Atlantic Canada’s commercialization and industry liaison network


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! 

Download the full issue for free now.

Articles include:

A global hub for ocean science is born

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 or by phone +1-416-481-7070 ex 2.

ACOA Awards Springboard Atlantic 9.2Mil to Continue Driving Atlantic Growth

News Release
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.

Media Contact;
Christ Mathis
CEO, Springboard

For more information on Springboard Atlantic, visit
For more information on the Atlantic Innovation Fund, visit

Startup support

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.

Student startups

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.”

‘Interdisciplinary collaboration’

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.”

Entrepreneurial culture

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.

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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.”

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Innowave Wins Launch Ocean Event

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. 

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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."

Read UPEI's article: Government of Canada funding supports UPEI research on muscle physiology

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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.

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ENTREVSTOR: Firm develops cement for broken bones

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.”


Author: Peter Moreira - Entrevestor: Covina Focuses on $1M Round, CTA

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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:

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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.”

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WEnTech: SaaS for Green Energy

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.”

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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 For more information about the database, contact Patty King by email at or McCorquodale at


Also featuring an article about AFRED is The Gazette (Memorial University): Networking tool- New database matches researchers and equipment in Atlantic Canada

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Facilities Launch Regional Passport

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.

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Safety at sea

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.”

“Dual purpose”

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.”

“Innovative solutions”

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.”

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MTI, Airbus Move Ahead with MetaAIR

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."

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Open for business

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.


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Appili Lands $2.8M in AIF Funding

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.

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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 or by telephone at 1-306-842-6060. For more information on ExACT technology, please contact Dr. Dave Risk by email at or by telephone at 1-902-867-4854.

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WellTrack Named to 500 Startups

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.

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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.

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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. 

Empowering students

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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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CarbonCure in Global Cleantech 100

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.

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BlueLight, 3M Form US Partnership

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.

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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.”

-  Sandy Bird, IBM Fellow and CTO of IBM Security

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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.

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East Coast SME Optimism Rebounds

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.”

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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.

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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.

To find out more about the Atlantic Growth Strategy click here:

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.


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PEI Eyes BioCommons Expansion

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.”

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Dal, UNB Seek Program Participants

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.

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A Growing Cluster of Accelerators

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.

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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 NSERC CRD . 

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. 

SabrTech, NS 
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 or at (902)-421-5678.

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University-Related Startups Outperform

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 111
Employees of these Startups 394.5
Revenue Growth 110%
Pre-Revenue Companies 56%
2015 Funding Raised by these startups $27.3M
Number of Companies Funded 43
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.

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The Focus for 2017: Big Companies

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.

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OpEd; Developing Halifax’s Innovation District

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.

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SMU Launching Student VC Fund

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.”

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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.

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Dal Researcher in New Venture with Charged

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.”

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UNB launches Energy and Cybersecurity Accelerator

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.”

Story also covered by Entrevestor.

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Halifax Discovery Centre Discovery Awards 2016

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.

Award Recipients:

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.

Get charged up about batteries here

Innovation Award recipients: 

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.

Find more data on what QRA is up to next

Award Nominees:

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

Emerging Professionals:
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

Science Champions:
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.

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NowNS: Attracting the best, brightest

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.”

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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.

Sources and original articles:
Gov of Canada
Dal News
The Register/Advertiser

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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.

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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.

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BDC Launches $135M Industrial Fund

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.”

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Developing a Sales Culture in Atlantic Canada

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.”

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“Engines of Discovery”

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.

Tomorrow’s innovators
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.”

Global partnerships
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.”

Real-life issues
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.

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Fostering Life Science Companies in NS

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.”

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Manning Awards Celebrate Innovation

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.”

Celebrating innovation

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.
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Producing Better Potatoes

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.

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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.

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Dalhousie’s downtown campus gets $64-million expansion

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.

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QRA Corp. named to Lazaridis Program

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.

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Increasing innovation and commercialization

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.”

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Eigen Unveils Product at Dell Event

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.

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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 ( 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.

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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.”

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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.

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Cape Breton Startups on Display

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.”

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Irving puts $2M into Arctic research

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.

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FDA Grants Soricimed Orphan Status

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.

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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.

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$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.

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Sales Growth Up as Startups Expand

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.

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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.

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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.


“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.

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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

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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.

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Canada and Nova Scotia invest in infrastructure at Acadia University

The funding was announced by the Honourable Scott Brison, President of the Treasury Board, on behalf of the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, and by the Honourable Kelly Regan, Nova Scotia Minister of Labour and Advanced Education.

The Government of Canada’s Innovation Agenda aims to make this country a global centre for innovation—one that creates jobs, drives growth across all industries and improves the lives of all Canadians. This investment exemplifies that vision in action and will help create the well-paying middle-class jobs of tomorrow.

The funding will be used to renovate and upgrade Huggins Science Hall and Elliott Hall, two older buildings that are part of Acadia University’s Science Complex. The upgrades will promote intensified research and commercialization activities at the Science Complex, while also improving the buildings’ energy use and efficiency. The project will also see a small structure adjoining the buildings converted into an innovation pavilion, with space for laboratories and support services for industrial liaison, commercialization and co-op education.

Of the $15.98-million investment, $10.48 million will come from the Government of Canada and $5.5 million from the Province of Nova Scotia. Acadia University and private donors will contribute an additional $6.27 million for a total investment of $22.25 million.

In total, the Government of Canada, the provincial government, the institutions themselves and private donors are investing $130 million in universities and colleges throughout Nova Scotia. Federal funding will be allocated through the Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund, which will enhance and modernize research facilities on Canadian campuses and improve the environmental sustainability of these facilities.

As a result of these investments, students, professors and researchers will work in state-of-the-art facilities that advance the country’s best research. They will collaborate in specially designed spaces that support lifelong learning and skills training. They will work in close proximity with partners to turn discoveries into products or services. In the process, they will train for—and create—the high-value, middle-class jobs of the future. And their discoveries will plant the seeds for the next generation of innovators.

That is how the Strategic Investment Fund will jump-start a virtuous circle of innovation, creating the right conditions for long-term growth that will yield benefits for generations to come.

On July 4, 2016, the Government of Canada and the governments of the four Atlantic provinces launched the Atlantic Growth Strategy, which involves targeted actions to stimulate Atlantic Canada’s economy, including supporting key infrastructure projects that contribute to long-term growth and position the region to capitalize on emerging opportunities. Today’s announcement builds on this commitment.

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Three NB Biotech Companies Prepare for BioInnovation Challenge

The challenge will take place over two days in October when semi-finalists will present to a panel of judges. The top three presenters will then pitch again to judges and to the conference audience. The winner will be announced on the afternoon of October 26.

The New Brunswick companies participating include Somadetect (diagnostic technology for dairy producers), Biopharm Nexus (a portable liver disease diagnostic kit) and Chinova Bioworks (an antimicrobial agent from fungal-sourced chitosan biopolymer).

Semi-finalists recently finished up a boot camp in Halifax in preparation for the competition. Bethany Deshpande of SomaDetect says the boot camp was a great opportunity to get to know other biotech companies and refine their pitch.

“It was an ideal moment for SomaDetect to be involved in that because we didn’t have a pitch developed at all before attending,” Deshpande said. “We learned a lot and we were really excited to move forward, not only in terms of bioinnovation but also with what we’ve built around the rest of the project.”

Deshpande explained that while she has built pitches for others and coached them through pitches during her work with the SHAD program in Quebec City, she has never built and delivered a pitch for her own initiative.

SomaDetect is currently trying to connect with dairy farmers and anyone in the industry who can give them a hand with their project.

Biopharm Nexus co-founders Laboni Ahsan and Kateryna Hryniw, who both have science backgrounds, said the boot camp helped them out with the business side of things.

