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Strategic direction and a re-balancing of research types essential for improving Canada’s innovation performance - McDougall

Canada must re-balance public investments that currently overemphasize fundamental research and provide high-level direction to increase the uptake and application of innovation, including offering experiential learning and professional development for key players in the innovation ecosystem, says a former president of the National Research Council (NRC).

Latest Issue:

Number 12

Volume 31 December 20 2017

Editorial

The last few weeks have seen a number of public funding announcements address climate change by adapting clean technology through research and innovation. At the federal level, there’s $155 million for the natural resources sector, and Alberta and Ontario have announced their own initiatives, with Alberta providing up to $1.4 billion.

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Pharmaceutical R&D spending remains far below industry’s 10% commitment – PMPRB report

Another year of less-than-impressive R&D spending by the pharmaceutical industry has re-ignited the annual sparing match between industry and the organization that compiles the data. The Patented Medicines Prices Review Board (PMPRB) reports that companies belonging to Innovative Medicines Canada (IMC – formerly Rx&D) spent $770 million on R&D in 2016 or 4.9% of its $15.6 billion in sales – a ratio unchanged from 2015.

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Feds announce $155 million to help natural resources sector address climate change

The federal government has announced a $155-million program to help the natural resources sectors address climate change by developing and deploying clean technologies that will lower their notoriously high greenhouse gas emissions. The funding under the new Clean Growth Program (CGP) is aimed at the energy, mining and forestry sectors for pre-commercial projects between technology readiness levels 3 to 9.

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Opinion Leader:
Geoff Foulds

How to stop worrying and learn to love probability

Canada has a constitution opposed to probability. Our founding principles are “peace, order and good government.”

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News Bites

News Briefs

$265M in SSHRC funding for 3,300 projects

More than 3,000 social sciences and humanities researchers have been awarded $265 million as part of an annual competition held by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). The government says that in addition to providing core support, the funding is intended to help researchers build stronger partnerships with the private and not-for-profit sectors. The projects were funded under SSHRC’s recurring programs, including the doctoral and postdoctoral fellowships competition awards; partnership program; the Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarships Program for doctoral and master’s; and the Canada Graduate Scholarships to Honour Nelson Mandela Competition Awards. The Mandela awards were launched in 2014 in honour of the South African anti-apartheid leader and the country’s first post-apartheid president. SSHRC also announced recipients of the Genome Canada and SSHRC Joint Initiative on Societal Implications of Genomics Research program grants. SSHRC’s funding opportunities are competitive and merit-based and support research and training at the post-secondary level. A list of fund recipients are on the SSHRC website.

Toronto firms to get $9.5 million for cleantech development

Two Toronto-based companies are getting $9.5 million in federal funding to improve on their projects around clean energy technologies. Morgan Solar Inc is expected to use the funds for its solar power cells while NRStor Inc will use the funds to improve on its energy storage capabilities. Morgan Solar’s proprietary planar optical technology can help reduce the cost of materials used in solar panels. An initial first version is the world’s only translucent high-efficiency panel for building environments. The second version has the potential to be the lowest cost panel in the world for utility applications. The funds for NRStor are to develop higher energy storage capabilities for the Ontario electricity grid. By storing energy as compressed air and heat, the system developed by NRStor can help Canadian energy companies create more business opportunities. Investments in these two projects are made through Sustainable Development Technology Canada and support the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change.

Mining groups submit proposal for supercluster funding

Six groups in the mining sector from across Canada have submitted a full proposal to participate in the final leg of the Innovation Supercluster Initiative (ISI), accumulating commitments of $700 million – $450 million in cash and $244 million in-kind. The consortium represents 162 partners in industry, government and academia including the Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation (CEMI), Centre for Innovation in Mineral Resource Engineering (CIMRE), Canada Mining Innovation Council (CMIC), COREM of Quebec, International Minerals Mining Institute, and Mining Suppliers Trade Association. The groups make up the CLEER (Clean, Low-energy, Effective, Engaged and Remediated) Supercluster, which was among the nine shortlisted proposals. CEMI and CMIC are leading the partnership, having submitted both the first-stage Letter of Intent last summer and the proposal last month. The consortium notes that unlike other supercluster proposals that are concentrated in select geographies, its grouping covers a broader scope with members from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec. The consortium says its composition is built on existing regional ecosystems to include service providers and suppliers, anchor companies, R&D organizations, post-secondary institutions, and partners from other sectors across Canada, including clean tech. The proposal seeks to boost the productivity, performance and global competitiveness of the mining sector through innovation that will address challenges in energy, water and the environment. If successful in its bid, it will share in the government’s $950-million, five-year contribution. CLEER projects it will generate more than 38,000 new, direct high-paying jobs and more than 100,000 indirect jobs and contribute up to $26 billion to GDP after the five-year funding period and an additional 8,000 jobs and $21 billion as benefits ripple through the economy.

People

Robert Verhagen

Robert Verhagen, CEO, Centre for the Commercialization of Antibodies and Biologics

The Centre for the Commercialization of Antibodies and Biologics has named Robert Verhagen as its new CEO. In this new position, Verhagen is expected to steer CCAB as a leader in the commercialization of academic discoveries in biologics and position it at the forefront of biotech advancement in Canada. Verhagen has more than 20 years of business and executive experience in pharmaceuticals and diagnostics. After carrying out the reorganization of Helix Pharma when he was its CEO, Verhagen raised $30 million and advanced its lung cancer drug candidate through early stage clinical trials.  He sits on the portfolio development committee for Innovate Calgary, providing due diligence and advice to early-stage companies engaged in the development of new technology, from life sciences to cleantech. Verhagen held executive or senior management roles at Spectral Medical Inc, MDS Inc, and founded INH Technologies Inc.

Dr Elissa Strome

The Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) has appointed a new executive director to head its recently funded Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy. Dr Elissa Strome of the Univ of Toronto will join the CIFAR team effective January 2, 2018, announced Dr Alan Bernstein, CIFAR president and CEO. The $125-million Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy funded under Budget 2017 supports the newly established AI institutes in Edmonton (the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute), Toronto (the Vector Institute) and Montreal (Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms).  Strome, who has a PhD in neuroscience from Univ of British Columbia, was most recently executive director of SOSCIP, a platform for collaborative R&D in data science and advanced computing. She was also the director of strategic initiatives at the Univ of Toronto’s office of VP Research and Innovation.

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