Smart Grid Technologies at UNB and direct funding for smart grid research. The centre is meant to facilitate industry partnerships and innovative applied research and advance the province’s economic growth plan.
“Today’s announcement is yet another way that our university propels economic progress in New Brunswick,” Campbell said. “Smart grid enables power utilities to distribute clean and green renewable energy with higher and higher reliability. It gives consumers greater control over their power bills. It even allows for the ability of people, small players to generate electricity and feed it into the grid for others to consume.”
“Emera is making a contribution that will enable us to take our smart grid research to the next level, from great to exceptional, I believe.”
The centre researchers will be led by dean of the faculty of engineering Chris Diduch and professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering Liuchen Chang.
“Ultimately, it’s going to take a lot of partnership for this actually to come together and to work very well,” Emera president and CEO Chris Huskilson said. “We’re thrilled to be part of the new Emera & NB Power Research Centre for Smart Grid Technologies. We’re very pleased to make the commitment.”
“We think this is a part of the future of the region and it’s also a part of the future our customers are looking for … I know very well that the engineering school here at UNB is going to be able to create a great innovative centre.”
ACOA Awards Springboard Atlantic 9.2Mil to Continue Driving Atlantic Growth
January 26th, 2017
For Immediate Release
(Halifax) - Springboard Atlantic, the not-for-profit network that drives the commercialization of academic research in Atlantic Canada, will receive $9,246,603 from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) Atlantic Innovation Fund (AIF).
This investment was announced today by The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and the Minster responsible for ACOA during an event held at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax.
The $9.2M (65%) in AIF funding over three years will support the costs associated with operating the Springboard network, including marketing and communication activities, professional fees, and operational costs. These activities will ultimately contribute to generating economic benefit to the region through licensing and royalty revenues, and company and job creation. The remaining 35% of project costs will be covered by Springboard’s 19 member institutions; Atlantic Canadian universities and colleges, to make up total project costs.
“This ongoing support for the Springboard network is key for the continued commercialization of the research-driven knowledge contained in our colleges and universities across the region,” says Springboard CEO Chris Mathis. “Without having industry liaison and technology transfer officers working within our 19 member institutions, we would not be able to support the transfer of knowledge that is able to help so many of our businesses grow and prosper. This ACOA funding often directly leads to new companies, new products and new solutions that are helping the Atlantic region to grow.”
Springboard’s 19 member institutions play a significant role in corporate research and development. More than twenty percent of all private sector R&D in Atlantic Canada is conducted in partnership with post-secondary institutions compared to solely five percent in the rest of Canada. Over the past ten years, Springboard has helped to create 126 new companies and generated over $12M in licensing and royalty income. It is estimated that the associated company sales revenue is $240M.
The AIF helps Atlantic Canadians develop and bring to market new products and services that lead to market success, help grow strategic sectors, or lead the creation of research and commercialization partnerships. The AIF builds on the commitments towards innovation made in the Atlantic Growth Strategy, and are aligned with Canada’s Innovation Agenda.
StFX, Business Entrepreneur, Collaborate with Eosense, local High-Tech Company
St. Francis Xavier University’s commitment to educating innovative and entrepreneurial graduates, as well as boosting the Nova Scotian economy, was evident recently in StFX’s new relationship with its spin-off company, Eosense Inc. StFX and business entrepreneur and investor Henry Demone, High Liner Foods past-president and CEO, and current High Liner board chairman, are both investing in Eosense as it expands its expertise and grows its business.
StFX’s share ownership in Eosense, a company created in 2010 by StFX earth sciences professor Dr. David Risk and his then-students Gordon McArthur and Dr. Nick Nickerson, arose from three technologies invented at StFX. Now StFX alumni, they’ve taken their expertise in greenhouse gases gained from StFX to lead Eosense, Mr. McArthur as company president and Dr. Nickerson as chief scientist.
“These three gas detection instruments were patented by StFX and rights for their use licensed to Eosense for commercial use. As Eosenses’s experience in this high-tech instrument market grew, StFX and Eosense agreed that the best commercial path for these technologies was for StFX to transfer the intellectual property to the company in exchange for an ownership stake in the business,” says Andrew Kendall, StFX Manager of Industry Liaison.
"We saw significant growth opportunity in the company as it is becoming a global leader in this highly competitive industry.
“I’m thrilled by this partnership,” he said. “We’re seeing innovative students getting real-world experience in high-tech scientific work well before they graduate, and with Eosense, those graduating students have an opportunity to remain in Nova Scotia and help the company and our economy grow.”
Now with 12 employees, Eosense, a high-tech, scientific instrumentation company specializing in greenhouse gas detection instruments, is growing rapidly and is exporting its gas detection instruments to a number of countries and customers such as the University of California at Berkeley and the Max Planck Institute in Germany.
“I look for talent and ambition in the leadership and employees of a company. I also look for innovation and a purpose that helps solve big challenges, and I see all of this in Eosense. The fact that StFX also sees this and is investing in the company is very positive,” says Mr. Demone.
Eosense president Gordon McArthur adds “the partnership with StFX means that Eosense can always benefit from the faculty expertise in greenhouse gas science, but also from highly qualified graduates that StFX is well known for.”
StFX’s FluxLab students and technicians work on large-scale emissions measurement problems in the energy sector, and also develop strategies for measuring greenhouse gas emissions from soil and water.
Mr. Kendall says this academic-corporate relationship ensures that Eosense can benefit from the highly specific soil-gas expertise of Dr. Risk and students of StFX’s Earth Science Department, and motivated students can quickly find research and even employment opportunities with Eosense even before graduation.
Mr. McArthur says when he started at StFX in 2008, he had no idea of the opportunities Antigonish would make possible.
“By formalizing our relationship with StFX, and bringing on Henry as our chairperson, we continue to develop the trusting and talent-rich partnerships necessary to make a global impact,” he says.
Mr. Kendall also notes that the One Nova Scotia report, outlining the action the province can take to address its economic and demographic issues, calls for academic-corporate partnerships to create high-tech local companies. “This is a great example of that.”
CarbonCure Technologies, the Halifax company whose method of making concrete reduces carbon emissions, has been named in the prestigious 2017 Global Cleantech 100, produced by Cleantech Group, or CTG.
The Global Cleantech 100 represents the most innovative and promising ideas impacting the future of a wide range of industries. Featuring companies that are best positioned to solve tomorrow’s clean technology challenges, the Global Cleantech 100 is a comprehensive list of private companies with the highest potential to make significant market impact within a five- to 10-year timeframe.
This year, the nominations amounted to a record 9,900 distinct companies from 77 countries.
“We are honoured to receive this award for the second year in a row,” CarbonCure Founder Robert Niven said in a statement. “We are proud to be leading the industry with our solution that is available today for concrete producers to sequester waste CO2 to make concrete both greener and stronger.”
CarbonCure's CO2-utilization technology is one of a select few commercially available solutions that could help reduce global emissions by more than 10 percent by 2030.
Niven will be in San Francisco this week for the Cleantech Forum, where the Global Cleantech 100 award winners will be revealed. He will be presenting at the event, alongside Issam Dairanieh, CEO of CO2 Sciences, and Lars-Erik Gartner, Innovation Technology Specialist of The Linde Group in a session called "Carbon-based products: An overlooked trillion-dollar market opportunity?" The session will describe how scalable innovations in the "carbon-based products industry", such as CarbonCure's, could represent a market size approaching $1 trillion by the year 2030.
This award announcement comes on the heels of several other recent awards for CarbonCure. Recently, CarbonCure received the 2016 Manning Innovation Award, and is a semi-finalist in the $20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE.
BlueLight Analytics Inc., a Halifax company that helps ensure the proper curing of dental fillings, has partnered with industrial giant 3M Corp. to greatly expand the startup’s sales power in the U.S.
The two companies announced the partnership on Wednesday. Under the terms of the deal, 3M salespeople will offer BlueLight’s flagship product checkMARC, which helps to ensure dentists use their curing light for just the right length of time when curing resin-based fillings.
“This partnership gives us a national presence in the U.S., which is the biggest market for us,” BlueLight chief executive J.P. Furey said in a phone interview from Dallas, where he’s been training 3M sales teams.
“It’s definitely a huge milestone for the company and we think it’s the first of many as we expand globally.”
Growing out of research at Dalhousie University, BlueLight began about seven years ago to solve a problem few dentists spoke about. The lights they use to cure resin vary greatly, and each model has to be used for just the right amount of time to cure the resin properly. Too long a time could adversely affect the tooth and too little would leave the resin only partially cured.
BlueLight developed the checkMARC system, which can test and identify the efficacy of a dental office’s curing lights. Based on the results, 3M will review the light-curing protocols currently in practice. The Minnesota-based company said it can then work with the dental clinic to identify evidence-based opportunities to improve clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction.
BlueLight said that before its technology was commercialized, there was a “quality gap” in the market for dental fillings — a multi-billion-dollar market that is the cornerstone of every dental clinic.
Almost two years ago, BlueLight announced a partnership with the Canadian division of 3M to jointly market checkMARC across Canada, and that led to a broader relationship.
“The last announcement was Canadian-centric,” said Furey, an accountant who became the company’s CEO in the autumn of 2015. “Since then a lot has happened and it has led to pilots in the U.S. and now this deal, which covers the whole U.S. It’s five to 10 times bigger than the Canadian market.”
He added that he and three other BlueLight representatives are in the U.S. this week, training 3M sales representatives in checkMARC. The salespeople are expected to begin offering the service to clients as early as this week.
The relationship with 3M is already expanding beyond North America. The Halifax company has been working with 3M in Australia, New Zealand and Germany.
“As the market leader for restorative dentistry, 3M is dedicated to providing dental professionals the latest technologies and innovations in dentistry to improve practice productivity,” the Minnesota company said in a statement.
BlueLight has partnerships with a few large companies. Also in 2015, it announced a partnership with Henry Schein, the Melville, New York-based medical product distributor whose 2014 sales exceeded US$10 billion.
Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity opens at the University of New Brunswick
The Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity (CIC), an innovative hub for research, training and industry collaboration, opened at the University of New Brunswick on January 16, 2017 with the announcement of more than $4.5 million in funding and the establishment of a research partnership with a global technology firm.
Matt DeCourcey, Member of Parliament for Fredericton on behalf of the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency; and the Honourable Brian Gallant, Premier of New Brunswick, joined representatives from the university and IBM at a news conference in Fredericton to celebrate the creation of the Institute. The CIC will train highly skilled cybersecurity professionals and provide leading-edge research on one of the most pressing issues facing society today.
The Institute, housed at existing facilities at UNB’s Fredericton campus, is a comprehensive multidisciplinary training, research and development, and entrepreneurial unit that will operate in close collaboration with researchers in the social sciences, business, computer science, engineering, law, and science faculties, as well as other national and international research centres. Dr. Ali Ghorbani, Canada Research Chair in Cybersecurity at the University of New Brunswick and Dean of the Faculty of Computer Science at the university, will serve as the founding director of the Institute.
The Government of Canada has invested $2.270 million through ACOA’s Innovative Communities Fund (ICF) and the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) for the establishment of the CIC, while the Province of New Brunswick is contributing $1.989 million through Opportunities New Brunswick and the New Brunswick Innovation Fund (NBIF). The University of New Brunswick is providing $336,232 towards this initiative.
Since 2000, UNB has played an important role in the success of cybersecurity research and innovation in New Brunswick. Today, UNB’s Faculty of Computer Science has by far the largest network security research group in the nation and is poised to lead this effort through the newly established Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity (CIC).
IBM is the Institute’s first research and development partner, helping to fund highly skilled resources in the field of cybersecurity and other in-kind contributions such as technical and management resources to provide project oversight and mentorship for students.
This partnership builds on IBM’s long-standing history of investments and partnerships across the province. In 2011, IBM acquired Q1 Labs, whose QRadar Security Intelligence Platform was developed in partnership with the University of New Brunswick. The acquisition served as a catalyst for IBM to form its security division, which is now a $2 billion business employing over 8,000 researchers, developers and security experts across 133 countries worldwide. IBM maintains a research and development and customer support centre in Fredericton, which provides support for more than 5,000 customers around the globe.
“The Government of Canada is committed to developing world-leading clusters in areas where the innovation and expertise already exists. Today’s investment allows the University of New Brunswick to take advantage of its existing knowledge base, and establish a Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity (CIC) that will contribute to Canada’s growth in cybersecurity and innovation.”
- The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, and Minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
“The Government of Canada is pleased to support the establishment of the CIC. As this generation moves quickly to adopt the most modern of digital applications such as next generation and mobile technologies, cybersecurity is an important strategic sector, representing huge opportunities and potential for economic growth that will benefit this region for years to come.”
- Matt DeCourcey, Member of Parliament for Fredericton
“The need for more cybersecurity support and services around the world is a huge opportunity to create jobs here in our province. New Brunswick is already a world leader in cybersecurity. Enhancing training and research opportunities through this institute is another step in seizing this significant economic opportunity.”
- Premier Brian Gallant
“We’re poised to bring our expertise to this global industry. The Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity is a culmination of more than 15 years of successful innovation and research in cybersecurity at the University of New Brunswick. The creation of the Institute allows us to forge an even more crucial role in developing security measures necessary to protect modern critical infrastructure in Canada and beyond.”
- University of New Brunswick President Dr. Eddy Campbell
“In today’s society, we trust highly confidential and private information to systems that are constantly under attack. The Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity is poised to alter the cyberwarfare landscape by propelling research, training and collaboration with governments and industry to new levels.”
- Dr. Ali Ghorbani, founding director of the Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity at UNB
“IBM is proud to be the institute’s first R&D partner and to help New Brunswick build towards a knowledge-based economy. The demand for highly skilled cybersecurity professionals is one of the biggest challenges to overcome in the industry today, and it’s only expected to grow. Together, we are taking an active role in solving the existing skills gap in the province’s cybersecurity space, driving awareness to attract new talent and partnering with educators to provide next-generation training tools.”
NSCC is only school in Canada using lidar to map seabed near shore
If you know the shape and size of seabeds, that information can be used in everything from the aquaculture industry to oil-spill response agencies. But it takes a special tool to peer beneath the waves and map the bottom of the ocean. And only one post-secondary institution in Canada has it.
The million-dollar-plus topographic-bathymetric lidar (light detection and ranging) sensor at the Nova Scotia Community College campus in Middleton, N.S., looks a little like a old-school TV mounted screen-side down in a Piper Navajo survey plane. The 80-kg unit contains a near-infrared laser, a green laser and two cameras, while another unit houses a processor that controls when the lasers fire, and a hard drive to store data. The lasers are sent down through an opening in the plane’s floor, and the unit measures how long they take to bounce back. The data is used to create a topographical map of the so-called white ribbon, a previously unmapped area between the shore and deeper water that is beyond the reach of land- and boat-based mapping techniques.
One of only two schools in North America with the ocean-mapping technology (the other is in Texas), the NSCC’s Applied Geomatics Research Group bought it two years ago with an $800,000 grant from the federal government’s Canada Foundation for Innovation and another $800,000 grant from the Nova Scotia Research Innovation trust, plus in-kind contributions from five companies.
Since it started flying missions in September 2014, it has already been used, among other things, to survey waters where one partner, Acadian Seaplants, harvests seaweed, which is used in human and animal food, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.
“The information we are collecting gives great baseline information as to how deep these bays are,” explains research scientist Tim Webster, head of the Applied Geomatics Research Group. “Then we can use that to essentially simulate how the water moves in the bays through something called a hydrodynamic model.”
Nova Scotia has a small aquaculture industry compared to P.E.I. and New Brunswick, and the data collected and processed from the Northumberland Strait, for example, is useful in determining whether a bay has stagnant water or is well flushed, which is better for shellfish like mussels and oysters.