“We’re both new to the business aspect of this,” Hryniw said. “It was really interesting to learn a lot about how to do the perfect pitch and how to do the presentation and what investors look for and so forth. We had some financial training as well as marketing training.”

Biopharm Nexus is now trying to get their product onto the market and are seeking out funding. They then need to secure Health Canada regulation approval and do commercialization and marketing first in Canada and then in the US.

Chinova Bioworks recently finished the three month IndieBio accelerator in Cork, Ireland. CEO Natasha Dhayagude says the combination of pitch training they received there and the BioInnovation Challenge boot camp training has given her a lot to work with.

“Everyone, I find, has their own formula of what makes a great pitch so I’ve been taking different aspects of everyone’s training and putting them together to make one big pitch,” Dhayagude said.”

“It’s just to try to grow the company, try to focus on our research, trying to please our clients. That to me is my number one goal for the next few months, to work with our clients and come up with the best product, optimize that product to the best of our ability.”

The winner of the BioInnovation Challenge will receive a $15,000 seed investment and a package of support services and mentoring valued at more than $30,000. The second and third place finalists will receive services valued at over $5,000.

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Canada and Nova Scotia Invest in Infrastructure at Acadia University

The funding was announced by the Honourable Scott Brison, President of the Treasury Board, on behalf of the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, and by the Honourable Kelly Regan, Nova Scotia Minister of Labour and Advanced Education.

The Government of Canada's Innovation Agenda aims to make this country a global centre for innovation-one that creates jobs, drives growth across all industries and improves the lives of all Canadians. This investment exemplifies that vision in action and will help create the well-paying middle-class jobs of tomorrow.

The funding will be used to renovate and upgrade Huggins Science Hall and Elliott Hall, two older buildings that are part of Acadia University's Science Complex. The upgrades will promote intensified research and commercialization activities at the Science Complex, while also improving the buildings' energy use and efficiency. The project will also see a small structure adjoining the buildings converted into an innovation pavilion, with space for laboratories and support services for industrial liaison, commercialization and co-op education.

Of the $15.98-million investment, $10.48 million will come from the Government of Canada and $5.5 million from the Province of Nova Scotia. Acadia University and private donors will contribute an additional $6.27 million for a total investment of $22.25 million.

In total, the Government of Canada, the provincial government, the institutions themselves and private donors are investing $130 million in universities and colleges throughout Nova Scotia. Federal funding will be allocated through the Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund, which will enhance and modernize research facilities on Canadian campuses and improve the environmental sustainability of these facilities.

As a result of these investments, students, professors and researchers will work in state-of-the-art facilities that advance the country's best research. They will collaborate in specially designed spaces that support lifelong learning and skills training. They will work in close proximity with partners to turn discoveries into products or services. In the process, they will train for-and create-the high-value, middle-class jobs of the future. And their discoveries will plant the seeds for the next generation of innovators.

That is how the Strategic Investment Fund will jump-start a virtuous circle of innovation, creating the right conditions for long-term growth that will yield benefits for generations to come.

On July 4, 2016, the Government of Canada and the governments of the four Atlantic provinces launched the Atlantic Growth Strategy, which involves targeted actions to stimulate Atlantic Canada's economy, including supporting key infrastructure projects that contribute to long-term growth and position the region to capitalize on emerging opportunities. Today's announcement builds on this commitment.


"This once-in-a-generation investment by the Government of Canada is a historic down payment on the government's vision to position Canada as a global centre for innovation. That means making Canada a world leader in turning ideas into solutions, science into technologies, skills into middle-class jobs and start-up companies into global successes. Investments like this also support our Atlantic Growth Strategy, designed to stimulate the region's economy and address its challenges while building on Atlantic Canada's competitive advantages, such as its strong export potential, growing innovation ecosystem and skilled workforce."

- The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development

"Investments like these in Atlantic Canada will support our world-class researchers and position Canada as a global leader in research excellence and innovation. Through the Strategic Investment Fund, we are providing Canada's students with the education and training they need to join a strong, healthy middle class."

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ACOA to Zebrafish: Dalhousie University gets help in orphan disease research

The funding, announced Tuesday at the Life Sciences Research Institute — which houses Agada Biosciences and the Zebrafish Core Facility — aims to position Nova Scotia as a hub of research and development when it comes to rare diseases that have been abandoned by the pharmaceutical industry, according to a news release.

Patients with many of these “orphan diseases” generally have few approved drug treatment options due to the low profitability for drug companies.

Dalhousie University, under the leadership of Dr. Christopher McMaster, will work with local commercial partners and the Centre for Drug Research and Development in Vancouver to develop three biotechnology start-ups to move new drug treatments to the market. These treatments will help patients with rare inherited childhood diseases including familial exudative vitreoretinopathy (FEVR or childhood blinding), the inherited form of Parkinson’s, and muscular dystrophies.

“One in 15 babies born in Canada has an ‘orphan disease’ and one in three patients in children’s hospitals are there due to their orphan disease condition. This high incidence of hospitalization is due to the fact that 95 per cent of orphan diseases have no treatment,” McMaster said in the press release.

“In addition, 90 per cent of them are life-limiting with 35 per cent of affected children not reaching their fifth birthday. Advances in knowledge and technology by clinicians and scientists in Nova Scotia have now made it possible to move toward treatments for orphan disease patients and help these Canadian children in need.”

The project will utilize the Zebrafish Core Facility for its expertise in using zebrafish as a drug-screening and

development tool.

“Children everywhere will be the ultimate beneficiaries of this collaborative work that will help to position Nova Scotia as an ‘orphan diseases’ research hub,” Halifax MP Andy Fillmore said.

The government says it will announce additional investments totalling $13.8 million through ACOA’s Atlantic Innovation Fund in coming weeks for things like supporting advancements in clean energy and green manufacturing, detection technologies for disease, as well as projects to improve the health, growth and broodstock of Atlantic farmed salmon.

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NSCC Pictou campus gets funding boost for expansion

The investment was announced Tuesday by Sean Fraser, MP for Central Nova, on behalf of Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, and by Kelly Regan, Nova Scotia’s Minister of Labour and Advanced Education.

The funding will support the construction of a new trades wing — a separate, purpose-built, educational trades building. This building will provide specialized training infrastructure required to meet industry demand, and will accommodate carpentry, cabinetry, motor vehicle repair and heavy duty equipment. It will be certified to LEED Gold Standards.

“These infrastructure investments will create good, well-paying jobs that can help the middle class grow and prosper today, while also delivering sustained economic growth for years to come,” said Fraser.

“Through the Strategic Investment Fund, we are strengthening the foundation for building Canada into a global centre for innovation.”

Of the $15.2-million investment, $6.9 million will come from the federal government and $8.3 from the province.

“This strategic investment in Nova Scotia Community College’s Pictou Campus will pay dividends to the students, staff and the community,” said NSCC president Don Bureaux.

“The LEED-certified centre will enhance the capacity and student experience at the campus, and grow our ability to add needed, well-educated and trained graduates to the workforce.”

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Ensuring highest quality craft beers through chemistry research - Big Spruce Brewing and StFX partne

Mr. White wants to be free of having to import expensive hops, the beer ingredient responsible for the bitter taste and for the zesty, or citric flavours so much in demand by craft beer drinkers. So he grows his own.

“I will not compromise in quality, so I really need to know my hops,” Mr. White says. “I want to ensure that my beers are at their highest, consistent levels of quality, so I’m partnering with world-class chemistry professors at St. Francis Xavier University to help me.”

Dr. Razul is intrigued by the interplay and role of the thousands of organic, natural chemicals that are found in plants.

“Hops have a complex chemistry that must be well understood by a top brewmaster,” Dr. Razul says.

“How do all of the important natural flavour and aroma oils in hops change over time?  What I’m going to do is look in-depth at the actual chemistry of the Big Spruce hops and see if these compounds alter with storage, and if these chemistry changes can be managed for continuous hop quality improvement. 

