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Volume 33 October 23 2019

Innovation Conversations: McConnell Foundation president Stephen Huddart on creating a market for social finance in Canada

In June, the federal government announced the first key collaborators to implement a $50-million Investment Readiness Program (IRP) to prepare social purpose organizations to access the new $755-million Social Finance Fund when it launches in 2020. We spoke with Stephen Huddart, president and CEO of the McConnell Foundation and a member of the steering group for the Social Finance Fund, about what to expect from the IRP.

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Scandals spotlight the role of private funding in science

The recent scandals over gifts from the Sackler family and Jeffrey Epstein bring into sharp relief the challenges confronting universities as they seek donors to support scientific research and other programs. They are also a reminder that who funds science matters.

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Opinion Leader:
Meg Beckel

Museums are winning the war against “fake news” but losing out on research funding

While Canadians are growing increasingly skeptical of science, thanks in part to the proliferation of fake news online, one scientific institution continues to receive top marks when it comes to public trust and credibility: natural history museums.

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News Bites

News Briefs

The Short Report, September 25, 2019: Global Biotech Week, honeybee research, tax cuts for cleantech

The Liberal government promised to halve the corporate tax rate for cleantech companies if re-elected. Small and large businesses in sectors like renewable energy, zero emission vehicles, and carbon capture and removal technology would see their taxes lowered from nine per cent to 4.5 percent and 15 percent to 7.5 per cent respectively. The promise is intended to help Canada reach the target of net-zero emissions by 2050, a pledge shared by the European Union and other countries at the U.N. General Assembly in New York this week. – CBC

In the twenty-sixth annual report, the Global Financial Centres Index (GFCI 26), Toronto dropped four spots to eleventh place, Montreal dropped two spots to twentieth, and Vancouver dropped five spots to twenty-fourth. – Long Finance 

The Government of Saskatchewan and the Cities of Regina and Saskatoon have proclaimed September 23 to 29 as Global Biotech Week. Saskatchewan hosts over 30 percent of Canada’s agricultural biotechnology activity, with many other areas developing, such as genomics, plant-made pharmaceuticals and diagnostics. Saskatchewan’s bioeconomy catalyst Ag-West Bio is coordinating activities, which include industry networking events, workshops and public outreach events. – Global Biotech Week Saskatchewan

The University of Guelph is building “North America’s first one-stop shop for honey bee research, education and outreach.” The $12-million facility will host research that aims to understand the stressors affecting honey bees and other pollinators, which are falling in diversity and numbers around the world. “It is a serious problem threatening our food system and environment. Improving the health of bees and other pollinators is critically important,” said university president Franco Vaccarino. – University of Guelph

Lethbridge College opened its new Centre for Applied Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CARIE), as well as a dedicated hub for student entrepreneurial activity at the college called The Pivot. CARIE is intended to be a catalyst for economic growth, sustainability and social development in the region, by bringing together community organizations, researchers and students to collaborate on projects that use new or existing knowledge to solve real-world challenges. – Lethbridge College

THE GRAPEVINE

Mitacs has listed a job posting for a new Chief Executive Officer & Scientific Director, now that Alejandro Adem is transitioning to his new role as president of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). Representing a network of 70 universities and 6000 companies, and operating a budget of $140 million through 25 offices across Canada, Mitacs supports applied and industrial research in mathematical sciences and associated disciplines. The listing states that “the ideal candidate will be a visionary leader with a keen understanding of the innovation ecosphere.” – Academica Careers

Canada’s new ambassador to China, Dominic Barton, has spoken admiringly of Xi Jinping’s signature foreign-policy initiatives, according to reporting by the Globe and Mail. The former managing partner at McKinsey & Company is “a bull on China,” he has said in the past, and supported China’s development in the far western regions, which are lately the focus of concerns over human rights abuses against the Muslim ethnic minority. It’s unknown how Barton’s views have evolved during the current period of strain between the two countries. – Globe and Mail (PAYWALL)

Tan Ping, an associate professor of computer science at Canada’s Simon Fraser University, has been recruited by Alibaba with a million-dollar annual salary to lead the internet giant’s computer vision section at its AI research laboratory. – Caixin Global

The Short Report, October 2, 2019: Kin cryptocurrency, robot tax, health tech

In a dramatic post, Kik founder and CEO Ted Livingston announced the Waterloo-based company will shut down its messaging service and focus exclusively on its cryptocurrency Kin. Livingston described a protracted battle with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) over whether Kin should be labeled a security, which he says “would kill the usability of any cryptocurrency and set a dangerous precedent for the industry.” The company has resolved to take drastic measures: shut down the Kik app; fire more than 100 employees, thereby reducing the team to 19 people; and focus exclusively on “converting Kin users into Kin buyers.” – Medium

Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP) and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) Digital Ventures have come together to launch a venture incubator called Koru that will develop ideas emerging from within the OTTP’s own portfolio of companies, currently worth $201.4 billion. Chief investment officer Ziad Hindo said in a press release that the incubator will help protect these companies against disruption by “finding opportunities to add significant mutual value along the way.” – OTPP

As part of its election platform, the Green party of Canada proposed a “robot tax” that will be levied every time a company replaces a worker with a machine. The tax would be equivalent to the income tax paid by that laid-off employee. Green leader Elizabeth May said that the revenue would be applied to education and re-skilling programs for workers. The announcement prompted confusion and blowback on twitter. – CBC