The topo-bathymetric information can help predict how the sea will surge on land during major storms, which is useful for municipalities, ports and land owners. And those hydrodynamic models can also help figure out how an oil spill will move on top of water.
The mapping and interpretation of the data is led by Webster, but students in the college’s two-year geographic information systems (GIS) program or its one-year, post-graduate geographic sciences advanced diploma program (offered through its Lawrencetown campus) also help out.
Jesse Siegel, 25, took the advanced diploma last year after he couldn’t find a job with his university degree in environmental sciences. He went to NSCC after hearing about its “great reputation” for training students in emerging technologies used in geographic information systems—a field where job prospects are growing. This past summer, as a research assistant with Webster’s group, Siegel spent hours aboard a small Zodiac doing “ground truthing,” where he used a GPS to validate information gathered by the lidar. “It was fascinating work,” says the Shelburne, N.S. native, adding that even for a university grad with a double major, the NSCC graduate program “was a lot of new information for me.”
The sensor’s data is also contributing to the federal government’s World Class Tanker Safety initiative, which has slated $450,000 for topo-bathymetric surveys in Nova Scotia and B.C. in at-risk areas, says Scott Coffen-Smout, a Dartmouth-based oceans management biologist with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans. “A lot of the info we have right now is quite coarse,” says Coffen-Smout. Topo-bathymetric maps made from lidar data collected near Isle Madame in 2014, on the province’s east coast, will help them prepare. It’s an area where ship traffic is heavy—and where, in 1970, the oil tanker Arrow ran aground on a rock with more than 100,000 barrels on board. The spill contaminated 300 km of coastline, and just last summer, it started leaking again. The topo-bathymetric lidar maps are, as Coffen-Smout puts it, “another tool in the tool box” that will help cleanup crews in the future.
The Business Development Bank of Canada is seeing growing optimism among Canada’s small- and medium-sized businesses, with particular strength in the national technology sector and across Atlantic Canada.
The BDC, the business-focused financial institution owned by the federal government, on Monday released its annual survey of 4,000 of those businesses and their intentions for the coming year.
The headline figure shows that these small businesses plan to boost total investment to $96.6 billion in 2017, up 1.6 per cent from 2016. What’s really interesting about the survey is that BDC found particular strength in the tech community nationally and in Atlantic Canada.
“What we’re seeing in the survey is that entrepreneurs in Atlantic Canada are more confident about the economy than a year ago,” said Pierre Cléroux, BDC’s vice-president of research and chief economist. “For example, 75 per cent of the entrepreneurs in Atlantic Canada believe that their revenues are going to increase this year. So this is a very positive result. And it’s actually higher than the national average.”
On a national level, 69 per cent of small business owners are expecting improved revenue in 2017 — an improvement from 45 per cent in the 2016 survey. Cléroux said the main reason for the increase is the strong optimism among high-growth small businesses, who are expecting a 19 per cent jump in revenues.
The survey found that retail businesses lag other sectors, with a drop of 31 per cent in the amount they intend to invest over the next year.
Overall, the survey showed that a lack of confidence in the economy is no longer a primary obstacle to investment. Rather, the biggest problems are the lack of cash flow and of qualified personnel.
Cléroux added that the information technology sector is showing particular strength right across the country, driven by both strong investment and high demand for technology products.
“The tech sector has been growing very strongly in the last five years,” said Cléroux. “In fact, it’s the only sector that has been outperforming the economy in terms of growth. That’s why I’m not surprised to see that their investment intentions are so good compared to the other sectors. Their investment intentions are 38-per-cent higher this year than the year before, which is the highest level in our survey.”
While they are expecting higher revenues, technology entrepreneurs in Canada are expecting to dramatically increase their investments in 2017.
BDC found that 54 per cent of the entrepreneurs in the tech sector plan to increase investment in 2017 — far higher than 34 per cent for small- and medium-sized businesses in the broader economy.
Cléroux said that the survey results also point to the underlying strength in demand for tech products because so many companies overall list technology at the top of the capital investment plans in the coming year.
“When we ask all the entrepreneurs in our survey, what is going to be your number-one investment project for 2017, 61 per cent said it’s going to be an investment in technology,” said Cléroux. “So they want to invest in computer hardware, in software and ecommerce. That’s the reason why we’re confident about the tech industry — it’s because the demand will remain very strong.”
St. FX University adds a new CRC renowned Researcher Dr. Jacob Levman
St. FX university has strengthen an already solid research team. The university has added Dr. Jacob Levman. Levman is the new Canada Research Chair in Bioinformatics in the Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science Department at St. FX.
Dr. Levman’s research goals include studies that examine neuroimaging and aim to develop new technologies to assist in the diagnosis and characterization of neurodevelopmental conditions to improve patient care and to help clarify understanding of a variety of disorders such as autism.
Levman says this research not only a local benefit, but possibly a global benefit.
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Dr. Levman recently joined StFX from Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School! He is opening his research areas to include the studies of MS, ADHD and cerebral Palsy. Dr. Levman is excited to work at St. FX, in particular, because of the wide opportunities for collaboration.
Synapse News: Q&A With Chris Mathis - What Does the Atlantic Growth Strategy Mean to You?
Q: What was your reaction to the Government of Canada and all four Atlantic provinces joining forces to launch the Atlantic Growth Strategy?
A: We are very excited about seeing this type of collaboration from the provincial and federal governments. It bodes well for the future. The Atlantic Growth Strategy shows us that the government is listening. Not only to trends internationally but to local stakeholders, industry and the public about what we need to grow Atlantic Canada and ensure it’s a place of prosperity for generations to come. We’re also very excited about the role we believe Springboard can play in helping to make the Atlantic Growth Strategy a success.
Q: What aspects of this strategy do you believe will strengthen the region’s competitiveness and make the most difference for industry and researchers?
A: It’s hard to choose but we are especially keen on the opportunities we see for technology transfer, researcher commercialization and the immigration and international student retention initiatives. We also feel that the universities and colleges are uniquely placed to contribute to cleantech and clean energy. Whether it be the new Ocean Frontier Institute at Dalhousie in collaboration with UPEI and Memorial, the Smart Grid research at UNB or the tidal energy research that Acadia and several of our institutions are engaged in, 100% of our institutions have something to contribute to the growth of this sector in the immediate future.
Q: Does the strategy favour particular fields?
A: Absolutely, as previously mentioned the strategy has singled out clean energy as a key growth opportunity and we wholeheartedly agree that we have a large role to play here. The Atlantic institutions are strong in the country in biology and chemistry, environmental sciences and engineering. These disciplines are the building blocks of this sector going forward. Clean energy projects can help every sector in the region, from fisheries, agriculture, food and beverage production, manufacturing and mining.
Q: Which Springboard programs align best with the Atlantic Growth Strategy?
A: The Springboard FTE program, which provides funding for “man power” at each of the institutions is well aligned to the Growth Strategy. Frankly it’s the business development booster for our universities and colleges and this team of people is uniquely placed to understand both the challenges and opportunities for growth in Atlantic Canada.
Q: What steps would you encourage researchers and entrepreneurs to take relative to the strategy?
A: Come talk to us. By accessing the knowledge and expertise across the Springboard Network, we can help you figure out what initiatives from the strategy will help you grow your company or your research program.
NSERC/Tesla Industrial CRC Jeff Dahn (Dal) to speak with Tesla about its new battery cell production
Despite an announcement earlier this month and some information leaking from a subsequent investor event, not many details are currently known about Tesla’s new battery cell production at the Gigafactory.
We now learn that an upcoming event should reveal more information. Tesla’s Senior Director of Cell Supply Chain & Business Development, Kurt Kelty, and its battery cell research partner, Jeff Dahn of Dalhousie University, will both present at the upcoming International Battery Seminar & Exhibit in March.
Kelty is one of Tesla’s top battery scientists. In the 1990s, he was the founder and director of Panasonic U.S. battery R&D lab, which was an extension of the Japanese battery R&D lab. He worked for Panasonic’s battery division until 2006, when he joined Tesla to lead its battery technology effort. He has been the lead negotiator of all of Tesla’s multi-billion dollar battery cell supply agreements with Panasonic.
Now Senior Director of Cell Supply Chain & Business Development, he will give a keynote presentation about “Gigafactory Material Sourcing and Cell Production” at the seminar on March 22.
This presentation will examine the status on material sourcing and sustainable material sourcing for the Gigafactory. In addition, the production of cells for energy products manufactured at the Gigafactory including the Powerwall and Powerpack will be discussed.
Kelty will be followed by his colleague Jeff Dahn. Tesla and Jeff Dahn’s battery-research group at Dalhousie University started a new partnership last year that transitioned the group from their 20-year research agreement with 3M to a new association with Tesla under the newly formed ‘NSERC/Tesla Canada Industrial Research’.
Tesla CTO JB Straubel with Jeff Dahn via Dal News Jeff Dahn in the frunk of a Tesla Model S via Dal News
Dahn’s research focuses on increasing the energy density and lifetime of Li-ion batteries in order to drive down costs of Tesla’s automotive and grid energy storage products.
He works mostly with NMC Li-ion cells, Tesla’s preferred chemistry for battery cells, and his keynote address titled “Surprising Chemistry in Li-Ion Cells” will discuss how they could stop harmful reactions in those cells in order to increase their capacity:
It is important to increase the operating voltage of NMC Li-ion cells to obtain higher energy density. However, the electrolyte reacts with the positive electrode at high voltage. Using simple experiments involving only pouch bags, we show that the products of these reactions are extremely harmful to the positive electrode. This talk demonstrates how these harmful reactions at the positive electrode can be virtually stopped, leading to superb NMC Li-ion cells that can operate at high potential.
Dahn’s presentation will follow Kelty’s on March 22 at the International Battery Seminar & Exhibit in Fort Lauderdale.
With its life sciences segment pretty well doubling in size every four years, Prince Edward Island is on a mission to develop new infrastructure that can sustain that growth.
The PEI BioAlliance, a partnership between the various players in the Island’s life sciences industry, recently revealed a proposal to develop a $30 million to $35 million BioAccelerator complex. The group hopes to build the 77,000-square-foot facility at the BioCommons Research Park in the Charlottetown area. It envisions a multi-faceted space that would include offices, co-working space, wet labs and manufacturing facilities.
Such a facility is needed, say its proponents, to accommodate the galloping growth of the biotech sector on the island.
“We now have 46 companies and seven research institutions in the province’s bioscience sector, employing over 1400 people in high-paying, full-time jobs,” BioAlliance Chair Russ Kerr recently told the legislature’s standing committee on energy and infrastructure. “There are another dozen companies in the development pipeline, and we need the appropriate facilities if we are to compete successfully for the jobs, investment, and brainpower that these opportunities represent.”
His presentation was part of the BioAlliance’s efforts to find funding from all levels of government for the project.
The BioAlliance is a private sector-led organization that brings together businesses, academia, government and non-governmental organizations to grow life sciences companies in P.E.I., whether they’re in biotech, agritech or other areas. The group now includes 46 private companies, 15 of which have joined the group since 2010.
The BioAlliance companies generated about $218 million of revenue in 2015, up from $95 million in 2010. The public- and private-sector members of the BioAlliance employed 1400 people as of the end of 2015, up from about 900 in 2010.
Aiding this growth, the federal government has twice in the past two years awarded P.E.I. funding for new initiatives: $3.6 million for the Emergence bioscience incubator; and $14 million to head the nationwide group, Natural Products Canada.
Now the BioAlliance has set targets to maintain that growth over the next few years. The organization’s recent strategy statement has set targets for 2020 of $400 million in private sector revenue by 2020, and total employment of 2000 people. And the new BioAccelerator will help achieve those targets, said BioAlliance Executive Director Rory Francis.
“We’re just trying to keep up with what the companies are doing,” he said in an interview in his Charlottetown office. “We think that by 2025 we’ll be over $600 million in sales, but we can’t do that unless we get some space to grow.”
He added the benefits of improving the bioscience infrastructure in P.E.I. extend to the other Atlantic Canadian provinces and the rest of the country.
The BioAccelerator Steering Committee includes industry, academic, federal and provincial government representatives. Chair Ron Keefe said the committee has taken a broad look at infrastructure across the province and across the region. The goal is to build a new facility that will complement existing infrastructure at such institutions as the University of Prince Edward Island, the Atlantic Veterinary College, Holland College, the National Research Council, Agriculture Canada Research, and BioFoodTech.
“We’re working with local entrepreneurs and new businesses developing products from functional food ingredients to pharmaceuticals, animal and fish health products, and diagnostics,” said Keefe. “These products are highly regulated to assure safety and quality, and our facilities have to meet rigorous national and international standards.”
The organization hopes to break ground on the new BioAccelerator in early 2017, and have a two-year development schedule so people would be working in the complex in 2019.
Said Keefe: “Besides the obvious benefits for our economy, these are the kind of jobs that retain and repatriate our youth, create a highly educated and trained workforce, and enhance industry-research relationships that benefit students and researchers at UPEI and Holland College.”
Two of the leading university entrepreneurship programs in the region – the Summer Institute at University of New Brunswick and Dalhousie University’s Collide program – are looking for participants.
Dalhousie’s Collide Winter 2017 program is a series of entrepreneurial workshops, pitching and networking events to help individuals launch their ventures. The winter program will have a stronger focus on customer validation and prototyping than previous iterations.
Collide is open to students, researchers and community members and is free of charge. All are welcome to attend the events regardless of involvement in the program but only full participants will be eligible for the certificate or prize money.
In order to receive the certificate of completion, participants must attend: four pitching sessions (presenting ideas and receiving feedback); three workshops (learning to further develop ideas); and two fireside chats (Q&As with successful entrepreneurs).
After completing the requirements of the program, participants will have the chance to present their pitches to a panel of judges in the pitch competition for the chance to win prize money to put towards their ventures.
Applications for Collide Winter, which can be found here, are open until Jan. 16.
Overseen by UNB’s J Herbert Smith Centre for Technology Management & Entrepreneurship, or TME, the Summer Institute offers a three-month intensive program for passionate people who want to turn their innovative ideas into successful businesses. Each cohort spends the summer working with a group of professional designers and established entrepreneurs to build businesses that excite them. Costs for participants are covered through a stipend that includes living costs and product development costs.
“The Summer Institute is an opportunity for people who want to make a big leap into entrepreneurship to create value and meaning for society,” said Dhirendra Shukla, TME Chair and Director of the Summer Institute. “There are so many good people and ideas in our region. Our goal is to offer them the safe space, support and knowledge they will need to turn their idea into a sustainable venture.”
Now in its fourth year, the Summer Institute is scheduled to run from May 1 until July 21.
The Summer Institute has launched 17 companies, including Fredericton’s Wear Your Label, and was the first accelerator in Eastern Canada to be invited into the Techstars-affiliated Global Accelerator Network.
“This year, we’re looking for entrepreneurs of all passions. Everything from cybersecurity, to forestry, and even fine art & craft” said Program Manager Melissa O’Rourke. “If you know an entrepreneur with an innovative product or service, or someone with a great idea who likes to make a difference, point them towards the Summer Institute.”
Applications for UNB’s Summer Institute, which can be found here, are open until March 12.
Here’s one thing to highlight about Atlantic Canadian startups in 2017: they’ll be accelerating that danged faces off.
Accelerators have become a cornerstone of the startup world, and they’re think on the ground on Canada’s East Coast. The sheer number of accelerators or incubators is surprising, as is the number of companies they are fostering. And they speak to the startup community’s commitment to helping more and more entrepreneurs find their way to the market.
