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Number 9

Volume 31 September 20 2017

Editorial

Kudos to the tri-agency Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) for finally doing the right thing and offering the prospect of renewed support to deserving networks beyond the current funding limits of three, five-year terms.

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Opinion Leader:
Alexandre Navarre

Entrepreneurs and innovators succeed when they work effectively together

There has been a tendency in recent policy papers to argue that a focus on entrepreneurship is the answer to Canada’s weak innovation performance. There is no academic study to back this assertion and if interested parties to pursue this myth, it will inevitably lead to confusion. Not only do entrepreneurship skills not equate to innovator skills, but rather entrepreneurs often rely on innovators to successfully carry out their projects.

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Colleges, polytechnics say time is right to boost funding for applied research

Polytechnics and colleges are once again making the case for what they say is a fair share of funding for applied research. In their pre-Budget submissions to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance, Polytechnics Canada, and Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan) are asking to double the funding made available to applied research in previous Budgets.

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New Space Advisory Board calls for urgent action to halt decline in embattled sector

The precarious state of Canada’s space sector has compelled the recently populated Space Advisory Board (SAB) to issue an “urgent call to action” for a new national strategy and “long-term continuity” for its space program. The recommendation to the federal government is part of a suite of suggested actions that include taking a whole-of-government approach to space, making space a national strategic asset, boosting smaller programs considered more suited to the so-called New Space environment and a continuing role for the SAB to ensure coordination, stakeholder dialogue and metrics to evaluate implementation plans.

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Scientists raise alarm over future of neutron beam research capacity

Canadian researchers whose work relies on access to a neutron beam source have issued an urgent appeal to the federal government for stop-gap funding to offset the looming impact from the March 2018 closure of the National Research Universal (NRU) reactor at Chalk River ON. The Canadian Neutron Initiative (CNI) is requesting $24 million over the next three years and $19 million a year between 2021 and 2029 to buy beam time at foreign facilities and to upgrade the small, medium-flux nuclear reactor at McMaster Univ.

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Opinion Leader:
Margaret Dalziel

Using research findings to design a better SBIR for Canada

Among the innovation-related initiatives announced in Budget 2017 is Innovative Solutions Canada, a $50 million program inspired by the US Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. Recent research has shed new light on the effectiveness of the US SBIR program, and suggests that Canada may be able to design a superior program by offering modest levels of support to young companies in emerging sectors, and letting the private sector fund provide follow-on financing.

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Sunsetting and former NCEs thrown potential new lifeline in latest competition

A long-standing grievance that has plagued the Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) since its creation 28 years ago is finally being addressed in the tri-agency’s latest funding competition. For the first time ever, the NCE is allowing former networks to compete alongside new networks for funding. Up for grabs is $75 million for over five years with the option to renew.

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Report calls for data-driven approach to government investing to grow world-class Canadian firms

A report from the University of Toronto’s Impact Centre is calling for a data-driven approach to maximizing the government’s investments in Canadian firms and growing them to be world-class. The report — Government Venture Capital: Can the Public Sector Pick and Nurture World Class Companies? — says that the strategy for venture capital investments of the Canadian government is not to simply copy what venture capitalists in Silicon Valley are doing.

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CMC Microsystems extends window for securing new financing; prepares for leadership change

The leaders of CMC Microsystems have announced their retirement after saving the organization from a near-death experience and giving it renewed hope of further funding after current government commitments end in 2019. President and CEO, Dr Ian McWalter, will step down at the end of the current FY after 33 years of engagement and — years at the helm. Also stepping down is Dan Gale, VP and CTO, who joined CMC (then known as Canadian Microelectronics Corp) prior to its incorporation 1984.

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News Bites

News Briefs

Toronto AI firm gets fund boost from Fidelity Investments

A Toronto-based company developing artificial intelligence (AI) systems for enterprises has recently received a fresh round of funding from Fidelity Investments Canada. DeepLearni.ng will use the $9 million in Series A funding to help the company scale the development of its machine learning platform, called Frontiers, which is used for rapid deployment of AI enterprises. DeepLearni.ng, which is based at the University of Toronto, designs, builds and deploys applied AI systems for enterprises. The company also plans to grow outside of Canada, focusing on financial services and other strategic industries. The investment will also help fund the company’s growth plans, which includes growing the company’s talent pool from the current 23. The company is barely a year old, having been established in winter 2016.

