The recently concluded 17th annual RE$EARCH MONEY conference proved to be another success. The feedback we received was overwhelmingly positive, and already there are new ideas about how to make next year’s conference yet another must-attend event for the STI policy and investment community.
It’s not every day that STI stakeholders gather to discuss the pertinent issues of the day. So it was exciting to hear from a wide range of different geographies, sectors and levels of government. Whether it was in the plenary or break-out panel discussions or in networking breaks, discussions were insightful and productive.
Establishing Canada’s leadership in science diplomacy by engaging young scientists, a G7 opportunity
Diplomacy and international collaborations are key components of public policy and grand challenges, such as global health and climate change.
CCA report fuses research and industrial R&D data to expose weak linkages between home-grown S&T and wealth creation
Canadian science and technology and industrial R&D are faced with a growing risk of becoming branch plants of research, innovation and competitiveness for other countries. While not new, this conclusion reached by an expert panel tasked to examine the issue that says the severity and urgency of the situation are increasing due to rapidly evolving global trends, the “start and sell” mentality of many tech entrepreneurs and the ecosystem damage inflicted between 2006 and 2015.
With elections just around the corner, Ontario Liberals released earlier than usual its 2018 budget, which includes at least $1.5 billion for R&D and innovation. The $158.5-billion spending plan focuses largely on enhanced social, education and healthcare initiatives but also commits millions to businesses as well as R&D, innovation and competitiveness.
‘Reimagining’ National Academies: A Northern Minerva Reboots
‘Reimagination’ is very much in the news today (not to be confused with the imagineers at Walt Disney Imagineering R&D subsidiary). We saw the word trotted out in the 2018 federal Budget on how the 101-year-old National Research Council (NRC) was going to form a new conception of itself — not that it hasn’t been reimagined several times before.
Québec 2018 Budget: $1B in research and innovation to implement advisory council recommendations, SQRI
Last month, Québec tabled its 2018 budget, which includes more than $1 billion for research, innovation and economic growth, reflecting several recommendations made by the Advisory Council on the Economy and Innovation.
Alberta’s NDP government tabled its 2018 Budget on March 22 by reiterating a long-standing objective of diversifying its economy, both in its traditional strengths in energy and in emerging sectors, including life sciences, clean technology and health innovation.
Researchers dependent upon the aging nuclear reactor operated by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) are disappointed that their request for modest funding to facilitate access to different sources of neutron beams was not responded to in the latest federal Budget.
The Canada-Israel Industrial R&D Foundation (CIIRDF) is accepting proposals for bilateral R&D projects focusing on the commercialization of new technologies. Private sector companies from the two countries are invited to propose joint research, R&D and technology development projects for the creation of innovative products or processes with a non-defence application. The priorities are small- and medium-sized enterprises or firms with fewer than 500 employees. Maximum project length is 24 months. They can leverage academic expertise and engage students jointly with the the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC). Universities and research institutions can be involved in projects as subcontractors or consultants but not as applicants. Special considerations are for information and communication technologies, life sciences, aerospace, clean tech and sustainable technology, plus limited energy, as well as agriculture and agrifood. CIIRDF selects and awards qualified applicants with up to 50% of the eligible project costs and to a maximum of CDN$800,000 per project. Deadlines: May 31 for summary proposal submission; June 29 for full proposal submission. Notification of approved projects: October 2018.
An aerospace consortium led by Québec-based Bell Helicopter Textron Canada Ltd. is receiving $49.5 million from the federal government to develop innovative technologies for integration into next-generation helicopters. Support was provided through the Strategic Innovation Fund. With fully autonomous aerial systems, the innovative helicopters will be designed to fly either with or without crew on board. Other planned innovations will relate to energy efficiency, environmental sustainability and noise pollution reduction. The project is touted to generate or maintain more than 300 Canadian jobs, gain unprecedented sizable grounds in international markets and pour in $178 million to Canada’s GDP in the next five years. Among the 18 industry and academic partners bent on solidifying Canada’s position as the leading global centre for innovation in the vertical lift and unmanned aerial systems (UAS) segments are Pratt & Whitney Canada, CMC Electronics, Esterline Technologies Corporation, several small and medium-sized businesses and nine Canadian universities. Through this project, Bell Helicopter and its partners are infusing more than $125 million in Canada’s aerospace industry, which includes 700 firms. The sector contributes $28 billion in GDP and supports more than 200,000 jobs.
Life sciences firm Zucara Therapeutics Inc. has secured non-dilutive funding of US$3.9 million for the pre-clinical advancement of its lead drug candidate for diabetes, ZT-01. Zucara’s partner, The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, will provide the funds in the form of a loan under a program-related investment (PRI). ZT-01 is focused on the prevention of hypoglycemia or dangerously low blood glucose levels, which may lead to unconsciousness or death, in patients with Type 1 diabetes (T1D) and other types of insulin-dependent diabetes. For its lead drug to be on schedule for Phase I clinical trials in 2019, Zucara is pushing forward with GLP toxicology, GMP manufacturing and other investigational new drug/clinical trial application enabling activities. Zucara chief scientific officer Richard Liggins, who has helped several similar-stage therapeutics reach clinical trials, will lead the preclinical development work. To build and advance its products, Zucara is working closely with the Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD).