Just consider for a moment these groups that will be active in 2017:
Propel ICT – The best-known accelerator in the region, it will likely offer programs this year to new, growing and advanced IT companies in all provinces. It will also hold a cohort at the Navigate Startup House in Sydney for the first time.
Emergence, Charlottetown – The bioscience accelerator has been nurturing several startups since it opened two years ago.
CleanTech Accelerate Program, Halifax – Innovacorp’s new program for cleantech companies launched in 2016 with five companies enrolled.
Evolution, St. John’s – The Genesis Centre has been offering this eight-week program to nurture young companies in Newfoundland and Labrador. The centre now lists 12 graduates on its website.
Startup Zone, Charlottetown – The incubator that opened last summer in the P.E.I. capital graduated its first cohorts of five startups in December.
Innovacorp’s OceanTech Programs, Halifax – The Nova Scotia innovation agency is offering three programs for marine-related companies -- the Demo at Sea Program, Early Adopter Program and OceanTech Development Program. Six companies were enrolled in the Early Adopter Program last year.
Energia, Fredericton – The new University of New Brunswick accelerator for energy, cleantech and cybersecurity is already working with five companies.
JEDI Aboriginal Business Accelerator Program, Fredericton – JEDI was a pilot program last year and is now ramping up to a more permanent status. Eight teams of aboriginal entrepreneurs went through it in 2016.
B4 Change, Fredericton – The accelerator at UNB’s Pond-Deshpande Centre focuses on social entrepreneurship, or companies with a social mission. The accelerator is now two years old with 30 graduates to date.
Spark and Ignite – Andrew Button of Mashup Lab heads these two virtual accelerators, which aims to mentor entrepreneurs regardless of where they are based. The goal is to give founders in rural areas the opportunities that exist in the urban centres.
Natural Products Canada -- This Charlottetown-based organization has pods across the country, and will be working with Atlantic Canadian companies that commercialize natural products.
So that’s 11 programs in the region, and there have been several omissions. Most prominent are the startup houses in most Atlantic Canadian cities that offer programing as well as office space.
Then there are the post-secondary institution programs. UNB, Dalhousie, St. Mary’s and Cape Breton all have programs during the school year, and Dal and UNB both have summer accelerators. Nova Scotia has a range of “sandboxes” (places where entrepreneurs can meet and collaborate).
Then there are larger programs in other places that Atlantic Canadian startups will continue to tap, like the Canadian Technology Accelerator program offered at Canadian consulates in the U.S. and other countries. And let’s not forget the broader entrepreneurship programs – like the Centre for Entrepreneurship Education and Development in Halifax and Futurpreneur – that target more than just innovation-based startups.
Once you sit down and count them, you can be astonished by how many organizations are offering mentorship to startups. I could see 150 companies going through these programs this year. Most will fail, but the overall result will be a few dozen notable survivors and an expansion of entrepreneurial talent.
Call To Action: ACOA’s Clean Technology Initiative
In early December, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency issued a Call to Action inviting Atlantic Canadian companies, communities and non-profit organizations to develop proposals for projects that promote clean growth through clean technology. In support of this call, ACOA has earmarked $20 million for clean technology projects in 2016-17. Applications should be submitted on or before March 31, 2017.
As part of the Atlantic Growth Strategy, a federal-provincial initiative announced July 2016, the Government of Canada and the governments of the four Atlantic Provinces are committed to taking action to promote clean growth, create jobs and drive innovation in the transition to a low-carbon economy. This call to action builds on that commitment.
The aim of this clean growth strategy is to foster the development of a clean economy. The driver for this goal is the focused support of clean technology. Clean technology, whether through development, adaptation or adoption, includes products, processes and services that improve environmental performance in support of sustainable development and clean growth.
This strategy will create jobs, and by developing and marketing clean technology products and services, it is poised to help companies grow new markets and provide a competitive edge. Companies adopting clean technology processes for their own operations may lower costs, enhance efficiencies and increase output, all of which improves competitiveness. Communities and non-profits will be able to become eco-friendlier through this program.
The objectives of ACOA’s Clean Technology Initiative are:
To encourage Atlantic Canadian businesses, communities and non-profit organizations to access ACOA programs to innovate and develop clean technology products, services or processes;
To help companies adapt and adopt clean technology that make their work processes more efficient and less costly;
To help communities and non-profit organizations become eco-friendlier through the adoption or adaptation of clean technologies in community facilities;
To help non-profit organizations such as institutions of higher learning conduct research and development on clean technology products, services and processes;
To promote clean growth as a way to grow the economy of Atlantic Canada; and
To diversify the region's economy, open up new markets and generate good jobs for Atlantic Canadians.
Examples of successful cleantech companies:
CarbonCure Technologies, NS
Allowing concrete producers to reuse carbon dioxide during the manufacturing process is the latest breakthrough technology for the building industry. The use of the CO2 in this new technology lowers the cost, reduces the overall carbon footprint and improves the quality of the concrete.
Springboard Atlantic member role in helping Carbon Sense Solutions: The R&D provided by Dalhousie University enabled the optimization of the concrete production process as well as providing potential future applications for this technology. Fast forward to 2016 and building on this foundation, Robert Niven received a $10,000 Manning Award for founding CarbonCure Technologies and helping develop this breakthrough technology.
Eigen Innovations, NB
Industrial production lines are very complex and the ever-evolving machines generate an enormous amount of data, requiring companies to be able to process this data quickly and accurately to maintain production quality, while reducing costs, time and energy consumption. However, many companies are unable to process. Founded in 2012, Eigen Innovations addressed these manufacturing issues with the patenting of their Intellexon® platform, using data analytics to provide higher accuracy, faster implementation time, and continuous adaptation to changes in the production line. Started with an investment from the New Brunswick Innovation Fund, Eigen is a spin-off company from applied research conducted by University of New Brunswick researcher and co-founder Rick Dubay. An example of this technology in action is the collaboration with McCain Foods Ltd., Eigen and UNB in a 2 year NSERCCRD .
Solace Power, NL
Launched in 2007 Solace Power boasts a truly unique adaptation of clean technology, being the first in the world to develop this novel, innovative technology. RC2 (Resonant Capacitive Coupling) eliminates the need for any bulky power cables and chargers for devices. Instead, power is delivered wirelessly and efficiently. Everyone from aerospace and defense companies to the automotive industry to consumers are showing great interest in this technology. Leaving the Genesis Centre (Memorial University's award-winning business incubator) in 2013 Solace Power now has 22 employees.
Founded in 2010, SabrTech is producing the world's first modular, scalable, and rapidly deployable bio film platform to produce algae biomass for aquaculture, fuel, nutraceuticals, chemicals and personal care products. SabrTech's innovative technology RiverBoxTM is revolutionizing the way algae is produced by working in a sustainable way with nature to achieve economic and social progress. Addressing SabrTech’s R&D needs, supporting the technology development, Dalhousie University and the Nova Scotia Community College (two Springboard Atlantic members) have been working closely with SabrTech between 2012 and 2015. Dal researchers focused on various aspects of algal related product development (bioreactors, oils and biomass), while NSCC worked on the prototype development and full scale continuous algal biomass production.
Springboard Atlantic member institutions in Atlantic Canada have the knowhow and research capacity to help companies in clean technology development. We can find the expertise you require. To find out more contact us at email@example.com or at (902)-421-5678.
The winning company in the Growth Stage category at the Atlantic Venture forum last summer was 4Deep Inwater Imaging, a company that grew out of research conducted at Dalhousie University.
Around the same time, the No. 3 finisher at the Cisco Innovation Grand Challenge in Dubai was Fredericton-based Eigen Innovations, which is based on industrial Internet of Things technology developed at University of New Brunswick.
A few months earlier, the 2015 BDC Young Entrepreneur of the Year award was presented to Chris Cowper-Smith, the CEO of Spring Loaded Technologies, a company which came together in the Starting Lean program at Dal.
These are just a few examples that show that some of the most celebrated startups in Atlantic Canada are born in university research or work with universities as they developed. In fact, research by Entrevestor shows that in the last two years, startups affiliated with universities grew revenue at a far greater rate than the other startups in the community.
Each year, we collect data on startups from around the region, including their revenue, employment and other such metrics. We also examine the metrics for companies affiliated with post-secondary institutions – either those that grew out of intellectual property developed at these schools, or those using the schools’ facilities and expertise as they grow.
Performance of Startups Affiliated with Universities and Colleges
Number of Startups
Employees of these Startups
2015 Funding Raised by these startups
Number of Companies Funded
Dataset: 111 startups affiliated with universities
Source Enrrevestor Databank
In our 2014 analysis of the startup community, we found that such companies’ revenues were increasing 71 percent, when the startup community overall was producing 37 percent revenue growth.
In 2015, the overall startup community saw a huge jump in sales, mainly because of the strong performance of the growth-stage companies. Overall, 120 companies provided us with revenue data, and they showed an increase of 66 percent over the previous year.
Of those respondents reporting revenue data, 57 companies had connections to universities or colleges. And those with revenue reported a total sales growth of 110 percent. That’s right. These companies more than doubled their revenue in one year, and outperformed the broader community by about two-thirds.
What’s notable about our findings is that we have found a superior performance by these university-related companies for the second year in a row.
There are likely two reasons for this strong showing: First, IP developed in universities tends to comprise deeper technology than something put together by freelance innovators and is therefore more advanced and harder to replicate. And second, companies that continue to work with post-secondary labs, to use their labs and tap their experts, show the sort of discipline and outreach that should be found in a healthy startup.
There’s a general acceptance among people in the broader community that the universities are a golden resource for Atlantic Canada, accounting for most of the research and development carried out in the region.
“They are a huge source of intellectual property and talent,” said Greg Phipps, Managing Director of Investment at Innovacorp. “Certainly, a majority of the deals that we’ve done in the life sciences sector were born in the universities.” He added that Innovacorp-backed companies in other sectors, such as advanced manufacturer Atlantic Motor Labs and digital intelligent design company QRA Corp., also got their start at universities.
What’s more, at least six Atlantic Canadian institutions are now offering some form of curriculum to teach entrepreneurship, most of which have courses that include credits for degrees.
The University of New Brunswick is worth watching because of the concentration of young companies now emerging through its MTE program.
Another development that has been gaining momentum is the work at Dalhousie University to host Canada’s Business Model Competition, which is affiliated with the International Business Model Competition.
These initiatives are increasing the entrepreneurial skillset of young people emerging from universities, which should help to drive further growth in the future.
As we move toward 2017, I think there is one thing the Atlantic Canadian startup community needs to focus on in the New Year to maintain the momentum that’s been building.
It should focus on bigness.
There are now big and growing venture-capital-backed companies in the region, and there will be more of them a year from now. The expansion of large startups has far greater economic impact than the launch of a lot of small companies. So the goal must be to focus on the promotion and mentorship of these companies.
The easiest part of this is promoting the idea that there are successful high-growth companies in Atlantic Canada. And these large companies themselves should be getting more involved in getting the word out.
“Our philosophy here is to grow these companies,” Calvin Milbury, the president and CEO of the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, said earlier this year. “It’s those companies, the ones that are growing quickly over a period of time, that are creating wealth in the economy.”
The fact is that Atlantic Canadian companies are securing more multi-million-dollar funding rounds than ever before. Last week, Halifax’s TruLeaf Sustainable Agriculture Ltd. announced an $8.5 million equity financing. That’s on top of Fredericton-based Resson raising US$11 million in a funding round led by Monsanto Growth Ventures, and Kinduct Technologies of Halifax raising US$9 million, led by Intel Capital.
It’s easy to identify at least five or six companies around the region that could announce similar funding in 2017. It means that investment vehicles from outside Atlantic Canada see the opportunity in some of the best companies here and are willing to make big bets.
But there is still a perception problem. Atlantic Canada is now seen as an intriguing base for young companies but it hasn’t quite arrived. When Deloitte recently announced its 2016 Fast 50 Technology companies, there wasn’t a single Atlantic Canadian company in the list, which is based on three years of funding.
The community overall needs to do more to show the abundance of growth-stage companies existing here — companies with more than $2 million in revenue whose sales are doubling annually or close to it. Our economy needs more of these big funding rounds. The bigger companies — who benefited from the support of the community in their earlier stages — should be helping to showcase the size of local ventures.
First, these big companies need to show up and present at the conferences in the region, like Startup Empire, Atlantic Venture Forum and Invest Atlantic. Investors that bother to attend have got used to seeing seed stage companies and need to be shown the successful companies too.
Second, these bigger companies need to be more active in applying for high profile contests like the EY Entrepreneur of the Year competition and the Deloitte Fast 50.
And finally, some thought should be given to an event in Toronto, Boston, New York or San Francisco showcasing these companies. The minimum bar should be something like $2 million in annual sales and looking for $8 million in funding. We should be showing what is happening here to growth stage venture capital investors in their cities.
Government bodies should be looking for ways to support these growth companies, and the help should concentrate on something other than financial support. One way to help is to work with these larger companies to make external funders understand the potential in the region.
At Volta Labs we believe that Atlantic Canada has performed above the Canadian average when it comes to technology-driven companies finding success. However, the success of technology companies in the region has not yet inspired a broader sense that success in technology-driven business happens here. There is now an opportunity to change that perception of Atlantic Canada and lead the development of a technically minded innovation cluster in the region.
This change in perception requires three main pillars to be present:
A vibrant and growing base of technology companies that are globally minded and locally based.
Strong educational institutions that develop young people who are entrepreneurial, innovative and have a global perspective in whatever area or field they want to excel in.
An innovation ‘district’ to build density in Halifax where modern technology companies have a ‘campus’ to centre their activities and radiate throughout the Atlantic Region.
Starting a business with a local connection is a good start. However, in order to grow a business today you must have a global mindset. Customers, funding, and the people that help build your company will reside in different cities in different countries. There are numerous examples of companies based in Halifax with customers in U.S. cities, Dash Hudson being top of mind as it grows its office space in downtown Halifax with customers in New York and other cities.
Atlantic Canada is home to great educational institutions that not only develop young people from the region but also attract students from all over the world. It is important these educational institutions remain strong and nurture an entrepreneurial, innovative, and global perspective. The recent investment into Ocean Technology Research is a great start in establishing a globally competitive advantage for the region that sends a positive signal.
The establishment of an innovation district in downtown Halifax will change how technology and innovation is perceived in the region. A long-standing trend in major cities throughout the globe, innovation districts are a concentrated area of a city where education, industry, and residents are intertwined to create a vibrant living and working community.
Along Spring Garden Road, you can see the start of this district with the growth of the Dalhousie University Sexton campus, the investment in a modern library, development of condos, the presence of a growing number of early-stage technology companies, and Volta Labs being open to the community.
All levels of government, members of the community, higher education, and private industry partners are collaborating to establish density in the core of Halifax that will radiate out the next generation of innovative industry across Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada. Community is the framework for a prosperous future economy here in Halifax.
Volta Labs is that home base for a technology driven industry to take a firm root in Atlantic Canada while developing a global perspective. It will continue to evolve and develop the story that will inspire growing businesses to be successful in Atlantic Canada while competing globally.
Volta Labs CEO Jesse Rodgers is a 15-year veteran of the startup world. Before coming to Volta, Rodgers co-founded several startups and was the founding director of the Velocity incubator at the University of Waterloo and later of the Creative Destructive Lab at the University of Toronto.
St. Mary’s University is adding a new dimension to the student entrepreneurship craze by having a group of students oversee their own venture capital fund.
The university’s Sobey School of Business is in the process of launching Venture Grade, which will be an investment fund to invest alongside existing investment vehicles. As of last weekend, the students had raised $47,000 aimed to end up with a fund worth $250,000.