“These chemistry changes may be well known in the big hops producing areas in the U.S., but our craft beer industry here is just getting underway. Jeremy is a brewmaster – he is an artist. If I let him know exactly how his hops compare to the imports, then he can better explore and experiment with new brews, knowing how to keep the favour profiles of his hop varieties consistent over time.”

Dr. Razul’s research into the hops at Big Spruce Brewing is supported by a Productivity and Innovation Voucher, from the Nova Scotia provincial crown corporation, Innovacorp. 

Andrew Kendall of the StFX Industry Liaison Office worked with Big Spruce to obtain this funding. 

“This funding from Innovacorp is important in supporting our small, rural, but high-growth industries,” Mr. Kendall says. “This will get students working with Dr. Razul on real-world problems. With better, bitter beers as a great end point, I think they better hop right to it!”

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Millions announced for MUN research building

The funding is to ensure the university can continue its biomedical research activities and offer certified degree programs.

Memorial University will provide an additional $15.6 million for the project.

The funding was announced by Public Services and Procurement Minister Judy Foote, on behalf of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains.

In total, universities and colleges throughout Newfoundland and Labrador will receive more than $85.2 million from the Government of Canada, the provincial government, the institutions themselves and private donors.

Federal funding will be allocated through the Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund, to modernize research facilities on Canadian campuses and improve the environmental sustainability of these facilities.

“Through the strategic investment fund, our government is supporting innovation to help improve opportunities for business, create jobs in the Atlantic Canada region and contribute to Atlantic Canada’s reputation as an innovation hub,” Foote said in a news release.

“This once-in-a-generation investment by the Government of Canada is a historic down payment on the government's vision to position Canada as a global centre for innovation,” Bains stated in the release.

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Dalhousie to lead $220-million ocean research institute

The Ocean Frontier Institute, which partners Dalhousie with Memorial University of Newfoundland and the University of Prince Edward Island, was announced this morning in Halifax and will support scientific research aimed at the safe and sustainable development of ocean resources.

The federal government will provide more than $93 million over seven years to explore issues related to global warming and sustainable ocean harvesting. The money is Dalhousie’s share of $900 million in Canada First Research Excellence Fund grants being announced today for 13 post-secondary institutions nationwide, according to a news release.

All had to apply and pass peer review and a panel of international science experts to obtain the funding.

Seafood billionaire John Risley is the third-biggest backer of the Ocean Frontier Institute, behind Ottawa and the province, putting up $25 million for the project.

Treasury Board President Scott Brison had kind words at this morning’s announcement for the man who built his fortune from the sea but grew it investing in telecommunications and other sectors.

"Let’s add ocean science visionary to that list of accolades," Brison said at the Dalhousie event.

Nova Scotia is already Canada’s ocean think tank, and Dalhousie University is on record as the recipient of 25 per cent of all federal oceans research grants.

According to provincial numbers, Nova Scotia has the highest concentration in the world of PhDs (450) in ocean-related disciplines.

The Bedford Institute of Oceanography’s 700 scientists, engineers, and technicians has been named Canada’s largest centre for oceans’ research.

The province is also home to the Institute for Marine Biosciences (NRC).

Tuesday’s announcement was held at the Steele Ocean Sciences Building.

Representatives of Dalhousie, Memorial University of Newfoundland, and the University of Prince Edward Island were on hand, as well as Brison.

The announcement was followed by a demonstration by Dr. Julie LaRoche and students working on a project to sample Nova Scotia’s coastal waters and add to our knowledge of food supplies for larval fish.

The Canada First Research Excellence fund was launched in December 2014.

In 2015, five institutions shared in $350 million in grants from the first round of competition.

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Agile Sensors and Solace Power Partner to Develop Next Generation eUAV Components

Agile Sensor Technologies (Agile), a developer of intelligent robotics components such as field-programmable gate array (FPGA) multi-motor controllers, and Solace Power (Solace), a developer of leading edge wireless power technology, announced today they have received an investment from Boeing to demonstrate integrated wireless charging and auto hover/land capabilities for electric unmanned aerial vehicles (eUAVs). This investment is part of Boeing’s on-going Industrial and Technological Benefits (ITB) program related to Canada’s acquisition of its fifth C-17 Globemaster III airlifter.

“The partnership between Solace and Agile has shown that Newfoundland-based companies can compete on the world stage to provide innovation and unique value to some of the largest organizations in the world.” – Holly Hill, COO of Agile
“We are thrilled to partner with Solace and Boeing on this project,” said Holly Hill, COO at Agile. “The partnership between Solace and Agile has shown that Newfoundland-based companies can compete on the world stage to provide innovation and unique value to some of the largest organizations in the world.”

“This is the 3rd investment in the development of Solace’s wireless power technology by Boeing, and represents their continued support to see wireless power technology commercialized for use in eUAV charging applications,” said Matt Kelly, Director of Business Development at Solace. “By integrating Solace and Agile’s capabilities, our companies can provide manufacturers a solution that will truly eliminate human interaction from eUAV operations.”

Agile has been able to push the timelines and launch of its product line as a result of this contract. The company continues to grow its St. John’s office as it pushes the boundaries of robotics technology. To learn more about opportunities at Agile, visit their website at

About Agile
A Memorial University spin-out founded in 2014, Agile Sensor Technologies builds motor controllers using a proprietary System-on-a-Chip (SoC) design and algorithms that deliver a new way to intelligently control motors in commercial drones and industrial robots. Their solution is more power efficient than existing technology and can deliver real-time diagnostic data on the platform. Agile’s mission is to make the world’s smartest and most efficient motor controller.

About Solace
Solace’s technology allows companies in the aerospace/defense, automotive, industrial and consumer electronics markets to eliminate the need for cables and connectors in many applications. Companies can take advantage of Solace’s spatial freedom and flexible integration capabilities to reduce manufacturing/maintenance costs, decrease cabling weight, and improve overall application design for the next generation of products.

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Using light to charge a battery - research partnership between St. Francis Xavier University and Gen

It’s a partnership looking into using electricity at its highest efficiency. 

“Genair8 has come up with alternative solar panel activation pathways that hold considerable promise towards very efficiently producing electricity,” says Dr. Hallett-Tapley, who will have StFX students involved in this work as part of their education.

“We are closing in on the perfect combination of light source and solar panels to have potential battery charging applications to rival the current plug-in type alternatives currently available on the market.”

Doug Connelly and Peter Phippen, the founders of Genair8 Technologies, say they’re excited about the partnership and its possibilities.

“We are fortunate to find the exact expertise in light energy with Geniece and her students at StFX, that we need to fine-tune our battery charger. We are confident that as LED lights become more efficient, and as the research at StFX better defines the wavelengths needed, that we can move to the consumer market the most efficient battery charger out there,” they say. 

“We are really looking at the recreational vehicle and cottage markets initially, as what electricity there is in RVs and small cottages must be used most efficiently. Our battery charger we believe will meet those needs perfectly. In addition, generating power or maintaining a charge when the sun is not always shining promotes increased use of energy alternatives and would provide greater confidence for consumers in those alternatives.”

Genair8 was awarded a Productivity and Innovation Voucher from Innovacorp, the Nova Scotia early stage venture capital organization that invests in promising clean technology. This award will support the research that Dr. Hallett-Tapley is doing for Genair8.

“I am excited about applying my knowledge of how light works on various chemical compounds to real-world situations,” Dr. Hallett-Tapley says.

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New Brunswick Wins Big In Regional Startup Canada Awards

The awards will be presented to the winners at an event to be held in Fredericton on Sept. 13.