GTA bid for second Amazon HQ underway

Mayors in the Greater Toronto Area have mobilized to formalize their bid to woo internet giant Amazon to consider Toronto as its next North American headquarters. Mayors of Toronto, Mississauga and Brampton are joined by the chief executives of the regions of Durham, Halton and York to prepare to submit a proposal to Amazon. Mark Cohon, chair of Toronto Global, and Janet Ecker, vice-chair of Toronto Global are tasked to lead the GTA’s bid team. Toronto Global is a not-for-profit organization that markets the entire region to international investors. Municipalities say that with Amazon already occupying two-million square feet of operational footprint across the GTA, the region will make for a good second base of operations.  But the GTA is in for some tough competition as other cities across the US have also expressed interest. Other cities or regions vying to host Amazon include: New York, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Austin, Boston, the Bay area in California, and Washington DC. In what officials say is being “a little un-Canadian,” mayors say they want to showcase the region’s “unmatched cultural diversity to Amazon executives and … show off our amazing quality of life.”

Merck to acquire Burlington-based Natrix Separations

Merck, Darmstadt Germany, is acquiring Natrix Separations Inc, Burlington ON, a provider of hydrogel membrane products used to eliminate impurities during bioprocessing and accelerate the production of monoclonal antibodies and vaccines. Natrix markets both an anion exchange membrane and cation exchange membrane and is developing additional products to enable a fully single-use, full-scale biological purification process — an area of increasing importance to Merck customers. It’s estimated that the market for next-generation processing will triple between 2020 and 2025, increasing plant productivity, facility flexibility, cost efficiencies and reduced risk. Natrix is a privately held company founded in 2005. It has a large portfolio of intellectual property and is expanding rapidly into several vertical sectors including pharma, biopharma, animal health, nutraceutical and other industrial purification markets

Feds roll out new student-placement workforce program

The Department of Workforce Development and Labour has launched a $73-million, four-year Student Work-Integrated Learning Program (SWILP) that will create 10,000 paid workforce placements for post-secondary students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and business. The new program complements the work of Mitacs, which received $221 million over five years in the last Budget to allow the not-for-profit organization to attain its long-standing goal of 10,000 research internships for post-secondary students and postdoctoral fellows each year. The SWILP is open to polytechnics, universities, and colleges and is a key component of the federal government’s objective of creating 60,000 student work placements over the next five years, particularly in sectors where skilled talent is in short supply. In the biotechnology sector, for example, 33% of companies in the biotechnology sector report skills shortages, according to BioTalent Canada, one of several industry groups participating in the program. It will receive nearly $5.6 million to place more than 1,000 students. For aerospace, the Canadian Council for Aviation and Aerospace will receive $4.8 million. Employers and post-secondary institutions will provide eligible employers in STEM and business with wage subsidies for quality student work placements of up to 50% of the wage cost for the placement (up to $5,000 per placement) and up to 70% percent (up to $7,000 per placement) for first-year students and under-represented groups, such as women in STEM, Indigenous students, people with disabilities and newcomers.

People

Rob Annan

Genome Canada has appointed Dr Rob Annan as VP public affairs and communications, effective September 11. In his new position, Annan will be responsible for an overall communications strategy targeting major stakeholders and raising the organization’s profile nationally and internationally. For the past year, he has been an innovation and management consultant as well as an inaugural fellow at the Public Policy Forum.  Prior to that, Annan served as chief research officer at Mitacs Inc for two-and-a-half years and interim CEO for eight months between the terms of Dr Arvind Gupta and Dr Alejandro Adem. He worked at Mitacs for seven years in various senior capacities including corporate strategy, stakeholder relations, research and evaluation, and policy analysis. Annan holds an honours BA (English) from Queen’s Univ, a BSC in biology and ecology from the Univ of Victoria and a PhD in biochemistry from McGill Univ.

Thierry Weissenburger

Thierry Weissenburger has been appointed to the newly created position of head of innovation at the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) at its Ottawa headquarters with Global Affairs Canada.  Weissenburger is a longtime executive with the TCS, most recently in Boston where he served as consul and senior trade commissioner. He managed the Canadian Technology Accelerator and helped launch the Canadian Entrepreneurs in New England (CENE) in 2013 to assist Canadian firms in establishing a presence in the northeastern US. Prior to that, he was consul and senior trade commissioner for San Francisco-Silicon Valley where he was instrumental in establishing C100, a group of ex-pat Canadians working in the tech sector. C100 was also the driving force behind Boston’s CNEN. Weissenburger graduated from the Univ of California Berkeley’s Walter A Haas School of Business and its venture capital executive program. He also received a Bachelor of Business Administration and an MBA in international business and innovation from the Univ of Montreal and a BSc in marketing from Institut Superieur Commercial.

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