Universities and colleges around the region (and the world) now have courses that help students to launch actual businesses. But SMU says Venture Grade is the first student-led VC fund, with the students raising the money and conducting due diligence on investments.
“The overall goal for the fund is to create an unparalleled educational experience for student entrepreneurs and students of finance to learn entrepreneurship from the inside-out,” said Ellen Farrell, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital at SMU.
“This course and will be a differentiator for SMU, the Sobey School of Business and it will draw students to the Atlantic Region.”
With $47,000 now committed, Farrell said two different backers are now considering additional funding proposals worth a total of $100,000. The group made several funding proposals last week and are confident they will be able to raise the full $250,000.
The team comprises three SMU alumni employed in in sales and entrepreneurship, six MBA students and four commerce students. The oversight board comprises: Farrell; Patrick Fitzgerald, a partner with Cox and Palmer; and Andrew Ray, a fund manager at Innovacorp. Venture Grade is working with a range of partners, including East Valley Ventures, Build Ventures and Relay Ventures.
Venture Grade will work alongside existing VCs, angel groups and investment bankers to identify investment opportunities. These more experienced funding bodies will invite Venture Grade to participate in funding rounds. The sectors and the geographic locations are determined by the investments of the partnering investment groups.
The overseers expect the early investments to be in seed and early stage companies, said Farrell, but the group hopes to extend its reach across the continent and make investments is Series A, B and C rounds. The students are conducting due diligence with four investments so far in conjunction with participating VC firms and hope that at least one will prove viable for a Venture Grade investment.
“Many people … think that the fund is students investing in students,” said Farrell. “It is, rather, students investing in viable venture-grade investments. They are being invited to participate by doing due diligence on the investments and writing investment memos that are scrutinized by the formal financiers.”
She added that another element of the project that is not readily apparent is that the students are being mentored by VCs and angels, both locally and as far afield as Silicon Valley. For example, they were to meet this week with Brenda Hogan, of the Ontario Capital Growth Corp., which oversees the province’s venture capital investments. They met with an investment banker and a VC from Silicon Valley last week.
She also stressed that the program is unique.
“I have found three other somewhat similar programs, except that in those cases, the students are not raising the fund,” said Farrell. “They were given the money to invest [and are not] being guided by the investment community.”
Genome Atlantic and NSERC sign MOU to expand research and innovation capacity in Atlantic Canada
Genome Atlantic and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) have entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to increase collaboration and streamline the process by which researchers and industry clients access programs and services.
Joint initiatives could include Research and Development opportunities, talent support, training and student employment programs, as well as other related activities that encourage partnership between academic institutions and industry provided there is an economic benefit to the Atlantic region.
“The partnership formalizes the close relationship between Genome Atlantic and NSERC,” says Genome Atlantic President & CEO Steve Armstrong. “For academic researchers and companies, this will mean greater flexibility to access the services and funding programs offered by both organizations – effectively, by helping to create a one-stop shop.”
“By coordinating our efforts, NSERC and Genome Atlantic will be able to expand our networks, strengthen partnerships with academia and industry and boost collaborative research,” says Bettina Hamelin, Vice-President of Research Partnerships, NSERC. “Together, we can build on synergies and more effectively promote our shared goal of building a stronger dynamic between research and innovation in Atlantic Canada.”
The MOU will be in effect until March 3, 2020.
Genome Atlantic is a not-for-profit corporation with a mission to help Atlantic Canada reap the economic and social benefits of genomics and other ‘omics technologies. Working with a broad range of partners, Genome Atlantic helps companies, genomics researchers and others collaborate around strategic R&D initiatives that create sustainable improvements in agriculture, aquaculture and fisheries, energy, the environment, forestry, human health and mining. Genome Atlantic has helped to enable more than $87 million in genomics R&D since its inception in 2000.
NSERC invests over $1 billion each year in natural sciences and engineering research in Canada. Our investments deliver discoveries – valuable world-firsts in knowledge claimed by a brain trust of over 1,000 professors. Our investments enable partnerships and collaborations that connect industry with discoveries and the people behind them. Researcher-industry partnerships established by NSERC help inform R&D, solve scale-up challenges, and reduce the risks of developing high-potential technology. NSERC also provides scholarships and hands-on training experience for more than 30,000 post-secondary students and post-doctoral fellows. These young researchers will be the next generation of science and engineering leaders in Canada.
As if running his own lab at Dalhousie University doesn’t keep him busy enough, Lukas Swan is now working on his second business.
Swan and Chris White, a former researcher at his laboratory, are in the early stages of Charged Engineering Inc., which has developed patented technology that has improved the efficiency of lead-acid battery manufacturers.
The company has signed a contract with one manufacturer and is working on the implementation of its technology with the established company’s plant. Charged is also in Innovacorp’s CleanTech Accelerate Program, Nova Scotia’s new accelerator for cleantech companies.
“This is basically a well-established battery — the lead-acid battery,” said Swan in an interview. “It’s a competitive industry. Everybody is looking for an edge right now, and we are one of the companies that can give an edge.”
The edge that Charged brings is helping manufacturers save money and increase efficiency while making higher-quality batteries. Swan said one of the difficulties with making lead-acid batteries is the time taken in the formation stage. Formation is the process of actually charging the batteries once all the components are put in a container. It can take days. It’s expensive. And the manufacturer doesn’t know when the battery is ready, which only prolongs the process.
What Swan and White have done is produce a system that measures four variables in the battery and can tell the manufacturer when the battery is ready, and improve the battery’s performance.
Though Swan downplays the size of the market for this product, he touts the outlook for lead-acid batteries, especially in developing nations. He said small-scale, off-grid wind and solar energy installations are becoming more common in these countries, and they’ll need affordable, dependable energy storage solutions to fully benefit from this advance. Lead-acid batteries are ideal for this because they are dependable, recyclable and easy to maintain. Swan calls it “strategic technology.”
Charged Engineering is planning to bring its product to market by two streams — by retrofitting existing chargers, and by licensing the technology to manufacturers installing new chargers. Chargers are constantly being replaced so this second stream should grow as time goes on.
Swan said the company has made two patent applications, and plans to work toward a second product that would be aimed more at the consumer market. The company is conducting research and development on the product and will be patient about bringing it to market.
Swan is a professor of mechanical engineering and supervises the university’s Renewable Energy Storage Laboratory, which usually has about 10 researchers working in it. Also a wind farm entrepreneur, he’s a principal of the Colchester-Cumberland Wind Field, which has been funded by Community Economic Development Investment Funds and has been paying dividends to investors for the past two years.
So far, Swan and White have not raised equity financing, and they don’t plan to do so in the near future. They are building up their network of collaborators, and Swan raves about the support they’ve received in the local startup community.
“It’s really collaborative around here,” said Swan. “We feel very encouraged and very well supported.”
FREDERICTON– The University of New Brunswick’s Technology Management and Entrepreneurship Centre has launched a new accelerator for energy and cybersecurity startups in the region and beyond.
The Energia Ventures will focus on companies in smart grid, clean tech, energy and cybersecurity. The program will offer programs, seed funding and customized space on Queen Street downtown Fredericton as well as customized help and guidance in creating breakthrough products, gaining initial customer and seeking investment.
Ed Rodriguez, managing director of Energia Ventures, says what makes the accelerator unique is that it will leverage partnerships across all sectors, not just private, including the Atlantic Canadian Opportunities Agency (ACOA), UNB and Siemens Canada.
“Those kinds of partnerships are at the heart of our uniqueness because part of what we’re doing is harnessing entrepreneurial creativity together with cutting-edge research, development and collaboration between the University of New Brunswick and world class industrial partners like Seimens,” Rodriguez said. “They are working together together in solving real-world problems and those collaborations that are focused on solving real-world problems are open to the startups in our accelerator.”
Energia Ventures has received nearly $1 million in funding from both the public and private sector. The Government of Canada, through ACOA’s Business Development Program gave $405,567 to the project and the University of New Brunswick is providing $60,000. A combined contribution of $480,000 from Siemens Canada and Mitacs – a national, not-for-profit organization – is for smart-grid related research already underway within this program.
The startups in Energia’s first cohort are Stash Energy, Beauceron Security, Trispectra Innovation Inc., Rising Tide Technologies and Mbissa Energy Systems. Jordon Kennie of Stash Energy, a company that stores thermal energy from heat pumps to shift electricity usage and save homeowners money on their power bill, is already working out of the accelerator’s Queen Street location along with other companies. Kennie said what he’s looking forward to most about the accelerator is collaborating with the other startups.
“I’m really excited to work with the other companies in the accelerator. I find that our company grows really quickly when are able to work with other companies and push each other to move forward,” Kennie says. “Also there’s a shared office space in downtown Fredericton, which is extremely nice because we currently don’t have an office space, so that will really help us out with organizing our company.”
On November 17, 2016 Halifax’s Discovery Centre held their 14th annual Discovery Awards. This great annual event recognizes talented individuals and outstanding companies for their national and international work in science and technology fields, celebrating research, science and innovation. Springboard Atlantic congratulates the award recipients and nominees from our member institutions.
Professional of Distinction Award: James Robar, Professor, Dalhousie University, Faculty of Medicine
Dr. Robar’s career has been devoted to helping improve the lives of cancer patients who receive radiation therapy. His research and development efforts have led to more than 80 publications, 10 patent applications, and two spin-off companies. He has a passion for translating his fundamental work into practical solutions that can be — and are — used in the clinic. He is also director of Dal's Medical Physics programs.
Find out more about how Dr. Robar and his team get “atom” here.
Emerging Professional: Alec Falkenham
A PhD graduate from Dalhousie’s Department of Pathology and now first-year Medicine student, Alec Falkenham hit the headlines after he came up with a new tattoo removal technology. The story went global and generated hundreds of inquiries, indicating he had hit a sweet spot in public need. Dr. Falkenham’s tattoo removal technology (the rights to which were acquired by Cipher Pharmaceuticals in May 2016) speeds up the body’s natural process that causes ink to fade. It does this by targeting white blood cells called macrophages, which remove foreign material from the body. What his team did was develop a cream carrying a lipid-vesicle, or liposome. When the cream is applied to a tattoo, ink-containing macrophages die off and new macrophages enter the skin. Some of the new macrophages depart for the lymph nodes with a cargo of ink, thus fading the tattoo.
Dr. Falkenham is also an up-and-coming name in cardiovascular research. As a graduate student, he presented nationally on how the immune system heals the heart and has been awarded multiple provincial and national scholarships.
Read more about wiping away your “permanent” mistakes here.
Science Champion: Boris Worm, Professor, Dalhousie University, Biology
Dr. Worm has long felt compelled to share knowledge on the state of our global ocean and is fast-becoming a household name. Between publishing his headline-making research on marine biodiversity and conservation, Dr. Worm is the “Oceans Guy” for CBC Radio 1, covering ocean issues every second Tuesday afternoon in his own radio column. The marine biologist’s passionate voice has been captured in documentaries like Sharkwater, Racing Extinction and Bluefin.
Now, Dr. Worm is taking science education and outreach to a new level with Ocean School, a groundbreaking new educational initiative done in partnership with the Ocean Frontier Institute and the National Film Board. Ocean School will bring ocean education for 11-15 year olds into classrooms using cutting-edge technologies, powerful storytelling techniques and audiovisual teaching platforms. The Ocean School pilot project will launch early next year in some grade seven classes in Nova Scotia.
Science Hall of Fame Inductee: Jeff Dahn, Dalhousie University, Physics and Chemistry, NSERC/Tesla Canada Inc. Industrial Research Chair, Canada Research Chair in Materials for Advanced Batteries
Dr. Dahn was recognized for his front-line battery research as well as his contribution to teaching. A pioneering developer of the lithium-ion battery, his research has led to cells being produced in a more cost effective manner. His material combination is now used in batteries to power everything from electric cars to smart-grid power-storage devices that could eventually support the widespread use of renewable energy. He was elected as a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2001 and has won more than 20 major awards since he began with work with lithium batteries in 1978, most recently the augural Governor General’s Innovation Award.
Novonix: Chris Burns is a recent graduate of Dalhousie and the CEO of Novonix a spin-off of Jeff Dahn’s lab. Novonix’s ultra-high precision charger system enables accurate and precise measurements of a Lithium-ion battery’s efficiency, which can be used to estimate their lifetime on the scale of decades. The company has sold equipment to key battery companies all over the world with customers in more than ten countries.
Find out more about going from science to startups here.
QRA: Jordan Kyriakidis is the CEO and president of Quantum Research Analytics and an associate professor in Dal’s Department of Physics and Atmospheric Science. His company is focused on solving one of the greatest hurdles for innovation: verification of complex systems. QRA’s main product is called QVTrace, an advanced platform that discovers design faults in complex, embedded systems. Within the past year, QRA has celebrated multi-million dollar partnerships with Lockheed Martin, Innovacorp, and Dalhousie University, and received 2.9-million-dollars of funding under the Atlantic Innovation Fund.
Professionals of Distinction:
Fred Whoriskey, Executive Director and co-lead of the Ocean Tracking Network (OTN) – a global research, technology and development platform headquartered at Dalhousie University.
Find out what OTN is diving in to next.
Peir K. Pufahl, Professor of Sedimentary Geology at Acadia University’s Department of Earth & Environmental Science.
Find out more about what Dr. Pufahl is digging in to next.
Brett Dickey, recent Ph.D. graduate from Dalhousie University’s Biomedical Engineering program, and the co-founder and Chief Technical Officer for Covina Biomedical Incorporated. Find out more about the competition that helped cement Covina’s success here.
Devin Horsman is currently the technical Director for Twisted Oak, with offices in Halifax and San Francisco, undergrad and graduate student at Dalhousie University. Find out more about how twisted Oak is going big while growing at home.
Dr. Lisa Lunney Borden, Professor of Education at Saint Francis Xavier University, with a specialty in First Nations Education and Math Education.
Learn more about Dr. Lunney Borden’s showme your math program here.
Academic institutions, diversity, new technology keys for economic success
Halifax is well positioned to leverage diversity and innovation for economic growth, says a senior official with Canada’s largest bank.
“The academic centres are terrific,” says John Stackhouse, senior vice-president, office of the CEO at RBC.
The former editor-in-chief of the Globe and Mail helps bank leadership and bank clients connect with opportunities from disruption.
“The world has no shortage of challenges,” he says.
For example, Stackhouse says the evolution of technology and shift in demographics is creating serious changes for society.
He says collaboration with academic institutions to commercialize new technology, encourage immigration and focus on accessing global markets are keys to economic success today.
“It positions Canada well for the next number of years,” Stackhouse says.
Diversity and academic institutions bring new ideas and resources that foster innovation, he adds.
Stackhouse started a series called #RBCDisruptors where he examines different angles to emerging trends in-depth, focusing particularly on innovation and technology.
“Mobile provides an enormous opportunity to tap into a global market no matter where you are,” he says.
The themes of his series are ones he’s recently explored with special guests from around the country.
“We are seeing some amazing opportunities come out of universities,” Stackhouse says.
He encourages Nova Scotia to exploit its universities, livable communities, co-op programs and access to global markets and innovative entrepreneurs.
“We continue to have this opportunity to attract the best and the brightest,” Stackhouse says.
A Statistics Canada report earlier this year showed Nova Scotia’s population at its highest point ever thanks to a growth spurt of 1,460 in the first three months of 2016. The province’s population rose 4,918 from April 1, 2015 to 947,284 of April 1, 2016.
The report says the population experienced its largest quarterly increase from Jan. 1 to April 1 since 1985.
“Diversity is important for innovation,” Stackhouse says.
The 2014 Ivany Report calls on Nova Scotia to improve immigration, add to the number of businesses, increase the number of businesses exporting and do a better job of commercializing university research.