The New Brunswicker winners include:

John McLaughlin, former UNB president and TME scholar in residence, was awarded the Adam Chowaniec Lifetime Achievement Award
Fredericton’s Laura O’Blenis, founder & chief strategist at Stiletto, picked up the Startup Canada Woman Entrepreneur Award
Natasha Dhayagude, CEO of Fredericton-based Chinova Bioworks, is the winner of the Startup Canada Young Entrepreneur Award
Fast-growing Fredericton-based startup Resson picked up the Startup Canada Global Entrepreneurship Award
Other Atlantic Canadian award winners include:

Zita Cobb, founder & CEO of the Shorefast Foundation, earned the Startup Canada Entrepreneur of the Year Award
Hope Milner, co-owner of PEI-based Bohemian Findings, received the Startup Canada Senior Entrepreneur Award
Halifax-based QRA Corp earned the Startup Canada Innovation Award
Charlottetown’s Upstreet Craft Brewing picked up the Startup Canada Social Enterprise Award
Popular clothing brand East Coast Lifestyle received the nod for the Startup Canada High-Growth Entrepreneurship Award
Bob Williamson, founder and CEO of the Jameson Group, was the winner of the Startup Canada Entrepreneur Promotion Award
Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency received the Startup Canada Entrepreneur Support Award.

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Dartmouth Coast Guard base to be converted into ocean innovation centre

The newly established Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship is envisioned as a base for global leaders in ocean science and research working together with start-ups, research and development firms, industry and universities.

“COVE will help Nova Scotia make the most of its competitive advantages in the ocean sector,” Premier Stephen McNeil said in a news release.

“It will be a place where leaders in ocean science and research can work with NSCC (the Nova Scotia Community College), Dalhousie University, industry and others in a collaborative space where start-ups can be mentored and new technologies will be developed and sold around the world,”

Of the $19.7 million in funding for the Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship, $7.17 million will come from the Ottawa and the remaining $12.55 is provincial money, which will cover capital costs.

Nova Scotia Community College president Don Bureaux said that together with project partners, he wanted to build a space where ocean enterprises can collaborate to get their ideas off the ground and grow into a thriving operation.

“It fits so well with the teaching, applied research and industry training work we do in oceans technology and advanced manufacturing at the college,” said Bureaux.

All told, universities and colleges throughout Nova Scotia will receive more than $130 million from both Ottawa and Halifax, the institutions themselves and private donors. Of this funding, Ottawa is contributing $60.3 million.

Federal funding will be allocated through the Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund, aimed at enhancing and modernizing research facilities on Canadian campuses and improving their environmental sustainability.

“Investments like these in Atlantic Canada will support our world-class researchers and position Canada as a global leader in research excellence and innovation,” said federal Treasury Board President Scott Brison in a media release.

The announcement comes two months after Ottawa and the Atlantic provinces launched the Atlantic Growth Strategy to kickstart Atlantic Canada’s economy. The strategy includes support for infrastructure projects that support long-term growth and allow the region to make the most of new economic opportunities.

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Innovative research at UPEI receives $800,000 in federal money

Innovative research at UPEI is receiving more than $800,000 in federal assistance.

Funding was announced Wednesday to support research and enhanced service delivery in various disciplines.

Atlantic Veterinary College provides to the equine industry in Atlantic Canada. The new equipment aids in the diagnosis and treatment of lameness, cardiovascular, and gastrointestinal conditions in horses.

A second project supports AVC’s regional virology unity through the purchase of innovative diagnostic tools designed to increase animal health within the cattle and hog industries.

The UPEI Marine Natural Products lab is also receiving funding from Ottawa for the purchase of new fermentation equipment to complement existing equipment in the natural products chemistry lab and allow for more in-depth investigations within the lab and increase collaboration opportunities with industry partners in the bioscience sector.

A project in the UPEI chemistry department is getting federal dollars to help purchase specialized equipment that can assist in chemistry analysis. University researchers will collaborate with industry to find potential industrial applications such as coating materials, lubricants and batteries.

“The University of Prince Edward Island has built an impressive reputation of innovation success and academic excellence,’’ says federal Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Lawrence MacAulay.

“Exploration, discovery, and innovation are key elements of UPEI’s success,’’ adds UPEI president Dr. Alaa Abd-El-Aziz.

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Big Data Congress Unveils First Keynote Speakers

The Big Data Congress, taking place between Oct. 17 to Oct. 19 in Saint John, aims to highlight the business and economic potential of data science and how it can transform business, government and society. The event brings in leading thinkers from around the world to share how others can take advantage of the trends and opportunities big data has to offer.

“We started the whole project firstly to raise awareness of the potential for big data and big data analytics to create an opportunity for people in Atlantic Canada to create and export jobs here,” said T4G president and event organizer Geoff Flood in a previous interview with Huddle. “Because we’ve got the educational institutions, the workforce and everything that’s needed to build competency in a new industry.”

The week, event organizers announced keynote speakers Alec Ross, author and Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Johns Hopkins University and Alex “Sandy” Pentland, director of MIT’s Human Dynamics and Media Lab Entrepreneurship Program:

Alec Ross

Ross is one of America’s leading experts on innovation. Besides being the Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Johns Hopkins University, he’s also the author of The Industries of the Future. The book explores technological and economic trends and developments that will shape the next ten years, from cybersecurity and big data to the commercialization of genomics to the code-ification of money, markets and trust. Ross serves as an advisor to investors, corporations and government leaders to help them understand the implication of factors emerging at the intersection of geopolitics, markets and increasingly disruptive network technologies. He also worked for four years as senior advisor for Innovation to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Alex “Sandy” Pentland

Professor Alex "Sandy" Pentland is the director of the Human Dynamics Laboratory and of the Media Lab Entrepreneurship Program at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

Revered as a pioneer in organizational engineering, mobile information systems, and computational social science, Pentland is known as Big Data’s “presiding genius.” He currently directs MIT’s Human Dynamics and the MIT Media Lab Entrepreneurship Program and is a founding member of the advisory boards for Nissan, Motorola Mobility and Telefonica. In his latest book, Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread—The Lessons from a New Science, Pentland explores the revolution in the study of social behaviour in a generation, an entirely new way to look at life itself. Named one of Forbes 2012, “seven most powerful data scientists in the world,” his research has been featured in Nature, Science, Harvard Business Review and is the focus of TV features on BBC World, Discover and Science channels.
The second round of keynote speakers are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

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Turning heads

Solace Power was launched in 2007 by founder Kris McNeil, a Memorial graduate. Since then, the business’s innovative technology has turned heads on the competitive international R&D scene. Everyone from the automotive industry to aerospace and defence companies to consumers eager for the next big find in the electronic market have shown an interest.

“Our technology is special and very unique,” said Neil Chaulk, the company’s vice-president of business development, a shareholder and a fellow Memorial alumnus, during a recent visit.

“Solace’s technology is unique among those in the market. It’s a new technology for wireless power transfer called Resonant Capacitive Coupling—or RC2—and we’ve filed patents to take advantage of the unique value proposition.”

Simply put, the company’s technology eliminates the need for bulky power cables and chargers for devices. Instead, power is delivered wirelessly and efficiently.

Over the years, the company has had a close relationship with Memorial. Virtually every one of the company’s 22 employees are Memorial alumni. Solace is also a graduate of the Genesis Centre, the university’s award-winning business incubator. It spent four years with the centre before it graduated in 2013.

Paul Arsenault, an alumnus of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, works with Solace Power.

“I would say that the Genesis Centre played a key role in the success of Solace Power,” said Mr. Chaulk. “In my view, the Genesis Centre generally acts as a ‘force multiplier’ for a startup by providing a low operational cost environment, mentoring services and opportunities for accelerated learning of skills that increase your probability of survival and ultimately, success.”

Mr. Chaulk demonstrates some of the gadgets and gear its engineers and computer scientists are working on with pride. The company, he says, takes innovation seriously.

That determination catapulted Solace to the top spot of an international competition for startups earlier this year. The company won the coveted Sikorsky Entrepreneurial Challenge, taking home a $25,000 cash prize to explore whether or not the company can utilize its wireless technology.