Kraken Robotic Systems Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of TSX-listed Kraken Robotics Inc., has pre-qualified to the Build in Canada Innovation Program (BCIP) for the company’s ThunderFish 300 Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV). Under BCIP, Kraken can sell its pre-qualified innovations to the federal government as its first reference sale. The company will receive feedback from federal departments on the performance of ThunderFish in an operational setting after the AUV testing. Built for military and scientific applications, the ThunderFish AUV is a marine robot for ultra high-resolution seabed imaging and mapping applications. Its uses include underwater surveys, environmental monitoring, habitat mapping, marine archaeology, inspection of submerged structures, searching for downed aircraft and naval mine countermeasures. ThunderFish possesses an array of sensors and custom payload modules, including Kraken’s AquaPix Synthetic Aperture Sonar. With a platform that can be configured to operate at depths of up to 6,000 meters, it is ideal for monitoring or surveillance tasks where cost efficiency, ease of deployment and operational simplicity are of critical importance. Rapid sensor reconfiguration and battery replacement are possible because of its modular design.
Ottawa recently announced more appointees to the Canada 150 Research Chairs, a program which attracted some of the top international researchers from all over the world to consider Canada their new home or to consider coming back home. The Canada 150 research chairs competition is funded in Budget 2017 for $117.6 million. The chairs come with a seven-year term at $350,000 per year and $1 million per year. The two tiers are intended to “acknowledge the varying costs of research objectives” with the proviso that the higher amount will be awarded to candidates of “exceptional calibre”. The funds are invested through the three granting councils, and Canada Foundation for Innovation is providing another $830,000 to support the program. More than 58% of the 24 chairs announced are women and 42% are Canadian expatriates. The 24 Canada 150 Research Chairs named to date, including those announced last December, hail from Australia, Austria, New Zealand, the US, the UK, and South Africa. The complete list of chairs can be found online.
The Landscape Carbon Accumulation Research (L-CARE) project of Laurentian Univ is receiving a total of $1.6 million to support its research on addressing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in Ontario. Of the total funds, 50% or $798,000 is from the TargetGHG program under the Ontario Green Investment Fund announced in Budget 2015. The other half will be provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), a TargetGHG partner. L-CARE is a part of the TargetGHG Stream 2 Collaborative R&D Program. This stream supports industry-academic collaborative R&D projects and aims to achieve Ontario’s 2020-2030 targets for GHG emission reduction. Concentrating on the management of brownfield and other industrially-impacted landscapes, the L-CARE project will study the approaches to reclamation management as part of a carbon sequestration strategy. This is in relation to extensive hard-rock mining. The project will examine the treatment and management strategies across mine tailings environments; and the upland, wetland, and aquatic ecosystems. The L-CARE project partners are Laurentian Univ, Vale Canada Limited, Glencore’s Sudbury Integrated Nickel Operations (Sudbury INO), and the City of Greater Sudbury. Co-investigators and collaborators are McMaster Univ, Trent Univ, Queen’s Univ, Univ de Sherbrooke, and Univ du Québec à Montréal. Other collaborators are Cambridge Univ, Cornell Univ, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, and the Canadian Forest Service. TargetGHG program is administered by Ontario Centres of Excellence.
Quebec’s agtech firm, Agrisoma Biosciences, Inc., has received $12 million from a new round of investors, including Desjardins Capital, a first-time investor. The company, which produces biojet fuel for the aviation industry, has recently struck deals with some global biofuel players, and the new round of funding will help them deploy their commitments and further expand the commercialization of Carinata seeds in key markets, says Cycle Capital Management, the lead investor. Another key investor in this round of funding is BDC Capital, the first and largest investor in Agrisoma and which considers Agrisoma’s biofuel as financially attractive for farmers engaged in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Another existing investor that participated in this round is Lune Rouge. The Carinata seeds that produce biofuel help in mitigating climate change. Agrisoma says the new funds can also help in expanding the production of the seeds in the United States, South America and Australia. Agrisoma produces the low GHG biofuel from the Carinata mustard oil. Australia’s Qantas Airlines last January flew a Boeing 787 Dreamliner from Australia to the US using biojet fuel. It was the first commercial transpacific flight to use Carinata-based biofuel.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada recently launched a $25-million, three-year program that aims to fund provinces and territories for clean technology projects that are expected to run from April 1, 2018 to March 31, 2021. Under the Agriculture Clean Technology (ACT) Program, the federal government will provide non-repayable contributions for projects that will help the agricultural sector reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through the development and adoption of clean tech. The funds are expected to create jobs in clean tech and address Canada’s climate change commitments. Fund recipients are encouraged to work with industry in the areas of precision agriculture and/or bioproducts, or products and agriculture technologies that can help farmers make efficient use of energy while protecting the environment. ACT funding is being made available through the Innovation and Skills Plan. It complements AAFC’s ongoing Agricultural Greenhouse Gases Program (AGGP) that also helps farmers mitigate (GHG) emissions. Aside from supporting provinces, territories and municipal governments, AGGP also supports not-for-profits, academia and aboriginal groups.
Jeff Watts and Pierre Roberge have been appointed president and chief technology officer, respectively, of Prodigy Ventures Inc., a listed innovation company and named by Deloitte as one of Canada’s fastest growing technology companies. Roberge will also serve as senior VP for solutions and ventures. Tom Beckerman remains as company CEO and director. Watts was executive VP of Prodigy before his new appointment. He has a proven track record of success in scaling technology businesses. He has more than 25 years of global experience in direct sales, channels, marketing, and business and corporate development, having worked with SAP, Xerox, 3Com, and Quack.com. He recently finished an assignment as chief revenue officer for a partner of SAP. He serves on several boards, including Valucap Investments Inc., where he is CEO. Roberge has more than 20 years of experience in digital identity, digital currency, online, mobile and payment marketplaces. He co-founded SecureKey Technologies, Dexit, and Rocket Piggy. Prior to Prodigy, Roberge has engaged clients such as TD Canada Trust, the Royal Canadian Mint, Interac, EnStream, Suretap, Telus and Intel. He is a fintech advisor to the MaRS Innovation Centre. Roberge replaces Hussein Vastani, who left to pursue opportunities in artificial intelligence and machine learning.