“The Springboard network in Nova Scotia has worked hard to generate outcomes from the ongoing R&D activities at the institutions,” says Chris Mathis, president and CEO of Springboard Atlantic.
“Within the last two years there have been more than 2,000 industry-academic contracts, agreements and awards where our institutions are collaborating with industry, supporting new and improved products and services and helping with their competitiveness.”
Mathis points to many examples ranging from the sucess of Halifax-based QRA Corp. to the collaboration with Tesla.
“At Springboard, we have funds to support the commercialization process of ideas coming out of the institutions, to provide mentoring, support and knowhow thanks to the resources and the network in the region,” he says.
But Mathis admits there are some challenges.
“Our small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are very small and don’t have the capacity to develop new ideas, even if the expansion of markets with new and improved products will be good for the business,” he says.
For him, the goal is clear.
“Ultimately, progressing the literacy of the private sector, faculty and students on assessing and commercializing early stage ideas is really a key need we see going forward, one that starts with understanding better what value there is in intellectual property in all forms,” he says. “This kind of learning will lead to the goals set out by the Ivany Report being achieved and even exceeded. Through this change, the research and industry collaborations to lead to more SMEs exporting their products and services globally, with unique value propositions and competitive offerings.”
CRC announcements: Dal and UNB receive 3 new appointments and Acadia and Dal receive 2 renewals.
On December 2nd the Government of Canada announced over 200 new and renewed Canada Research Chairs, thereby acknowledging the role that scientists play in contributing the discoveries and innovations that lead to a strong economy, sustainable environment and vibrant middle class. The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science, announced more than $173 million in funding to support a total of 203 new and renewed Canada Research Chairs at 48 postsecondary institutions across the country. Springboard Atlantic congratulates the Government of Canada on their continued investment in research that will transform our economies, communities and the environment locally, nationally, and internationally.
Dalhousie University received two new Canada Research Chair appointments:
Carolyn Buchwald, Oceanography: Dr. Buchwald is the Canada Research Chair in Ocean Chemistry, and has come to Dalhousie from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Dr. Buchwald’s focus is on the impact of fixed nitrogen in open ocean ecosystems and coastal ecosystems. Her research uses a powerful new tool to interpret the processes that control nitrogen in the environment.
Morgan Langille, Pharmacology: Dr. Langille is the Canada Research Chair in Human Microbiome. Microbiomes assist with the digestion of the foods we eat, synthesize essential vitamins, help our bodies defend against unwanted pathogens and help keep our immune systems in check. Dr. Langille’s research aims to improve the understanding of the human microbiome and how it interacts with the human body.
University of New Brunswick received one new appointment:
Ali Ghorbani, Dean of Computer Science - Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Cybersecurity: Dr. Ghorbani’s research focuses on cybersecurity solutions and the development of techniques to detect and eliminate cyberthreats before they cause harm.
In addition to these three new appointments, Acadia University and Dalhousie University also saw the renewal of their existing research chairs.
Acadia University: Mark Mallory, Biology - Canada Research Chair in Coastal Wetland Ecosystems (Tier II): Dr. Mallory’s research focuses on coastal habitats and Arctic marine birds, and is addressing important national and international conservation issues. Dr. Mallory uses avian tracking technology, trace element and pollutant analyses, wetland sediment archives, and modern ecological approaches to determine how the health of coastal ecosystems varies naturally, and is affected by environmental changes.
Dalhousie University: Gerald White, English: Dr. White has been the Canada Research Chair in European Studies since 2011. Dr. White’s project engages with the cultural history of Europe’s “small nations” and minority groups. The focus is on cinema, but it is also engaged with the literature and history of these European communities. Dr. White’s research will result in the first book-length studies in English of all three subjects, in addition to article-length studies of related problems and a vigorous program of public presentations.
College of the North Atlantic renews historic international contract
College of the North Atlantic and the State of Qatar today announced the signing of a new three-year comprehensive agreement. The signing represents the continuation of the largest international post-secondary agreement ever awarded to a Canadian post-secondary institution.
The contract was finalized at a formal signing ceremony at the Qatar Embassy in Ottawa earlier today. Both the college and representatives from the State of Qatar expressed their pride in College of the North Atlantic-Qatar and its role as that country’s premier technical college. Both are looking forward to moving forward together while contributing to the National Vision of the Middle East state. CNA-Q has been an incredibly successful model of international partnership and the agreement formalizes the continuation of that collaboration until 2019.
“We are committed to continuing this important work with the State of Qatar at CNA-Q,” said Mr. Bob Gardiner, interim President and Chief Executive Officer of College of the North Atlantic. “This continued partnership through this new comprehensive agreement speaks volumes about the quality of post-secondary education we are delivering on behalf of the State, the value of the partnership, and the shared vision towards excellence.”
The partnership has been well received by CNA stakeholders and reaffirms the level of training Newfoundland and Labrador’s public college can offer in Canada or anywhere in the world.
“Through strong partnerships, CNA-Q will continue to deliver a quality education to the future leaders of the Qatari and global workforce. I am pleased to see CNA-Q further its reputation as the premier technical college in Qatar,” said the Honourable Gerry Byrne, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Labour, with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.
College of the North Atlantic-Qatar has experienced phenomenal growth since its inception in 2001; growing from an initial 300 students in 11 programs to 2,100 students in 33 programs today, making it the country’s second largest post-secondary institution and its premier technical institute.
The institutions boasts 650+ staff (471 Canadian hires and 180 local hires) and 4,000+ alumni. The campus combines a Canadian curriculum and industry expertise in four program areas: Health Sciences, Information Technology, Engineering Technology and Industrial Trades, and Business Studies, as well as Technical Preparatory Programming and Academic Preparatory Studies. The campus has 20 buildings which contain state-of-the-art labs, workshops and classrooms owned by the state of Qatar and operated by College of the North Atlantic.
Cleantech Start Up Aurea Wins Planting Seed$ Competition
Aurea, a new cleantech company founded by Cat Adalay, won the second annual 100 Entrepreneurs: Planting Seed$ competition in Halifax on Monday, capturing the first prize of $10,000.
The company is dedicated to producing modular, low-maintenance wind turbines that can be integrated into buildings. Aurea aims to implement clean energy solutions in an urban environment, while helping high-rise developments and their tenants avoid carbon taxes and reduce energy costs.
“This is Aurea,” said Adalay in wrapping up her eight-minute presentation. “Its mission is to not just change the world but to save it."
Founded by Stefanie MacDonald and Allyson England, Planting Seed$ allows established entrepreneurs and businesses to support entrepreneurs aged 24 and under. There were 100 tickets for the event, and each cost $100. All the prize money went to the winner, who will use the funding to help get her project off the ground.
The event is designed to introduce youth to the concept of pitching ideas and developing networks earlier, MacDonald said.
As well as researching the market and opportunity, Adalay has so far designed two wind turbines. Her Flare Turbines are small-scale, modular turbines containing direct-drive imbedded generators. The two systems -- one vertical-axis and the other horizontal-axis -- can be integrated into structures such as high-rise buildings, towers and residential homes.
Adalay, who works with the Launch Dal initiative at Dalhousie University, has spoken with a few high-rise developers. They responded positively to the idea because there is so much consumer and regulatory pressure to implement green solutions in new projects. She said she will use the prize money as the first step in leveraging financing from government programs. She hopes to take Aurea into an accelerator soon.
The two other finalists in the event were:
- Halifax-based Sloth Coffee, which sources high-quality green coffee beans and sells its coffee through retail outlets, online and in offices. Founder Tyler Sellars said he started the company with the memory of happy times spent with his mother, who supported him in his semi-pro soccer career by taking coffee to his early-morning practices.
- And Halifax-based Under the Bridge Digital Media, a group that hires millennials to create quality digital content. Co-Founder and CEO Alfred Burgesson said the network of 12 young people has already done work for clients such as the City of Halifax and Volta Labs startup house.
The audience gathered at Halifax Central Library also heard from Site 2020, a venture that made the top three in last year’s contest. Site 2020 aims to reduce accidents on construction sites by using technology to control traffic flow.
Founders Cole Campbell and Mitchell Hollohan said they had received a lot of support from the community in the last 12 months, and they have learned that young entrepreneurs must be prepared to hustle.
“Don’t take a day off,” they advised the other young entrepreneurs in the audience.
England stressed the importance of entrepreneurship to the growth of Nova Scotia.
She said that research cited in Ray Ivany’s Now or Never Report revealed that many Nova Scotia youth want to work in traditional professions or be public servants. Only 12 per cent want to be entrepreneurs. Planting Seed$ aims to help boost that percentage.
BDC Capital today unveiled a new $135 million venture capital fund to support Canadian energy, industrial and cleantech start-ups with global potential.
The BDC Capital Industrial, Clean and Energy Technology Venture Fund II will follow on the first fund of the same name, which has invested in 18 Canadian companies, including CarbonCure Technologies of Dartmouth.
These funds are not exactly cleantech funds because they are designed to back new industrial technologies that are improving the efficiency of large enterprises. However, Tony Van Bommel, senior managing partner of ICE Funds I and II, stressed in an interview that all these new technologies reduce the resources needed by industry, and therefore benefit the environment.
“We’ve tried to position it as an industrial, clean and energy technology fund because we think cleantech is slightly limiting in describing what we’re doing,” said Van Bommel. “But every investment we make is aimed at [creating] a better way of doing something. Resource efficiency is one of the over-riding principles”
The first ICE fund was launched in 2011 with $152 million, and has had some exits. Earlier this month, its Vancouver-based portfolio company Bit Stew, which developed an advanced data integration platform for utilities, was purchased by GE for US$153 million.
BDC Capital’s first ICE fund also invested in such companies as quantum computing pioneer D-Wave Systems, data center power management provider Ranovus, and power conversion innovator GaN Systems.
Van Bommel, a Dalhousie University grad, said the new funding means his team will now have a total of $287 million under management. He added that he plans to expand the team to enhance its expertise to keep pace with new technologies that are coming into the marketplace.
The second fund will invest in 15 to 20 new high-impact Canadian startups that demonstrate efficiency and strong scalability, said BDC Capital in a statement.
“Our goal is to intensify our support for innovative Canadian entrepreneurs who are leading the way in the transition to a low-carbon economy,” says Jérôme Nycz, Executive Vice President of BDC Capital. “Our first ICE fund demonstrated strong performance against international peers in a market that is a key target industry for the government of Canada.”
Fund II will invest in late seed and Series A companies, with some Series B companies also considered. The fund envisages an initial five-year investment period followed by a five-year harvest period during which exits are anticipated.
Added Van Bommel: “We seek to bring Canadian technologies to the world and accelerate resource efficiency, while targeting significant investment returns. Our existing fund has invested in all regions of the country and includes some of Canada’s most successful venture-backed companies.”
As revenue growth accelerates at Atlantic Canada’s startups, something is permeating the community that hasn’t been there before – a sales culture.
More and more frequently, the discussion in the startup community is concentrating on the need to teach young companies and young people how to sell things. There are new programs focusing on sales. There’s mounting pressure on colleges and universities to devise new curriculum. There is an ever louder debate on how sales should be taught and how to change the image of sales as a profession.
“Sales is definitely a pain-point in our sector,” Emily Boucher, Director of Marketing and Research at Digital Nova Scotia, said in a recent interview.
“We’re trying to help fill the gaps we can for the startups and SMEs (small to medium-sized businesses) among our members.”
Digital Nova Scotia recently began piloting a sales development program in Halifax for SMEs. The program aims to help participants focus on issues such as generating cash flow, attracting investment, developing strategic partners, accelerating sales, and building professional networks.
Boucher said the pilot program, titled Navigating New Channels: ICT Sales Strategy Bootcamp, teaches participants to consider five key questions associated with channel development. These are: Who are the influencers that can have the greatest impact on your business? Where will you find them? How will you leverage them to gain the biggest reach with the least effort? What trends are you uncovering that impact your plan? What can be improved this week?
“Our program is about executing,” Boucher said. “The focus is on the participants themselves using their own companies as case studies.”
Sales curricula are also entering business programs like the Masters of Technology, Entrepreneurship and Innovation at St. Mary’s University. In July, the University of New Brunswick at Saint John added its first sales course in its MBA program. A pilot project, the program includes a special course called Sales. If students rate it highly, it will probably be offered again. The nine-week course draws heavily on mentorship from the private sector, inviting people with sales experience to discuss the components of sales like negotiation, problem-solving, communications and emotional intelligence. It also delves into sales ethics.
“The point is not to train people to become sales people,” said Chris Weir, the EY executive who leads the course. “When people leave this course, they will be armed with knowledge and information, not sales skills. What I hope to do is give the students an appreciation for sales, the importance of it, the professional nature of it.”
Courses like this are needed to prepare students for the modern work force and help them understand the rewards of a career in sales.
“Many youth are unaware of sales, and some are intimidated by it. Negative stereotypes, such as the used car salesman, persist,” Chantal Brine, Vice President, Youth Employment at the Halifax-based personnel search firm Venor, said in a recent interview.
Sales is a high rejection business admits Brine’s colleague, Tracey Kieley, Senior Consultant in Sales and Marketing at Venor.
“It’s a mental game, every day there’s head trash. The phone can feel like it weighs 20 pounds and you have to pick it up and make the call. To be a good sales person, you need drive, passion and understanding of what sales is.”
What sales is, is solving someone’s problem.
“When sales people find the right culture and product they flourish,” Kieley said. “Belief in oneself and the product or service you are selling is key.”
Brine said the millennial generation (those born roughly between 1980 and 2000) can find sales particularly frustrating because they grew up with the instant access afforded by technology.
“Sales and business development can be hard,” said Brine, who is a millennial herself. “You’re going to get rejection…that and instant access and gratification don’t necessarily align.”
Enthusiasm and optimism.
In the past two months, those are the two words Dr. Aimée Surprenant has heard the most when it comes to the single largest federal investment for research at Memorial.
In early September, Ottawa announced nearly $100 million for the creation of the Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI), an historic partnerships between Memorial, Dalhousie University and University of Prince Edward Island. The federal investment was made through the Canada First Research Excellence Fund.
Now more than ever, it’s an exciting time to pursue graduate studies in oceans-related research, says the dean of the School of Graduate Studies.
“Given the breadth and the scope of the OFI, students will be contributing to innovation and discovery at all levels from data collection and analysis to intellectual contributions, including theories and models,” Dr. Surprenant told the Gazette.
“Involving graduate students in the research helps prepare the next generation of scientists and innovators who will be leading the world in the future.”
‘Engines of discovery’
The OFI will concentrate efforts on solutions for safe and sustainable ocean development. Memorial researchers — from multidisciplinary areas including the Faculty of Science, the Marine Institute, the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science and the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences — will lead breakthroughs in four key areas: sustainable fisheries; sustainable aquaculture; marine safety; and ocean data and technology.
“Potential students from around the world will be attracted to our programs.” — Dr. Aimée Surprenant
Graduate students will play active key roles in all of this work, says Dr. Surprenant.
Through the OFI, Memorial will recruit and support an anticipated additional 44 post-doctoral fellows, 40 doctoral students and 63 master’s students.
“Graduate students are the engines of discovery and the OFI will allow researchers in a variety of areas to recruit some of the top students and post-doctoral fellows in the world,” Dr. Surprenant said.
“These students will be engaging in and contributing to world-leading research that could lead to game-changing innovations in ocean changes and solutions.”
In addition, she says graduate students will be on the receiving end of the OFI’s collaboration among the three Canadian universities, as well as international research institutions. There is potential for bilateral graduate exchanges with partner institutions and industry, and the creation of a global hub for ocean discovery.