“Sikorsky Innovations, the advanced research organization of Sikorsky, leads this activity,” said Mr. Chaulk. “They use the Entrepreneurial Challenge to identify potential collaborators that can help solve some of their toughest challenges. We were very fortunate to win and as a result we gained entry to their extensive network of technical experts, business mentors, strategic team members and potential customers.”

Memorial’s role
Solace’s success is one example of how Memorial is supporting the local economy by nurturing new and innovative businesses, says Dr. Richard Marceau, Memorial’s vice-president (research) and a member of the Genesis Group’s board of directors.

“Memorial plays an integral role in building a stronger Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Marceau. “Through the quality of the education it provides and the opportunities it offers to its entrepreneurial graduates, Memorial contributes to both the strength of the provincial economy and its diversification. I congratulate Solace Power and its recent success and wish them well.”


For his part, Mr. Chaulk says he’s buoyant about the company’s future. He offers some simple advice for developing startups looking to make a splash.

“Work hard, plan to experiment, fail, adjust, experiment, fail, adjust and continue this cycle even as you start to achieve your definition of success,” he said. “Don’t give up.”

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Financing for the Construction of a Precision Medicine Centre in New Brunswick

Over $26 million will be invested in the University of Moncton to build the New Brunswick Precision Medicine Centre. Located near the University’s Moncton campus, the new centre will highlight the University’s strength in biomedical research and provide space for the incubation of new businesses. It will become the province’s first transdisciplinary clinical health research centre.

The federal government has promised $10.5 million of funding, while the New Brunswick government will provide $5.25 million to the project. The University and other partners will contribute $ 10.7 million to ensure the realization of the project. This investment will be used to build the centre and to renovate the Faculty of Science.

The investment was announced today by the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Dominic LeBlanc, on behalf of the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Navdeep Bains, and the Premier of New Brunswick, Brian Gallant. President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Moncton, Raymond Théberge, stated "In addition to its important economic contribution to the region, the Precision Medicine Centre will enable our researchers to better understand the genetic, proteomic and metabolic changes caused by diseases and responses to treatment. Researchers, faculty and students of the University of Moncton will put their knowledge to the test in modern facilities tailored to their needs. This is a great day for health research in New Brunswick."

This investment will give students, teachers, and researchers the opportunity to conduct some of the most advanced research in the country in state-of-the-art facilities. They will work in settings customized to encourage their continuous learning and development, and, in close collaboration with their partners, will be able to translate their discoveries into concrete products and services. In doing so, they will prepare to fill – and create – future middle class jobs with high added value. Their findings will foster the emergence of a new generation of innovators.

The New Brunswick Precision Medicine Centre will bring together the research efforts of many researchers from the University and our main research partners (Atlantic Institute for Cancer Research, Vitality Health Network, New Brunswick Medical Training Centre, Horizon Health Network, and Mount Allison University).

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Financing for the Construction of a Precision Medicine Centre in New Brunswick

Over $26 million will be invested in the University of Moncton to build the New Brunswick Precision Medicine Centre. Located near the University’s Moncton campus, the new centre will highlight the University’s strength in biomedical research and provide space for the incubation of new businesses. It will become the province’s first transdisciplinary clinical health research centre.

The federal government has promised $10.5 million of funding, while the New Brunswick government will provide $5.25 million to the project. The University and other partners will contribute $ 10.7 million to ensure the realization of the project. This investment will be used to build the centre and to renovate the Faculty of Science.

The investment was announced today by the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Dominic LeBlanc, on behalf of the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Navdeep Bains, and the Premier of New Brunswick, Brian Gallant. President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Moncton, Raymond Théberge, stated "In addition to its important economic contribution to the region, the Precision Medicine Centre will enable our researchers to better understand the genetic, proteomic and metabolic changes caused by diseases and responses to treatment. Researchers, faculty and students of the University of Moncton will put their knowledge to the test in modern facilities tailored to their needs. This is a great day for health research in New Brunswick."

This investment will give students, teachers, and researchers the opportunity to conduct some of the most advanced research in the country in state-of-the-art facilities. They will work in settings customized to encourage their continuous learning and development, and, in close collaboration with their partners, will be able to translate their discoveries into concrete products and services. In doing so, they will prepare to fill – and create – future middle class jobs with high added value. Their findings will foster the emergence of a new generation of innovators.

The New Brunswick Precision Medicine Centre will bring together the research efforts of many researchers from the University and our main research partners (Atlantic Institute for Cancer Research, Vitality Health Network, New Brunswick Medical Training Centre, Horizon Health Network, and Mount Allison University).

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Création d’un Centre de médecine de précision du N.-B. à l’Université de Moncton

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Tesla’s battery research partner shows potential new path for longer EV range and durability

While announced last year, the partnership only went into effect in June 2016. The group just released its first research paper since and it could lead to a potential increase in energy density and durability.


Dahn’s research focuses on extending the lifespan of Li-ion battery cells, which is obviously something of high interest for Tesla.

The new paper will be published in the October edition of the Journal of Power Sources and it is co-authored by Dahn himself and 4 other members of his battery-research group and members of Dalhousie University’s Physics and Chemistry departments: Jian Xia, Remi Petibon, Deijun Xiong, Lin Ma.

The paper states that ethylene carbonate (EC), an organic compound until now thought to be an essential electrolyte component for Li-ion cells,  is “actually detrimental for cells at high voltages” – 4.5 V and above. Tesla/Panasonic’s current cells are believed to be around 4.2 V, but the upcoming cells to be produced at the Gigafactory are expected to have a higher voltage.

In order to replace EC in the electrolytes, the group developed “EC-free linear alkyl carbonate electrolytes” and tested them in pouch cells. They report “excellent charge-discharge cycling and storage properties” and better cyclability of cells than cells with EC.

The researchers are hopeful that it could lead to better high-voltage battery cells:

“Further optimizing these linear alkyl carbonate electrolytes with appropriate co-additives may represent a viable path to the successful commercial utilization of NMC/graphite Li-ion cells operated to 4.5 V and above.”

Higher voltage could lead to more energy dense battery packs to achieve longer all-electric range. Better cyclability could also help extend the lifespan of the cells and therefore the battery packs, which is the focus of Dahn’s research as previously mentioned.

Dalhousie University’s battery-research group are working closely with Tesla CTO JB Straubel and Kurt Kelty, Tesla’s Director of Battery Technology, through the new partnership.

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Fredericton to Host Progress Top 101 Growth Conference, Startup Canada Awards

Ignite Fredericton pitched Fredericton as a host city, citing the added draw of the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival occurring the same week.

“We’re thrilled to be hosting Progress’ Top 101 event and the Startup Canada Awards, as this completely aligns with our vision of being the Startup/Entrepreneur Capital of Canada,” Fredericton mayor Mike O’Brien said in a release.

The Progress 101 event recognizes Atlantic Canadian companies that have made a significant contribution to the region’s economic growth. These companies are celebrated both at the event and in Progress magazine. The conference hosts leaders from the region and presents speakers and panels. This year’s theme focuses on the past, present and future of Atlantic Canada’s business community.

“Progress magazine is now in its 23rd year of publication,” said Progress editor Tom Mason. “It is dedicated to a single goal: promoting the growth and success of the Atlantic provinces.”

“Our founder Neville Gilfoy envisioned the Progress 101 event as the ‘annual general meeting’ for the Atlantic region. We intend to stay true to that vision, to build a forum for business leaders, policy makers and entrepreneurs to come together to establish relationships and formulate ideas.”

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MaRS Market Intelligence to be Available to Atlantic Canadian Tech Companies

This will be made possible through organizations as part of the Canadian Digital Media Network (CDMN), a network of 26 regional innovation hubs across Canada focused on supporting the country’s digital entrepreneurs, and in part through a non-repayable contribution of $170,000 from ACOA’s Business Development program.

Nova Scotia-based Volta Labs and InnovaCorp, Newfoundland and Labrador-based Genesis Centre and New Brunswick-based Venn Innovation are collaborating to deliver market intelligence to their clients. The service will be provided through the talents and knowledge of sector-specific analysts based at MaRS in Toronto.

“For the past two years, Venn has been providing market intelligence to New Brunswick-based companies through a partnership with MaRS,” Venn Innovation CEO Doug Robertson said in a release. “The opportunity to extend the access to market intelligence across Atlantic Canada was facilitated through our participation in the Canadian Digital Media Network and the relationships that we have forged with the other participating organizations in the network.”

Lisa Cashmore, Director of network operations at CDMN, explained that network hubs outside Ontario had expressed interest in learning to leverage the network to access the MaRS market intelligence services being offered through the support of the Ontario’s Ministry of Research and Innovation.

“We felt the economic impact of extending this program to help companies from across the country would be extremely valuable. We are proud to have played a role in bringing this service to our Atlantic hubs,” Cashmore added.

VP of learning and insights at MaRS Discovery District Usha Srinivasan said that market, customer and industry intelligence is crucial to startups in idea development stages.

“We have been filling this critical gap since 2008 thanks to our funder Ministry of Research and Innovation,” Srinivasan added. “We are thrilled to partner with CDMN and the Atlantic provinces to extend our services beyond our borders to support other startups.”

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Op Ed: CBU research team seeks to help Cape Breton entrepreneurs be more successful

So many entrepreneurs work endless hours, often on their own, with only cursory help from family and friends.  They experience so many failures, so many “turn downs” and so much disappointment. They spend endless hours searching for information that never seems to materialize.

It’s a process that could be streamlined if only there were a better understanding of what information was out there and how they could access it with the least amount of resistance. This information is contained in a region’s “entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

I am part of a trio of researchers at Cape Breton University that is seeking to help entrepreneurs on the island be more successful. In order to support business start-up and growth in Cape Breton, we first need to identify and map Cape Breton’s “entrepreneurial ecosystem.” An entrepreneurial ecosystem refers to the elements – individuals, organizations or institutions – outside the individual entrepreneur that offer valuable information, advice, connections, mentorship, financing and other forms of essential support to increase the chances of successfully starting or growing a new business.

Our Cape Breton University research team includes Dr. Stephanie Gilbert, assistant professor of organizational management; Dr. Kevin McKague, assistant professor of entrepreneurship; and myself. I am associate professor of entrepreneurship and we are all base at the Shannon School of Business.

This research is part of a larger Atlantic Canada-wide project funded by ACOA that has been championed by Dr. Ellen Farrell (formerly of Sydney) at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax. Building on similar research to understand the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Silicon Valley, California, Dr. Farrell has pioneered efforts to apply these research techniques in Atlantic Canada.

In addition to Cape Breton University, our regional research partners include Saint Mary’s University, Memorial University in Newfoundland and Labrador, the University of Prince Edward Island, and the University of New Brunswick.

My colleague, Dr. Gilbert, notes that, “The research seeks to identify where entrepreneurs currently go for various types of support services, and how valuable they perceived these services to be.”

With this information, we can better understand how knowledge and help for entrepreneurs flows in our region and will allow us to make recommendations for improvements in the entrepreneurial community. The findings of our research have the potential to lead us to a detailed and deeper understanding of the nature and extent of the entrepreneurial support ecosystem in Cape Breton and ways that it can continually be improved. We can also compare and contrast our situation in Cape Breton with those in other Atlantic provinces to further increase our understanding.

Dr. McKague, who teaches social entrepreneurship at Cape Breton University’s MBA program in community economic development, notes that, “A unique contribution that Cape Breton is contributing to the broader research consortium is actively including social enterprises in the list of organizations that we are surveying.”

Nova Scotia’s Social Enterprise Strategy Framework defines a social enterprise as “A business or organization operated for the purpose of addressing social, economic or environmental challenges.” CBU has worked with Tanya Andrews, Nicole Lucas-Richardson and the rest of the social enterprise sector team of the Cape Breton Partnership Prosperity Framework to identify organizations in Cape Breton that have a mission to actively pursue the achievement of social and environmental as well as economic goals. Our goal is to reach as many entrepreneurs as possible. To date we have identified over 360 businesses that might qualify as being run by an “entrepreneur.”

A great deal of additional work has been accomplished in identifying small and medium-sized businesses and social enterprises on Cape Breton Island by our research assistant, Jill MacPherson. We have contacted such agencies as InovaCorp, the Cape Breton Partnership, ACOA, Business Nova Scotia and Entrevestor in an effort to compile this list. To date we have identified over 560 businesses that might qualify as being run by an “entrepreneur” and if you are on that list you may receive an email invitation to complete a short survey from us in the upcoming weeks.

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Dr. David Risk and Flux Lab Team receive $1.8 million for gas leak detection technology

Dr. Risk, StFX Associate Professor of Earth Sciences, Director at the FluxLab, and ExACT Project Lead, was joined at the announcement by fellow StFX Dr. Kevin Wamsley, StFX Academic Vice President & Provost, and event emcee, Dr. Richard Isnor, StFX Associate Vice-President Research & Graduate Studies, among other distinguished guests.

The funding will support a four-year applied-research process to build on a patent-protected platform technology to develop a gas detection sensor used as an inspection tool for the oil and gas industry.

The ExACT sensor, short for "Emissions Attribution via Computational Techniques," will be designed to be mounted on a vehicle which, while driving around a site, gathers near-ground geochemical readings, uploads these readings to a cloud-based database, and allows for real-time analysis. The detection of gas leaks in a comprehensive, cost effective and efficient manner is of paramount importance in regulatory compliance as well as in minimizing product loss and maximizing environmental protection.

In adding his congratulations to Dr. Risk and his research team, Dr. Wamsley shared a few words on behalf of StFX President Dr. Kent MacDonald, who was unable to be in attendance at the ceremony.

“Dr. Dave Risk and his team of student researchers have worked diligently in creating new tools to detect gas leaks in the oil and gas industry,” says Dr. MacDonald. “This ACOA funding will help StFX researchers continue to develop ground breaking technology to encourage environmental improvements, regulatory compliance, and minimize product loss in the energy sector in Canada.

“Methane leaks and vents from energy developments are a worldwide problem. Over the past few years we've worked with progressive energy companies and developed tools to help them see what’s being emitted—often 100 times faster than before,” Dr. Risk said.

“Since bold new reduction targets have been announced by Canada, the U.S., and Mexico, demand for our expertise has soared. We're excited that with this project, ACOA is helping us improve our technology for the mass market so that we, in turn, can empower companies to hit reduction targets early and easily, and create benefits for all.”

ACOA’s innovation programming, which includes the Atlantic Innovation Fund and the Business Development Program, responds to the evolving needs of Atlantic businesses and researchers. It is designed to help bring to market new products, technologies and services that will improve the competitiveness and productivity of the Atlantic economy. The programs also support small and medium-sized enterprises across the region to acquire or adapt innovative technologies that can improve their productivity and competitiveness, while also enabling them to build the skills they need to innovate and compete in today’s global economy.

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The Digital Side of Charlottetown

McCrae, the Propel ICT Vice-President, had just overseen her organization’s first Local Demo Day in Charlottetown. It had taken place before a packed house at the Upstreet Craft Brewery, the crowd full of mentors, entrepreneurs and politicians. And, she had to agree things were different when she started her own IT company on the Island four years earlier.

When McCrae went through the Propel accelerator, then called Launch36, she had to drive to Moncton each week for instruction. Propel and the Charlottetown tech community were too young to have a cohort in P.E.I. Both have grown up, as was evident at the Local Demo Day.