“The funding that this grant provides to students and post-doctoral fellows allows the university to leverage more funding from government and industry sources,” Dr. Surprenant added. “This frees up other resources so we can recruit and support more students than ever before.”
Additionally, Dr. Surprenant says the OFI will have social and economic impacts for graduate students. Not only will students will be involved with leading-edge research focused on the fisheries, climate change and the ocean, but there will also be opportunities to expand Canada’s ocean economy as well as explore and invigorate fishing communities by creating sustainable fisheries.
“This focus will allow us to train future leaders who are aware of and able to incorporate public policy and social governance issues in their research,” she said.
“This grant will increase the visibility and reputation of the university. Thus, potential students from around the world will be attracted to our programs.”
The Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI) is an historic partnership between Memorial University of Newfoundland, Dalhousie University and the University of Prince Edward Island. Created through a nearly $100-million federal investment, the OFI will focus on solutions for safe and sustainable ocean development. Through its unique partnership with its research partners, Memorial will lead breakthroughs in four key areas: sustainable fisheries; sustainable aquaculture; marine safety; and ocean data and technology. Learn more about the OFI here.
Nova Scotia’s life sciences sector is one of the big winners of the announcement last week that Innovacorp has received fresh capital for its venture capital fund.
The province announced it will provide $40 million over the next eight years to the Nova Scotia First Fund, the main investment vehicle for the provincial innovation agency.
Innovacorp is one of the few investors in the province for such ventures as biotechnology, medical devices and other biology-related enterprises.
Innovacorp life sciences investment manager Dr. Lidija Marusic has been overseeing investments for almost a decade.
“Over 50 per cent of our early-stage awards that we’ve provided to commercialize university research in recent years have gone to life sciences technologies,” she said. “University researchers are able to leverage those funds to gain other funding.”
The sector is growing in importance. Recent research by Entrevestor has revealed that last year, 13 life sciences companies were formed in Atlantic Canada, compared with six in 2014.
This makes life sciences the second largest innovation sector in the region, after IT.
Developing new medical treatments and drugs is expensive and time-consuming, but life sciences companies in the region are being aided by the increasing ease of virtual working.
“People can be based elsewhere and work with you,” Marusic said.
“A lot of work after the initial discovery stage uses specialized companies that do pre-clinical and clinical studies to regulatory agencies’ specifications. That work can be outsourced . . . Twenty years ago, companies used to do almost everything in-house . . . Contracting out diminishes risk.”
Marusic feels the sector needs more experienced people to focus on commercializing technology. Finding them isn’t easy.
“The region is small. We don’t have a big number of mature biotech companies…It’s a challenge attracting people to come here and take on a business in a high-risk sector. In a larger community, people know that if a business fails they can find something else.
“But regional companies are finding people who have left, gained experience, and want to return.”
Born and raised in Croatia, Marusic holds a doctor of medicine degree from the University of Zagreb, a PhD in molecular genetics from the International School for Advanced Studies in Italy and an MBA from McMaster University in Ontario.
During her post-doctoral studies, she worked on the molecular biology of cancer in collaboration with California company Geron Corporation. The goal was to commercialize research based on the role of the enzyme telomerase, which lengthens cell life and helps cancer cells replicate.
It was the first time Marusic was exposed to the commercialization of research and she found it fascinating.
In the year 2000, she got a job with Toronto-based MDS Capital Corp. (now Lumira Capital) and its seed fund MedInnova Partners, and began working with Atlantic Canadian university researchers to commercialize their biomedical technologies.
“I would go to universities, especially Dalhousie and Memorial because they have medical schools and do a lot of medical research. For the university researchers, their companies often started as one bench in their laboratory. I felt my training and education as a scientist were essential for my role.”
In 2006 Marusic joined Innovacorp. She still finds the work exciting and challenging, especially research that relates to the brain.
“Neurological diseases are a particular challenge,” she said. “The brain is the most complex organ in our bodies and the hardest to unlock.”
Marusic said the region’s university research has strengthened in the last decade.
“Universities have improved infrastructure and employed new faculty oriented to the commercialization of research.
“Life sciences in the province is a maturing sector but we need to build more links outside the region to help with company funding and growth.”
She stresses the importance of research.
“We may not see the application of research right away, but pure research is important. If you don’t have a broad base of basic research and discovery you won’t have discoveries that are cutting edge and life-changing.”
The Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation presents prizes annually to Canadian innovators of all ages and disciplines. Award winners are chosen by a Canada-wide, independent selection committee of established leaders and authorities from various disciplines. It also organizes an annual Innovation Summit, which this year made its way to Dal.
In front of a packed audience at the Life Sciences Research Building, the following recipients were announced:
Dr. Michel G. Bergeron (Quebec City) – $100,000 Principle Award for his Rapid <1hr Molecular Diagnostics for Better Care, which identifies micro-organisms using their DNA, allowing physicians to prescribe antibiotics with precision in less than an hour.
Gilray Densham (Toronto) – $25,000 David E. Mitchell Award of Distinction for BlackTrax by Cast Systems, an intelligent lighting solution that tracks in real-time with six degrees of freedom, including 3D and rotation, sending information to controllers on robotic equipment.
Frank Bouchard (Ottawa) – $10,000 Innovation Award for Wipebook, a reusable, recyclable dry erase paper notebook that allows users to create, solve, erase and start again.
Robert Niven (Dartmouth) – $10,000 Innovation Award for CarbonCure, a breakthrough technology that allows concrete producers to reuse CO2 during the manufacturing of concrete.
“The foundation is helping build a culture of innovation in Canada by recognizing Canadian innovators and rewarding them for the value they add to our provincial and national economies by creating jobs and wealth,” says Jennifer Diakiw, foundation president. “These innovators are positioning our country as a global innovation competitor and we consider them Canada’s most valuable resource.”
The announcement of the award winners was part of a larger Celebration of Innovation Symposium. The symposium provided an opportunity to meet the award winners and hear their stories about the pathways taken to become nationally recognized innovators.
“Our foundation is committed to creating a culture of innovation,” says Jennifer Diakiw. “And to do that — we know we have to share the stories of innovators.”
Five Dal students were selected to be ambassadors for the event, which included having a large role in the planning process.
“I truly enjoyed working with such an amazing group of Dalhousie Student Ambassadors to plan and execute the 2016 Innovation Symposium,” says Margaret Palmeter, the organizer of the symposium, and a manager with Dalhousie’s Industry Liaison and Innovation office. “Their input was invaluable, and organizing the event together was so fun! The enthusiasm that students bring to an event like this is so important.”
Dr. Bergeron, Gilray Densham, Frank Bouchard, along with Dal’s own Dr. Christine Chambers and Daniel Boyd, delivered eight-minute TED-style talks to share their stories and discuss the projects they are working on.
Fifty students then were invited to attend an exclusive “speed innovating” event, where they were able to spend time with each of the innovators and ask them questions. The overall goal of the event was to inspire students to consider innovation as a life and career choice.
“Student involvement in the event meant that we put on an event that had the most impact for the Dal student community,” says Margaret. “I was so thrilled when student participants in the event were asking about how to get on the invite list for next year.”
The recipients of the four Manning Innovation Awards were celebrated at an awards dinner on October 20. More than 400 leaders from across Canada in government, business and academia, including members of the Dalhousie community, were in attendance for a truly inspiring evening.
In addition to the adult winners, four incredibly impressive student innovators were also recognized:
Devanshi Shukla – 18 (Guelph, ON) for developing a biosensor for the detection of microbial contamination.
Aoife Pucchio – 17 (London, ON) for developing a prototype process for municipalities to efficiently transport waste Styrofoam to a centralized facility for recycling into a highly reusable plastic.
Amit Scheer – 17 (Ottawa, ON) for his nanobiotechnology research that developed a novel scaffold vaccination platform, drastically improving the efficiency of how our immune system is recruited, activated, and targeted.
Luca Penny – 17 (Grimsby, ON) for his low cost system for detecting breast cancer in its early stages.
Researchers at the Faculty of Agriculture continue to work with growers to produce high quality potatoes that are not only environmentally friendly but adaptive to different climates.
Gefu Wang-Pruski, a professor of molecular biology in the Department of Plant, Food and Environmental Sciences at the Faculty of Agriculture, has been doing field to fork research on potatoes for nearly 20 years.
“I try to help growers and consumers by producing potatoes that are environmentally friendly and that also provide a healthy food choice,” explains Dr. Wang-Pruski.
Her research program looks at producing food smartly, — not just for high quality consumption but with a positive environmental impact on the soil, air and water needed to grow our food. The end result is that high quality nutritious potatoes can be grown with a minimum input of fertilizer, pesticides and fungicides.
“There is a great need in the Maritime region for supporting this industry to lead to better economic growth, farm gate value and improved industrial performances,” says Dr. Wang-Pruski.
French fries and beyond
Dr. Wang-Pruski is examining a number of different aspects in her potato research program. She's investigating and improving the quality of potatoes used for French fries by reducing the darker color that can often appear after cooking. She's identifying the genetic markers of potatoes so they can be better adapted to growth in different climates around the world and is also working to improve potato production by managing the diseases and pests that can affect potatoes, such as late blight, Verticillium wilt, scab and wireworm.
One of the major strategies being studied is to reduce the use of fungicides and pesticides that potato growers spray on their potatoes while they are growing.
“The strong support from the potato industry and positive feedback from growers makes my work more exciting and rewarding, which in turn influences everyone in my lab to become more committed to do excellent work,” says Dr. Wang-Pruski.
She is also leading a consumer research initiative that examines potato consumption patterns and consumer needs while developing marketing strategies for the industry.
Packed full of vitamins, minerals and nutrients, environmentally friendly and adaptive to different climates — the humble potato may not be so humble after all.
Biotech firm Sona Nanotech Ltd. is moving to Halifax and expanding
A Nova Scotia biotech startup with big plans for its super-small, non-toxic gold particles is looking to move its lab facilities to Halifax and expand.
Andrew McLeod, Sona Nanotech Ltd.’s president and chief operating officer, said Tuesday the company is already looking for lab space in Halifax and wants to hire three additional employees to handle production, research and business development.
“The move is being driven by the need for extra equipment for product development,” said McLeod.
“We have some equipment but we will also be acquiring new equipment, and near the Innovacorp Enterprise Centre we will have access to equipment on a pay-per-use basis.”
Sona Nanotech has two products, its Gemini and Omni gold particles, intended to be used in the health-care industry for such things as the treatment of cancer and diagnostic testing.
These particles are measured in nanometres.
“You’re talking about something that’s on the order of millionths of the width of a human hair,” said McLeod.
While other players make gold particles, Sona Nanotech has developed a way to make its products so that they are free of a toxic chemical ,and that’s opening doors for the Nova Scotia startup whose products can be used inside the human body.
There’s already talk of Sona Nanotech teaming up with an as-yet-unnamed Canadian organization for a cancer research project, but McLeod was tight-lipped about the details.
Backed by the Halifax-based venture capital firm of Numas Financial Inc., Sona developed its first nano-sized gold particles as a result of a three-year deal with Cape Breton University’s Verschuren Centre for a smart metallic nanomaterial research program.
The company also has funding from the National Research Council’s industrial research program.
A privately-held company, Sona Nanotech does not divulge either its revenues or the amount invested in it so far.
But it’s clear Sona Nanotech will soon be looking for more financing.
“We are in the early stages of discussions with commercial and research organizations and as we deal with the details of what our production, development and contribution will look like in the next 60-90 days, we will have a better idea of the amount of financing required,” said McLeod.
Incubated at Cape Breton University, Sona Nanotech has since moved into a temporary lab at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish.
Last year, the biotech firm inked a deal with Newburyport, Massachusetts-based distributor Strem Chemicals to commercialize this nanotechnology throughout the world.
That distribution agreement is still in place but Sona Nanotech has since shifted its focus and is now concentrating its efforts on working with research partners.
There’s an explosion of research for the development for new diagnostic products that introduce a chemical in liquid form to a treated surface — think pregnancy tests — and Sona Nanoteach is hoping to cash in on this bonanza.
The company’s particular type of gold nanoparticles would allow such tests to indicate more than one result, allowing a user to test for two different conditions — such as pregnancy and a human papilloma virus infection — at the same time.
“There are a lot of companies out there doing testing with the goal of creating new lateral flow tests,” said McLeod.
In the coming years, he is confident the health-care industry will develop such tests for early cancer detection and to diagnose cases of infectious diseases.
Kings-Hants MP Scott Brison and Halifax MP Andy Fillmore announced Friday in Halifax the federal government’s contribution toward a $64-million transformation of the facility. The additional $32 million for the project comes from “support of industry, private donors, and the students of Dalhousie.”
The IDEA (Innovation and Design in Engineering and Architecture) Project will reinvent Dalhousie’s downtown campus and see the construction of two new academic structures near the existing Sexton campus.
According to informational material from Dalhousie, the Design Building will include a 450-seat auditorium, a design commons featuring numerous bookable meeting rooms and studio space for the Faculty of Architecture & Planning
The Innovation Building will house workshops and prototyping labs for the Faculty of Engineering, and innovation studios focusing on hardware-based entrepreneurship.
The funding will also see the addition of two hands-on student hubs in existing buildings. The “Advanced Manufacturing Hub” will allow students to explore the complete spectrum of industrial processing from raw material production through to the fabrication and analysis of engineered components while the “Ocean Engineering Hub” includes infrastructure that will allow applied research, commercialization and innovation in underwater sensors, robotics and autonomous underwater vehicles.
The IDEA project will also include the addition of sustainability features to effectively use water and energy, support for diversity in engineering and architecture programs and a dedicated space for start-up projects.
The focus of the project, according to Dalhousie, is “to provide modern space for students to learn the art of design through hands-on experience, and increase interaction and collaboration between students in the Faculties of Engineering, and Architecture & Planning.”
“This will dramatically enhance Nova Scotia’s research and development capacity, providing greater opportunity for students, researchers, and industry to collaborate, innovate and commercialize technologies,” Brison said on Friday.
“Investments like these in Nova Scotia will position Canada as a global leader in research excellence and innovation.”
Construction on the project is set to begin next spring with an opening date set tentatively for 2018.
It will be the first newly-constructed academic buildings on Dalhousie’s Sexton Campus since the university merged with the Technical University of Nova Scotia in 1997.
Federal funding for the project is through the Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund that was launched in the 2016 budget with the aim of supporting and accelerating strategic construction, repair and maintenance activities at universities and colleges across Canada.
Recent investments in Nova Scotia include the upgrading of the chemistry and science building at Acadia University, a new Research Centre in Applied Human Nutrition and Chemistry at Mount Saint Vincent University, a Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship in Dartmouth in partnership with the Nova Scotia Community College and upgrades to the NSCC campus in Pictou.
Halifax-based QRA Corp. has been named to the first cohort of the Lazaridis Institute Canadian Scale-Up Program, which will help promising Canadian startups to go through their growth stage.
Named for BlackBerry Co-Founder Mike Lazaridis, the institute at Wilfrid Laurier University set up the program to help 10 companies from across the country to extend their sales to the global market. QRA is the only company from outside Ontario or Quebec selected for the program.
Growing out of a research project at Dalhousie University, QRA has developed technology that helps large manufacturers identify flaws in complicated machinery early in the design stage. The idea is to work out the kinks before the manufacturer spends millions of dollars prototyping a machine that has ill-matched components.
“The QRA team is at a critical point for growth; we need to scale now in order to operationally handle the many incoming clients, countries, and industries,” said QRA Co-Founder and CEO Jordan Kyriakidis in a statement. “We’re really very happy, honoured, and excited to have been chosen to pilot the Lazaridis Institute Canadian Scale-Up Program.”
The highly anticipated program will bring high-potential firms together with an elite group of experts, all of whom have experience in scaling globally competitive enterprises.