“You can see how much support there is here to help companies succeed,” said McCrae. “There wasn’t anything like this when I was going through.”

With its rich tradition in agriculture and veterinary medicine, the Prince Edward Island innovation community until recently was skewed heavily toward life sciences. Yes, there were great IT success stories, like video display advertising company ScreenScape Networks and digital archive manager discoverygarden. But with institutions like the PEI BioAlliance and the Regis Duffy Bioscience Fund, the support network for life sciences teams was far greater than for their brethren in IT.

But that is changing for a few reasons.

First, there are more IT companies springing up in P.E.I. Consider this: the latest Propel ICT cohort received a record 168 applications and P.E.I.  (which has about 6 percent of the region’s population) accounted for 18 percent of the entries.

Second, there are more established places for them to meet and work. Some of the young startups have been working in the Launchpad PEI co-working space, which is where the Propel cohort met. Charlottetown’s Startup Zone opened this summer. This startup house was expecting to welcome 16 companies in IT and other segments, offering them office space, programming and peer-to-peer support.

And third, there is Propel itself. Island companies are still able to join the advanced Build accelerator and travel to Moncton once a week for mentoring. Onset Communications, a Charlottetown company that helps film crew members communicate with one another instantly, did just that in the first cohort of 2016.

But there is also an option of joining the Launch program for entrepreneurial beginners, which for the first time this year met in Charlottetown. Five companies completed the Launch accelerator on the Island this spring and presented at the Local Demo Day. They included companies like Airbly, which has developed hardware and software that automates the process of keeping a flight log for small aircraft, and King Ding Productions Inc., which aims to improve food safety.

“IT is the fastest growing industry,” said J. Heath MacDonald, the minister of Economic Development and Tourism. “It just continues to expand. And what’s going on in P.E.I. is just phenomenal – especially the involvement of our youth as they are our future.”

McCrae knows the importance of building IT companies, and the challenges these companies face. Before joining the Propel staff in 2015, McCrae was the CEO of GetGifted, an Island phenomenon that let merchants give gifts to customers as long as they stopped by the shop or restaurant. The company went through Launch36 but shut down when the problems of expanding in a big city became obvious. Now, based in Halifax, McCrae works mentoring companies across the region and is looking forward to the next cohort – for which applications are now open.

She said the entrepreneurs and experts throughout Charlottetown have come out to help mentor the new tech entrepreneurs. “This has created an integrated program with support from the community and from the people within the program itself.”

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Former Bell Labs Site Seeks to Inspire New Inventors

A water tower in the shape of a transistor, which the company’s scientists created in 1947 as part of their continuing mission to improve and expand communications, stands over the Bell Works complex in Holmdel, near the site where the Big Bang theory of the universe was proven.

With that history, the developer who acquired the building in 2013 after it sat vacant for seven years is hoping to lure tech entrepreneurs and others to the glass and steel structure originally designed by Eero Saarinen, who also designed St. Louis’ Gateway Arch.

Somerset Development President Ralph Zucker envisions the office space as a “metroburb” anchored by tech companies that are joined by retail, entertainment, health care and nearby homes.

“It’s an attractive building with an incredible history that was a cradle of many innovations,” said Zucker.

Aside from the allure of being surrounded by history, the state’s Economic Development Authority also offered millions in tax credits to companies considering moving to the complex.

Bell Works is about 60 per cent full after last month’s lease signing by human resources software provider iCIMS as the anchor tenant. iCIMS received a 10−year, $38 million tax credit.

Other tenants include the software company WorkWave, data storage startup Symbolic IO and cloud−based communications services designer Acacia Communications.

Plans also call for Toll Brothers to develop up to 40 single−family homes and 185 age−restricted townhomes, as well as a field house for sports.

Mayor Eric Hinds said the redevelopment will build on the work of the past, which itself transformed Holmdel from “a farm town into a corporate destination.”

Bell Labs began in 1925 when AT&T and Western Electric consolidated engineering departments to solve the problems of a new telecommunications network, said Bell Labs archivist Ed Eckert.

“It gathered a unique variety of research areas in one company,” said Eckert. “The scientists were really good at looking at the big problem and coming up with a solution and improving on it.”

The company operated out of offices throughout the New York area and scientists worked to link the nation by phone. The next step was bridging the Atlantic Ocean.

Needing to conduct experiments away from radio static generated in the city, the company acquired land in Holmdel, about 45 miles from New York. It was there in 1932 that Karl Jansky, who was studying how to expand overseas calls, discovered radio astronomy by bouncing radio signals off the Milky Way.

The mission to expand and improve telecommunications continued and researchers looked toward space when they developed the Telstar satellite communications system. It was also during the 1960s, Bell Labs scientists created the Unix computer still used today.

The company has 14 Nobel Prize winners, including Steven Chu, who developed methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light when he worked in Holmdel.

Bell Labs’ radio telephone division moved into the Holmdel research lab complex in 1962. It was put up for sale in 2006 and the breakup of AT&T in 1984 meant Bell Labs went through several evolutions. Despite perceptions, it never went away. Today, it is known as Nokia Bell Labs in Murray Hill, New Jersey.

President Marcus Weldon said the mission to invent the future of communications remains the same.

“The names of the labs have changed,” said Weldon. “But as we enter the network, we take on pre−eminence importance.”

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New Programming at Planet Hatch

Chicago-born Kinney, who has been in her post at the New Brunswick incubator and co-working space for the past six months, said she is impressed by the collaboration in the province’s startup community.

That collaboration is enabling the streamlining work, which is being undertaken by a task force of stakeholders, led by Larry Shaw, CEO of Ignite Fredericton.

“We are not a huge community so we can’t duplicate services,” said Kinney, who sits on Fredericton's Startup Taskforce.

“The taskforce, with the leadership of Larry Shaw, CEO of Ignite Fredericton, is working to create a subway model in which we lay out services available to entrepreneurs, so startups can be seamlessly directed to the correct provider…”

Planet Hatch is known for fostering startups in the IT sector. It has recently said it intends to provide more help to non-IT startups. 

“We’re expanding to programs that include the broader startup community,” said Kinney, who has lived on Canada’s east coast since 2009, when she arrived with her New Brunswick-raised engineer husband Jeremy Kinney.

“For example, we have recently taken on an artrepreneur-in-residence at Planet Hatch with the aim of building better connections to local artists.”

The first artrepreneur is Kate Roy, a film-maker and photographer. Artists in any discipline can apply for the one-month role. They receive a dedicated working space, display their work and are invited to networking events.

They also act as a mentor, and take part in the group’s monthly Office Hours, providing consultation to startups.

“The artrepreneur is also promoting the wider artistic community. We see them as entrepreneurs and want them to have the same resources as everyone else,” said Kinney, adding that Planet Hatch expects to house six artrepreneurs a year.

Event Season in 2016 Focuses on New Brunswick

Over the summer, the group ran a creativity workshop for entrepreneurs, led by painter Ingrid Mueller.

“It was to help entrepreneurs access their creative side,” Kinney said. “We weren’t allowed to use social media…We drew and painted. We listened and engaged.”

Also new—for two Wednesdays every month Planet Hatch offers ‘open working hours’.

“Half of our centre is a co-working space for our tenants. We also have community space, so that people who work from home or who are students, can work here and have networking opportunities twice a month.”

Kinney said there is a lot of cross-over between her new role and her previous post with the Darden Graduate School of Business at the University of Virginia, where she worked for nine years in executive education management.

“I planned and populated programs there too. What’s different now is that after a few years at home, caring for my children, I find social media has become very important. 

“We use social media to communicate everything we do. This summer, we have three university student interns who opened my eyes to platforms like Snapchat, Periscope and other ways to reach youth.”

It’s essential to use all avenues to educate the community about the resources and opportunities available for entrepreneurs, Kinney said.

“We do a lot of youth initiatives. Recently, we ran a kids learning code session for ages six to 12. We try to be present at child and youth events, such as a recent STEAM contest (science, technology, engineering, arts and math).

Kinney said the taskforce is also planning for the Startup Canada Regional Awards, which will be held for the first time in Fredericton. The September 13th event is timed to coincide with the city’s Harvest Jazz and Blues festival to attract a particularly celebratory crowd.

“Fredericton is a great place to start a business,” Kinney said. “We strive to encourage youth to take the opportunities and start what they’re interested in.”

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Event Season in 2016 Focuses on NB

There are at least five big events planned for the region this autumn, and three that were held in Halifax last year will be in New Brunswick this year.

The regional finals for the Startup Canada Awards will be held Sept. 13 in Fredericton.  Invest Atlantic arrives in Moncton on Oct. 5 and 6, and the Big Data Congress returns home to Saint John on Oct. 17 and 19.

Two conferences that have been held in Halifax since their inception will take place in the Nova Scotian capital again this year – Startup Empire on Sept. 23, and BioPort Atlantic on Oct. 25 and 26.

The largest of these events is the Big Data Congress, which the tech services company T4G started in Saint John in January 2013. The goal of the conference has always been not just to discuss developments in data analytics with people who work in the field but also to educate the broader community on how data analytics can improve a range of industries.

After a year in Halifax, it will be held once again at the Saint John Trade and Convention Centre this year with the theme of Big Data and the industrial Internet of things, or IIoT. The organizers are expecting about 800 attendees and more than 30 speakers. Tickets are available here.

The Big Data Congress tends to attract speakers who are household names in global tech circles. This year’s selection includes Alex ‘Sandy” Pentland, Director of MIT’s Human Dynamics and Media Lab Entrepreneurship Program; Alec Ross, author and Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Johns Hopkins University; and Sandy Bird, Chief Technology Officer for IBM’s Software Security Division. Two regional entrepreneurs who will speak at the event are:  Tyler Wish, CEO and Co-Founder of St. John’s-based Sequence Bio, and Andrea Feunekes, CEO, President and Co-Founder of Remsoft of Fredericton.

Invest Atlantic started in 2010, and it’s always been held in Halifax. Last year’s Chair Nancy Mathis, the head of the Wallace McCain Institute at University of New Brunswick, suggested to organizer Bob Williamson that the next one be held in New Brunswick. So this year’s event will be held at the Delta Beauséjour in Moncton. Tickets are available here.

Along the same lines, the Startup Canada Awards last year had so many regional winners from New Brunswick that the awards presentation for the region this year will be held at the Fredericton Convention Centre. You register for the event here. The regional winners will compete for the nation awards, which will be handed out in Toronto on Nov. 29.

Startup Empire is hosted by Volta Labs in Halifax and as such will be held in Halifax this year. Volta has announced the date but no other details.

Organized by the Nova Scotia life sciences association BioNova, BioPort is the oldest of these events, having first been held in 2002. The highlight of the life sciences conference is the BioInnovation Challenge, a pitching competition for biotech companies. This year the winner will take home $50,000 in cash and in-kind services.

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MentorCamp to Debut in Sydney

Founder Permjot Valia launched MentorCamp in Halifax in 2011 and has since held the event in such locations as Arkansas, South Africa, and Manitoba. He recently became the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Island Sandbox, an innovation program for post-secondary students in Cape Breton, and has therefore decided to hold the 2016 event on the island.

“I’m looking forward to bringing in the mentors and introducing them to Cape Breton — both for the mentors, to show then what Cape Breton has to offer, and for the local companies,” said MentorCamp Chief Operating Officer Carolyn Clegg in an interview last week.

MentorCamp was formerly an annual event in the region and is now held every second year. It has been held five times in the region, always in Halifax, and the big change this year is it is being held in Cape Breton for the first time. It’s the first time Sydney will host a startup event aimed at companies from beyond the local startup community.

Sydney boasts one of the fastest growing startup communities in the region. As of the end of 2015, there were 32 startups on Cape Breton and 21 were less than two years old. The local incubator, Navigate Startup House, has recently received federal and provincial funding and is working to stage more events for startups based in Cape Breton and elsewhere.

The MentorCamp event will bring together an array of mentors from Atlantic Canada and outside the region who are experts in a range of disciplines.

They include: Arkansas entrepreneur Carol Reeves, who has been profiled in such publications as Forbes; Michael Sikorsky, the CEO of Calgary startup Robots & Pencils; Mark MacLeod, the founder of SurePath Capital Partners of Toronto; and April Dunford, a Toronto-based specialist in startup sales, marketing and customer support.

As well as startups from all four Atlantic Provinces, the companies attending MentorCamp include promising startups from other areas so all participants — mentors and entrepreneurs — can compare the local companies with those from elsewhere.

The eight companies attending MentorCamp are: Airbly, Argyle Shore, PEI; Campfire Union, Winnipeg; Empowered Homes, St. John's, ReadyPass, Fredericton; Treatsie, Fayetteville; Ubique Networks, Sydney and Toronto; WellTrack, Fredericton; and WoodsCamp, Mahone Bay.

Read our Recent Coverage of MentorCamp Companies:

Airbly To Launch 100 Units This Summer

Ubique Lands $2M, Preps for Series A

WoodsCamp To Disrupt Timber Market

WellTrack Pitches at Propel ICT Demo Day

ReadyPass, Empowered Homes Graduate from Propel Launch

The event spans two days. On Monday, Aug. 15, the eight invited companies will spend the day with the mentors.

The next day, about 20 companies from Sydney’s burgeoning startup community will be invited to attend one-on-one sessions with the mentors attending the event.

Clegg said the MentorCamp organizers will decide after the event whether to hold it in Cape Breton again or to return to Halifax or try another part of Atlantic Canada. She added the team is impressed with the energy they’re finding in the Sydney area, and Valia hopes to be involved in many other events in the area.

“They’re eager, and there’s definitely skill there,” said Clegg. “And what’s happening now is they’re pulling it all together, and we’re really seeing the support happen.”

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Press Release: Springboard Ready To Help Drive Atlantic Growth Strategy Forward

(Halifax) – Springboard Atlantic, a network of 19 Atlantic universities and colleges committed to transferring knowledge and technology to the region’s private sector, is applauding the recent announcement by the Government of Canada and the four Atlantic Provinces on the creation of the Atlantic Growth Strategy.

“This two-year strategy will help to better position this region to be able to compete at the national and international levels”, says Springboard CEO Chris Mathis.  “Based on the proposed action plan we also believe that Springboard Atlantic, which is supported by the federal government through the Atlantic Innovation Fund, is best positioned to help both levels of government drive the agenda forward.”

Springboard’s network members work to connect publicly-funded research and expertise to businesses through a range of programs and services. This creates new collaborations, partnerships, ventures and competitive products and services.  A key component of Springboard is the ongoing support of commercializing research in Atlantic Canada.

“The Atlantic Growth Strategy Action Plan is directly in line with Springboard Atlantic’s mandate and the strategic goals of our organization,” adds Mathis.  “Whether it’s the immigration pilot, the initiative around international student retention, start-up support, technology transfer, research commercialization, clean energy, or the Post-Secondary Education Strategic Infrastructure Fund, the Springboard network is positioned to assist government in driving this agenda forward.”

Springboard Atlantic ( was created with funding through the Atlantic Innovation Fund.

“The Federal Government’s investments in the commercialization of university and college-based research and development through Springboard Atlantic are helping to build a stronger, more competitive and sustainable economy in our region," says Mathis. “This investment is already helping to support the creation of new and improved products, streamline processes and develop a skilled workforce that can compete successfully in the global marketplace.  This is why we see Springboard as a great resource to help drive the Atlantic Growth Strategy forward.”



Media Contact:
Chris Mathis
Springboard Atlantic
(902) 476-1641