A panel of experts consisting of venture capitalists and leading Canadian and American technology executives considered more than 100 applications and video submissions to assess each firm’s potential for growth. A short list of applicants was invited to take part in video interviews with the selection panel, from which the top 10 companies were chosen.
The 10 selected firms are each at a key turning point in their growth trajectory. They hail from Montreal, Halifax, Waterloo, Toronto, Chatham and Ottawa. They have innovative, made-in-Canada technologies that solve critical problems, from managing hospital operations and optimizing complex system development, to creating better customer experiences, cybersecurity, and sourcing heavy construction equipment on an on-demand basis – to name just a few.
A recent survey from the Business Development Bank of Canada found that only one in 1,000 Canadian small businesses grew beyond the 100-employee mark in 2013, a 40-per cent drop from 2001. Last year, only four Canadian technology companies went to IPO. These numbers do not bode well for the long-term development of the tech ecosystem in Canada. The Lazaridis Institute Canadian Scale-Up Program is part of a broader effort to create conditions in Canada that will enable tech startups to thrive and grow without being bought, winding down prematurely or moving elsewhere.
As President and CEO of Springboard Atlantic, his regional commercialization network helps to create partnerships between institutions and industry — whether it’s research that needs to be commercialized or a company that needs a problem solved by the know-how of an educational institution.
“We have great local companies like Spring Loaded Technology — which is advancing leg braces that generate more power to your legs — who are benefiting people all over the world,” says Mathis. “Dalhousie University also just licensed a cancer research algorithm that should have a positive impact on many lives.”
Mathis says many companies have relied on the connections made through Springboard Atlantic to create new products and improve their manufacturing processes.
He believes fostering innovation requires a creative society and a supportive culture with capacity to support innovators even if they fail.
“Our education institutions have much to offer and are doing great things to support this fostering, but wealthy people need to invest, professionals need to support and mentor, and businesses need the courage to continuously improve and reach for growth opportunities,” says Mathis. “If you offer products without improvements, you aren’t innovating.”
Local institutions can offer know-how to existing technologies looking for applications and facilities for prototyping and testing. There’s not a significant financial risk — either — thanks to various programs that can offset the investment.
“It really all comes down to matching up needs and creating relationships,” says Mathis. “It truly is a network. If something comes to Acadia University and they can’t help, they’ll send it out to the rest of the network because another institution may have the experience.”
As for how we increase private sector investment in R&D, Mathis says it’s up to the companies to decide, but there are ways to
encourage the investment activity.
“Plant managers need the time to look at improvements and seek external support in order that we could find ways to help increase production or reduce their energy or wastes,” says Mathis. “These are all ways to impact the bottom line — increasing competitiveness through process and product innovation, adoption and adaptation.”
Mathis says leadership from Halifax is also spreading throughout the region and “that just makes everything even better.” He points to the Canada First Research Excellence Fund awarding more than $200M in funding that draws in UPEI and Memorial with Dalhousie — creating an ocean tech focus in the form of the Ocean Frontier Institute. There’s also the Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship (COVE) being developed on the Dartmouth waterfront.
Ian Munro, chief economist with Halifax Partnership, says Halifax is seeing positive growth that’s resulting in more innovative projects and success stories, particularly as more young professionals stick around after graduating.
“We have lots of skilled, eager young people and we’re running programs to make employers aware of the rich resources we have and the importance of keeping them here,” says Munro.
While provincial and federal taxes are out of our control, Munro says we can still make the case that Halifax is a great place for people to live, work and invest.
“People don’t tend to go and have a 30-year career with one company anymore,” says Munro. “The more business we can keep here and grow, the more we’re providing a network of potential collaborators and mentors.”
Part of keeping businesses here — and happy — means figuring out what they need in order to thrive. The Partnership’s SmartBusiness program reaches out to local business owners to explore the challenges they’re facing and what can be done.
“They discuss how things are going, how they see their future, what kinds of problems they’re facing,” says Munro. “We can connect them to different resources that can help them grow.”
Mathis says we can increase collaboration between our post-secondary institutions and the private sector by getting the two groups together to engage face-to-face. “I can’t tell you how often I hear ‘I didn’t know we had that kind of research going on here’ from a company, or ‘I didn’t know such amazing products were being made here’ by a faculty person,” says Mathis. “We have world-class research here and world-class companies. It’s all about communicating, connecting and collaborating.”
The company, which has been working with large partners in and outside Atlantic Canada, issued a statement Thursday saying the Quality Workbench is designed to help manufacturers “achieve true defect avoidance.”
Eigen’s Intellexon platform helps manufacturers improve production efficiency and reduce waste. The system uses algorithms developed under the guidance of researcher and co-founder Rickey Dubay at the University of New Brunswick. Everett worked with Dubay and has been the technical expert developing the product for the past few years.
Intellexon selects data from sensors and other sources in a customer’s plant and sends the relevant data to the cloud, where it is analyzed. Finally, it sends information back to the plant, where action is taken. All of this happens in real time, so the actions are precise. With offices in Fredericton and Toronto, From an early stage, Eigen was working with such partners as Oregon’s FLIR Systems Inc., the world’s largest thermal camera and sensor maker, to develop Intellexon to suit these customers’ needs.
“As manufacturing becomes more complex, many companies are struggling to enable a workforce that uses factory floor data to drive efficiency and productivity on a daily basis, which is a constant threat to their ability to remain competitive,” says Scott Everett, the company’s CEO. “The Quality Workbench fills a gap between this data and the machines, by working with operators to discover new insights for efficiency on a continuous basis.”
NB's Global Companies are Working With Startups
The Quality Workbench works on the Intellexon platform. It revolutionizes the way manufacturers improve quality by capturing and analyzing data with artificial intelligence to discover breakthroughs in operating efficiency.
Eigen saw the need for the new software while working with its their customers and other manufacturers. The company is increasingly focused on providing solutions for automotive manufacturing and food processing, embedding its technology within Tier 1 and Tier 2 manufacturers, and suppliers of industrial equipment throughout North America.
A graduate of the PropelICT tech accelerator, Eigen is making a habit of working with large partners. It made the announcement in Austin, Texas, where the company is featured at Dell EMC World 2016, the computer maker’s flagship event. In April, Dell announced their Internet of Things Solutions Partner Program, including Eigen in the initial group of members.
“Dell believes [independent software vendors] are critical in building the bridge between the exciting industry potential of IoT and profitable market reality,” said Jason Shepherd, director, IoT Strategy and Partnerships at Dell. “We value our partnership with Eigen Innovations and look forward to our continued collaboration.”
Last week at the Big Data Congress, Nestor Gomez, Manager Global Information Services at McCain Foods, included Eigen in a slide showing the companies that the food giant is now working with. And late last year, Eigen won a US$25,000 cash prize by placing third at the second annual Cisco Innovation Grand Challenge in Dubai. Because of the bronze showing, Eigen was given a long-term relationship with Cisco, the global maker of networking equipment and a huge proponent of the Internet of Things.
Eigen, which raised $1.4 million this year, is also the only Atlantic Canadian startup listed among the graduates of the University of Toronto’s Creative Destruction Lab, one of the most demanding accelerators in the country.
Springboard to Sign MOU with NSERC to Further Research and Innovation Capacity In Atlantic Canada
“This partnership with NSERC is instrumental in providing ongoing support to institutions and the private sector for research and commercialization efforts across the region,” says Springboard CEO Chris Mathis. “NSERC has been a big supporter of research efforts across Atlantic Canada and this formalized agreement will allow us to continue to work together to develop and fund collaborative projects and events.”
The MOU outlines that projects could include Research and Development opportunities, talent support, training and student employment programs as well as other related programs that encourage partnerships between academic institutions and industry provided there is an economic benefit to the region.
"Together, NSERC and Springboard Atlantic will be able to expand our networks, deepen connections between academia and industry and boost collaborative research,” says Bettina Hamelin, Vice-President of Research Partnerships, NSERC. “By coordinating our efforts, we will build on synergies for a stronger, more vibrant research and innovation ecosystem in Atlantic Canada and help strengthen Canada’s global leadership position.”
The four-year partnership will begin October 1st.
Springboard Atlantic (www.springboardatlantic.ca) was created with funding through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency Atlantic Innovation Fund. Springboard is a network of 19 Atlantic universities and colleges committed to commercializing research and transferring knowledge and technology to the region’s private sector. Springboard’s network members work to connect publicly-funded research with industry through a range of programs and services. Springboard also connects experts in academia and industry to create new collaborations.
NSERC invests over $1 billion each year in natural sciences and engineering research in Canada. Our investments deliver discoveries – valuable world-firsts in knowledge claimed by a brain trust of over 11,000 professors. Our investments enable partnerships and collaborations that connect industry with discoveries and the people behind them. Researcher-industry partnerships established by NSERC help inform R&D, solve scale-up challenges, and reduce the risks of developing high-potential technology.
NSERC also provides scholarships and hands-on training experience for more than 30,000 post-secondary students and post-doctoral fellows. These young researchers will be the next generation of science and engineering leaders in Canada.
NS Releases RFP For VC Fund
The Nova Scotia government has released its long-awaited request for proposals for the manager of a venture capital fund to invest in early stage tech companies in the region.
Innovacorp, the government-owned innovation agency, released the RFP on Friday as part of its mission to oversee the creation of the new fund. Private sector fund managers must get their submissions into Innovacorp by Dec. 14.
The government of Stephen McNeil first mooted the possibility of a new fund about two years ago. Then the government earmarked $25 million for a new VC fund in the 2016-17 budget. It said in the spring it would spend about a year finding a private-sector partner and establishing the new fund.
The RFP said the winning applicant will have to come up with at least $3 million in private contributions to the fund, bringing the minimum size of the fund to $28 million. However, given the competitive nature of the bidding, it would be logical to assume the fund will be end up being a good deal larger than that.
The wording of the RFP said that the fund will target “pre‐seed/seed technology companies based in Atlantic Canada”.
That would suggest that the new fund will only be looking at IT companies (with no cleantech, biotech or other such sectors). And it looks like it will be mainly targeting $100,000 to $500,000 investments, though the applicants are invited to spell out their plans for follow-on funding.
The winning applicant will be able to invest in companies throughout Atlantic Canada, though the RFP stipulates that at least half of the investment funds must be devoted to Nova Scotian companies.
The government said the applicants will be assessed by a panel consisting of:
- Charles Baxter, vice-president of investment with Innovacorp;
- Dominique Belanger, managing director of funds investment with Business Development Bank of Canada;
- Gilles Duruflé, independent consultant;
- Bernie Miller, senior executive advisor for the province of Nova Scotia;
- And Senia Rapisarda, principal with HarbourVest Canada of Toronto, who is replacing Rob Barbara, general partner with Build Ventures.
RBC Invests $1 Million in University of New Brunswick’s TME Program
The funds will be distributed in the form of the RBC Innovative Action Fund and will support various elements of the TME program, including its pitch competitions, Lunch and Learn lecture series, mentor in residence program, a leadership conference, meeting space, and a number of funds aiding student startups.
“We are incredibly proud of this provincial university,” said RBC regional president, Atlantic provinces Roger Howard. “UNB is truly Canada’s most entrepreneurial and innovative university … We are so proud to be able to help bring students high quality experiential learning and opportunities through the RBC Innovative Action Fund and we are making this possible through our investment of $1 million.”
Dhirendra Shukla, chair of the Dr. J. Herbert Smith Centre for Technology Management and Entrepreneurship, emphasized the strong nature of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in New Brunswick and said that now is the time for the province to lead.
“I don’t question why New Brunswick,” he said. “I’m very excited as we form and develop new partnerships and new relationships … This relationship with RBC is going to be significant, very important and this partnership is very exciting for everyone within the university, within our community.”
“The funding that RBC has provided, the Action Fund, is so meaningful, so important, so timely.”
New Genomics Project Aims to Reduce Co-Infection in Atlantic Salmon
The C$4.5 million Integrated pathogen management of co-infection in Atlantic salmon project was announced by Parliamentary Secretary for Science, Mr Terry Beech. It is one of six national research collaborations awarded through Genome Canada’s Genomic Applications Partnership Programme (GAPP).
The project’s scientific team consists of co-leads Dr Matthew Rise, Professor in the Department of Ocean Sciences, Faculty of Science at Memorial, and Dr Richard Taylor, Senior Research Scientist at Cargill Innovation Center; along with Dr Mark Fast, Associate Professor in Fish Health at the Atlantic Veterinary College, UPEI.
“When there is an outbreak, it isn’t uncommon for fish to be infected simultaneously with multiple pathogens such as sea lice, bacteria and viruses. This can result in severe economic losses for aquaculture farmers,” says Dr Taylor.
“Our functional genomics research will identify molecular mechanisms involved in salmon responses to co-infections. This will lead to the development of better feeds for improved treatments to combat co-infections,” explains Dr Rise.
Relatively little research has been conducted on co-infections in salmon because it requires specialized know-how and a complex infrastructure of test facilities. Dr. Taylor notes that co-infection feeds are novel to the salmon industry and a high priority for EWOS/Cargill.
“The expertise of the research team, along with the collaboration of EWOS/Cargill, Memorial and UPEI are enabling this research to move forward.”
The project could have a significant impact on aquaculture in Atlantic Canada and across the country, says Dr Fast. “This research holds the promise of developing an integrated pathogen management system that could reduce fish losses by as much as 20 per cent overall, and up to 50 per cent for some diseases.”
It is estimated that the use of therapeutic feeds could save the Canadian aquaculture industry up to $57 million annually, while decreasing the use of chemical treatments and minimizing the risk of transmitting pathogens to wild salmon.
Project funding for Integrated pathogen management of co-infection in Atlantic salmon is provided by the Government of Canada via Genome Canada at $1.5 million; EWOS/Cargill at $2.2 million; the Research & Development Corporation of Newfoundland & Labrador (RDC) at $500,000; Mitacs at $90,000; UPEI at $101,000; and Memorial at $51,000.
The summit is the annual conference of the organization responsible for economic development on the island. The morning discussions highlighted Balsillie’s purchase and restoration of the Keltic Lodge (where the summit was held) and the international attention the island received as a potential refuge if Trump becomes president. And Hutcheson, the former Canada AM broadcaster, delivered a keynote highlighting his love of Cape Breton.
But in the afternoon, the startups took the stage and demonstrated the vibrancy and potential of high-growth technology companies on Cape Breton. I briefly outlined the metrics of the startup community, but the stars with the startup founders and the groups that are developing the ecosystem on the island.
“Investments in the startup ecosystem are investments in the future of our community,” said Ardelle Reynolds, the co-founder of the Navigate Startup House. “It’s about looking not just to the companies in front of us but the companies that will be formed later down the road.”
The island’s startup community, which is concentrated in Sydney, is a young group, most of the companies are three years old or young. Many are pre-revenue. The thing that always strikes me about the tech community in the Sydney area is the energy of the group, and how much their founders can do with a little capital.
The husband-and-wife team of Mark and Danielle Patterson (who we’ll profile more fully next week) showed how they helped to fund their product-based company Docmaster with little capital: they began a tech consultancy, Devantec, which made more than $100,000 in its first month, and used that capital to build up their business.
The innovative spirit in Cape Breton extends beyond effort to build new products. Like the Pattersons, the community on the island looks for new ways to get things done.
A case in point: Louisbourg Seafoods is a traditional seafood company, but its staff wanted to work with the tech community to find better ways of doing things. So held the Sea++ competition, which awarded a cash prize to an innovator that could improve its operations.
“A lot of people see out industry as old and not very innovative, but we do do innovative things,” executive Adam Mugridge told the conference. “We recognize that there’s a tech sector and it’s young and it’s growing. We wanted to work with the sector and see if we could improve things.”
Another example of innovative thinking is the Verschuren Centre for Sustainability in Energy and the Environment at Cape Breton University, which was originally established to help with the remediation of closed coal mines and the Sydney Tar Ponds. When those programs finished, it needed other things to work on. CEO Andrew Swanson said it has since provided consulting work for environmental projects with 80 organizations around the world, and employing 146 people at different times in the past six years.
One message that resonated through the discussion is that the growth of the startup community is a long-term strategy that will help with economic growth in the coming decades.
“It’s really about planting seeds,” said D. Darren MacDonald, the head of the Island Sandbox, a startup nurturing facility operated by CBU and the Nova Scotia Community College. “We know the average age of a startup founder is about 40, so we’re working with students and building for something that’s coming down the road.”
Cape Breton native Annette Verschuren, the former head of Home Depot in Canada and Asia, added that the young entrepreneurs would determine Cape Breton’s direction in coming years. “The future of this island does not depend on government policy. It depends on the strength and the will of the people here.”
A total of nine projects will benefit, including one at Dalhousie University aimed at improving and monitoring water quality in Nunavut.
According to an Irving news release, 26 proposals were reviewed by an independent committee of scientists and northern experts. The projects selected involve residents of Canada's Arctic communities in the research, and will enhance marine safety and response to marine incidents.
The projects landed another $2.3 million from other contributors based on the Irving funding.
“We are proud to be forging links with academic institutions like the Nunavut Research Institute and the selected researchers to develop a sustainable, innovative and vibrant marine industry in Canada,” said Kevin McCoy, president of Irving Shipbuilding in the release.
Dr. Graham Gagnon, lead on the Dalhousie project, told the Chronicle Herald his team, which includes four graduate students from the university, is thrilled to be able to build on previous work in Pond Inlet, Nunavut.
“We were (recently) involved in a wastewater initiative in Pond Inlet, and the community brought forward concerns about water and that they needed to have a risk management framework for evaluating drinking water safety,” Gagnon explained.
Gagnon said his team will also train officials there to make their own assessments.
“It’s not like we’re going to do the work and then walk away,” he said.
Gagnon said his project was a great match for the funding in that the community of Pond Inlet wants to be able to prioritize their decision making and the Irving request for proposals specifically sought out projects that help community members making decisions based on environmental risk
Irving’s contribution comes from a commitment under the National Shipbuilding Strategy to spend 0.5 per cent or about $12 million of contract revenue over the life of the program to help create a sustainable marine industry across Canada.
Half of this amount has already been committed to organizations involved in research, education and growth of Canada's shipbuilding and marine industries.
The FDA granted a similar designation earlier this year to the compound SOR-C13 for the treatment of ovarian cancer.
“Receiving orphan drug status in both ovarian and pancreatic cancer highlights the unmet medical need and the potential of SOR-C13 to address these devastating cancers,” said Soricimed President and CEO Paul Gunn in a statement. “We look forward to meeting with the FDA to discuss our development plans for SOR-C13 and to initiating additional clinical trials in 2017.”
Orphan drug status qualifies Soricimed for various development incentives, including tax credits and reduced filing fees for clinical trials undertaken in the U.S. If approved for commercialization by the FDA, SOR-C13 may qualify for seven years of marketing exclusivity in the U.S.
In granting orphan drug status, the regulatory body reviews the rarity and severity of the medical condition, as well as the potential benefit of the product treating this condition.
Earlier this year, Soricimed reported it had received positive initial readings from the Phase 1 trials of SOR-C13, including indications that it can stabilize some cancer tumours.
Sor-C13 is a peptide, or a naturally occurring biological molecule, that clings to the calcium in a cancer cell and deprives it of oxygen, thereby killing the tumour. Soricimed hopes to establish that it is an effective means of treating cancer with minimal suffering for the patient.
Soricimed began when Mount Allison professor Jack Stewart – now the Chairman and Chief Scientific Officer – discovered interesting medical properties in the saliva of the northern short-tailed shrew. After further research, Stewart’s team isolated the key compound in the saliva and learned that among other things it could be used to treat cancer.
Pancreatic cancer remains one of the world’s deadliest cancers, with a five-year survival rate of eight percent, said Soricimed. According to the Cancer research Institute, each year more than 337,000 people worldwide are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and more than 330,000 people die from the disease.
At the recent American Association of Cancer Researchers annual meeting, Soricimed released positive results indicating safety, tolerability and potential activity in a Phase I trial of SOR-C13 in subjects with advanced solid tumour cancers.
Subjects were enrolled at Juravinski Cancer Centre, London Health Sciences Centre and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
How College of the North Atlantic converts waves into power to grow fish on land
The team at the Wave Energy Research Centre has a knack for turning problems into possibilities. Take, for example, the demise of the codfish industry and its disastrous effects on small East Coast towns like Lord’s Cove, N.L., on the Burin Peninsula, where the centre began in 2003. “For a group of unemployed fishermen, aquaculture is the obvious answer,” says project head Michael Graham, referring to what you or I might call fish farms.
Here’s the next problem: “Sea-based aquaculture requires deep water, particular currents and constant temperatures”—none of which are found in tempestuous North Atlantic waters. “But if you could go on land, you could make it work,” explains Graham, who’s been working on just that for a decade. Applications of relocated water are just about endless, but pumping thousands upon thousands of litres ashore is difficult and expensive, both in dollars and energy spent. What kind of energy might facilitate such a tall task? The waves themselves, says Graham.
You’ve heard of solar and wind energy, of course, but it’s those unassuming waves that may hold the real power. “Maximum solar power—and I’m talking in the desert, on the equator, averaged over the year—is 200 watts per square metre. Wind is about 10 times that. A wave generator would experience about 25,000 watts per square metre near Lord’s Cove—more than a hundred times that of solar. And waves are available constantly,” Graham explains.
This spring, researchers from the nearest College of the North Atlantic campus—75 km away in the town of Burin—are set to move from the pool to open water with their wave-powered pump. “Imagine a 14-feet-tall bicycle pump floating halfway between the sea floor and the surface,” says Graham. Held still by a drag plate, and with a float on the surface, the pump is pulled apart by passing waves and pushed back together by internal weights. Captured wave energy pumps water ashore, and the problem’s solved. “We always look for ways to turn liabilities into assets,” says Graham.
Next on the to-be-solved list is maximized feeding in multitrophic tanks; salmon, sea urchins, scallops and seaweed—each a saleable product with its own market—extract necessary nutrients from flowing recycled water.
$10 million invested for Mount Allison innovation complex
The university will use the funding to establish an environmental innovation and research complex. In addition to creating a facility for environmental science, the project will also involve the renovation of two aging facilities that have obsolete building systems.
Funding for this project includes $6.5 million from the Government of Canada and $3.25 million from the Province of New Brunswick. Mount Allison University will contribute an additional $3.25 million.
The announcement also includes funding under the Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program. The Government of Canada is investing $250,500 to upgrade the athletic field at the university, with the Province of New Brunswick and Mount Allison University also contributing $250,000 each towards the project. The improvements involve installing new bleachers and a scoreboard, among other upgrades.
In total, universities and colleges throughout New Brunswick will receive more than $111 million from the Government of Canada, the provincial government, the institutions themselves and private donors.
What we’re seeing among high-growth innovation companies in the region is the development of a core of larger companies that are actually accelerating their growth. We’ll still call them startups for lack of a better term, but in truth the region is developing a club of high-growth corporations.
That was the major find of Entrevestor’s annual analysis of startups in the region, which we publish today. For the past three years, we’ve been surveying these locally-owned, high-growth innovators, and the results for 2015 show that the community is starting to mature.
The data revealed two important trends, the first being the development of bigger startups. We estimate there are now more than 130 startups in the region that have more than $100,000 in annual revenue. And of these, about 30 have more than $2 million in revenue.
It is these larger companies that are creating the second major finding: overall revenue growth among startups is actually accelerating.
Revenues increased about 30 per cent in 2013, then 37 per cent in 2014 and 66 per cent in 2015.
Read Our Latest Entrevestor Intelligence Report
As these companies grow in size, they develop stronger sales teams and refine their products to better meet market demand.
That means that many are increasing their growth rates as they get larger, and that is amplifying their economic impact.
A company booking its first sales looks great in terms of growth for that company.
But the economic impact is far greater when that company boosts its annual revenues from, say, $500,000 to $1 million.
We identified 368 startups at the end of 2015 and surveyed as many as we could.
Some 152 companies replied to the survey, including 127 that provided data on revenue.
While we in the media often highlight funding by startups, the growth in revenue is the surest indicator of a company’s health.
What we’re finding is that startups are coming to believe that they have to at least double their revenues to be taken seriously.
“In Silicon Valley, your revenues should be tripling or you’re not growing fast enough,” Sean Fahey, CEO of Moncton-based Vidcruiter, said.
He added that his company is “trending toward that and I don’t think I’m an outlier.”
These startups are remarkably optimistic about revenue growth in 2016, forecasting revenue growth of 120 per cent.
We conducted our survey mainly in the second-quarter, so many respondents had a pretty good idea of how the year was shaping up.
The reality is many will likely fall short of their expectations but the important point is that there is strong momentum for sales growth.
Overall, the growth in sales is aiding the growth in exports.
The survey respondents said they made only 20 per cent of their money in Atlantic Canada in 2015 — about the same as the previous year.
About 19 per cent of the revenues came from the rest of Canada and 62 per cent from outside the country.
If there is one reason to be concerned about the revenue picture, it’s that the region’s startups are far too focused on just two markets — Canada and the U.S.
Only five startups of 58 respondents discussing their primary market listed countries other than Canada or the U.S.
Mitacs grant enables research partnership on soil respiration
Ms. Gabriel, a StFX master’s graduate who is completing her PhD at Dalhousie University under the supervision of StFX earth sciences professor Dr. Lisa Kellman, and Dr. Susan Ziegler at Memorial University as part of the NSERC CREATE Program in Climate Sciences, received a $15,000 grant from the Accelerate Mitacs internship program.
Its aim is to fund a research project that links companies with talented graduate students in the final stages of their studies, giving students a competitive advantage.
Ms. Gabriel’s research is in partnership with Eosense, a Dartmouth, NS, company founded by StFX graduates Dr. Nick Nickerson and Gordon McArthur and earth sciences professor Dr. Dave Risk that develops technology including sensors and chambers that measure greenhouse gases from soils and water bodies.
In this research, they are looking to find reliable measurements of carbon cycling.
“Measurement of carbon uptake and release is being carried out across the world at networks of sites,” she explains. “The North American contingent is called Fluxnet, where carbon flux above a forest is measured at eddy covariance towers, but these measurements are subject to errors and data gaps.
“However, the accuracy of these measurements is currently critical so we obtain reliable estimates of carbon cycling. The goal of this research is to determine how measurement of soil respiration in the "footprint" below an eddy covariance tower can assist the eddy covariance community in improving carbon balance estimates,” she says.
INVALUABLE EXTENSION OF RESEARCH
“This experience has provided me with an invaluable extension of my research into soil carbon cycling, soil respiration, and a view of how my research can be integrated into a wider community of international research,” Ms. Gabriel says.
“Beyond this, my experience working with this company has provided insight into a new avenue, applied research.”
Ms. Gabriel was already familiar with the work of Dr. Nickerson and Mr. McArthur, who she first met while completing her Master's in Earth Sciences at StFX.
“At the time we were all working on soil respiration. Several years have passed, and now as I am finishing my PhD in Earth Sciences at Dalhousie, I was seeking out ways to expand my set of research experiences. My first thought was to find an opportunity to work on an industry project with these talented researchers. It is a nice fit with my master's research into soil respiration, but is a chance to extend my knowledge beyond what I have considered before.”
As part of this project, Ms. Gabriel installed a set of soil respiration chambers at the famous Howland Forest in central Maine, an old growth forest that has been the site of much research over the past 20 years, and is one of the original eddy covariance sites in Fluxnet.
“We are collaborating with researchers to determine how our measurements compare to theirs at the ground level and how this scales up to the forest level measured by eddy covariance towers,” she says.
Ms. Gabriel also traveled to Florida in August to present their preliminary research at the Ecological Society of America conference. She says there will be further opportunities to present this work and publish the findings.
Mitacs grant helps StFX, IORE look at career perceptions of Nova Scotia middle school students
Dr. Sherry Scully, IORE’s Director of Learning and Organizational Development, and StFX education professor Dr. Katarin MacLeod received a $15,000 Mitacs Accelerate grant to employ StFX education PhD student Laura Stiles-Clarke to analyze and recap results from a survey conducted with Grades 6-9 students across Nova Scotia.
The grant comes under the Mitacs Accelerate Program, which connects graduate students and postdoctoral fellows with companies through short-term research projects. Mitacs is a national not-for-profit organization that facilitates collaboration between academia and industry, government and other organizations.
“It’s been a wonderful partnership, and in some ways a model, in that academia and industry can work together to accomplish something for the good of the entire province,” Dr. MacLeod says.
Having both academia and industry work together on the research lends an added layer to the results, adds Dr. Scully, who brought the idea of a partnership to StFX.
Dr. Scully says the idea for the project was born out of earlier research she had completed, and a desire to look further into career literacy, to explore what young people are thinking about in terms of general career interests, and specifically about careers in the region and in the marine industry and skilled trades.
The researchers wanted to survey younger students still enrolled in general science courses to gain insight into when and how career perceptions are formed, she says.
Drs. Scully and MacLeod worked together to launch the pilot study, and working with the StFX Research Grants Office, put together the proposal for Mitacs.
“StFX has been endeavouring to expand its working relationship with Mitacs. This Accelerate Award is an excellent opportunity for one of our doctoral students in education to gain valuable applied experience in the industry and government sectors. We are also delighted to partner with the Institute for Ocean Research Enterprise on this cutting-edge study of young science students’ perceptions of career opportunities in Nova Scotia,” says John Blackwell, Director of StFX’s Research Grants Office.
In January, in partnership with the Nova Scotia Department of Education and Early Childhood, the researchers launched the Student Intentions and Perceptions survey in all English, French, and Mi’kmaq school boards across the province. The survey received almost 14,500 responses, nearly a 40 per cent response rate.
Dr. Scully says results could provide insights into the perceptions of careers in trades and technology, engineering, ocean sciences and marine careers, and the factors that influence these perceptions as well as key times for career counselling and awareness and exposure programs.
Ms. Stiles-Clarke says it’s been a wonderful opportunity for her to work on this research.
“It’s brought a whole other dimension to my learning,” she says, noting the networking and learning opportunities created.
“It’s been hugely valuable for me to develop my research skills. It also opened up new knowledge that wouldn’t have happened without the grant,” she says.
The project has produced several reports, including an industry report that has been presented to the Nova Scotia Department of Education. Dr. MacLeod says they believe the project has the potential for multiple journal articles as well as conference presentations and a later follow-up
Feds & Province Invest $15.89 Million in New Trades Facility at NBCC Saint John
The new facility will improve the scale and quality of the trades programs at the Saint John campus. The funding will also help the college build multi-functional spaces to provide flexibility for future classroom and shop programming needs. The new building will be designed to allow for future expansion and additions. The existing welding shop will also be demolished.
“NBCC makes a significant contribution to New Brunswick’s socio-economic prosperity,” said Susan Murchison, chair of the NBCC board of governors, in a release. “Aging infrastructure is a challenge to maintaining and growing that contribution. This investment in a new trades facility at our Saint John campus will ensure that NBCC can continue to play an important role in developing a highly-skilled workforce here in New Brunswick.”
The funding is being provided though the Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund. The provincial government will invest $8.67 million, while the federal government will provide $7.22 million.