Report on Business magazine posted its list of Canada’s 400 top-growing companies, ranked by three-year revenue growth. The top spot went to Mississauga-based Fleet Optics Inc., specializing in “final-mile delivery software, analytics and transportation,” which saw 10,147 per cent growth. – Globe and Mail

Montreal-based health-tech firm Chronometriq secured more than $20 million in Series B funding led by Full In Partners, a New York growth investor, to help the company secure its leadership in Canada and expand into U.S. markets. Chronometriq provides access-to-care and patient engagement tools to clinics and other health providers. – Chronometriz

New Brunswick-based software company MESH/diversity received nearly $1 million in investment to further develop its Diversity Intelligence Platform, a tool that uses predictive algorithms to help companies and organizations create inclusive cultures for hiring and employee retention. The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation (NBIF) contributed $250,000 to the round. – The Huddle

THE GRAPEVINE

The University of Alberta’s vice-president of university relations, Jacqui Tam, has resigned due to controversy over her approval of billboard advertisements promoting 2017 research that correlated climate change with better-growing barley. The ad stated that “climate change will boost Alberta’s barley yield with less water, feeding more cattle.” – Edmonton Journal

Rotman School of Management professor Dilip Soman has been given the Canada Research Chair in Behavioural Science and Economics. Soman directs the Behavioural Economics in the Action Research Centre at Rotman (BEAR), where he researches the application of behavioural science to consumer well-being, marketing and policy. – The Varsity

The Short Report, October 23, 2019: BoosterPacks, quantum supremacy, rare earth metals

CANARIE launched a new free tool called BoosterPacks to help Canadian entrepreneurs adopt new technologies. Each BoosterPack is curated for specific emerging technologies, like Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning, and data analytics. The BoosterPacks contain an essential guide to the technology, including documentation of implementation and architecture options; a sample solution that demonstrates the technology; and up to a year’s worth of monthly credits from Canadian cloud providers to build, test, and experiment with pre-revenue products and services. – CANARIE

A team of Google researchers published a paper claiming to have achieved “an experimental realization of quantum supremacy… heralding a much-anticipated computing paradigm.” The authors say they have shown “that quantum speedup is achievable in a real-world system and is not precluded by any hidden physical laws.” CIFAR fellow David Bacon is named on the paper; CIFAR advisor John Preskill coined the term “quantum supremacy.” – Nature

Startup Edmonton will collaborate with Microsoft to help its members access technology, mentorship and business benefits, through tailored events and programming. – Edmonton Journal

The Canadian rare earths’ sector has scaled back its mining ambitions and turned instead to recycling, reports Gabriel Friedman in the Financial Post. Rare earths are used in key technologies for green energy, such as electric vehicles and wind turbines, but also in many other electronics, like smartphones. China dominates the supply chain, so Canadian companies like Geomega are taking a more cautious approach than exploring for deposits; instead, they released plans to build a recycling plant, with an estimated $30 million in annual revenue. – Financial Post

Alternative meat company Lightlife got a competitive boost this month when the American restaurant chain Dave & Buster’s chose their plant-based burgers over larger rival Impossible Foods’ plant-based burgers. Lightlife burgers are made by Greenleaf Foods, a unit of Canadian packaged meat producer Maple Leaf Foods. – Reuters

The Quebec government is launching a $100-million high-speed rural internet fund, projets Régions branchées, that will support digital infrastructure projects to connect 70,000 homes and several thousand businesses to high-speed Internet. – MobileSyrup

A leaked internal email revealed that Alberta post-secondary institutions are anticipating three consecutive years of cuts to public funding. “The post-secondary sector in our province is anticipating major cuts following the release of the Alberta government’s budget on Oct. 24,” wrote Brad Clark, chair of journalism and broadcast media studies at Calgary’s Mount Royal University, in an email to the advisory committee last Wednesday. Departments at the university are planning for a 10 per cent cut the first year, another 10 per cent cut the second year and five per cent the third year. – Edmonton Journal

THE GRAPEVINE

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) named Dr. Shawn Marshall from the University of Calgary as its first-ever departmental science adviser. Marshall applied for the ECCC position because he wanted to affect more meaningful change than he felt he could strictly as a researcher. “When it comes to climate change, the questions and challenges to the science aren’t really valid anymore,” he said. “It’s very clear what is happening. And I could work another 20 years and publish another 100 papers on this topic, but would it make a difference compared to trying to move the ball forward?” – University of Calgary

Lightspeed founder and CEO Dax Dasilva was named Innovator of the Year by The Globe and Mail’s Report on Business. This year, the company launched Lightspeed Loyalty globally and Lightspeed Payments as well as an IPO on the Toronto Stock Exchange that saw it valued at approximately CAD $1.4 billion—the biggest IPO by a Canadian technology company in nearly nine years. – Newswire

Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) named Dr. Claudia Krywiak its new President and CEO. Krywiak has been at OCE since 2011, first as Director, Partnership Development and Corporate Planning, then as Vice President, Corporate Planning, Development and Strategic Initiatives, and most recently as Interim President & CEO, since July. Krywiak is also a board member at the global architecture, planning, engineering and technology firm IBI Group. “It’s an honour to have been chosen to lead OCE given the long and successful history of the organization in driving job creation and economic opportunities in the province while helping Ontario-based SMEs and young entrepreneurs commercialize technologies both at home and in the global marketplace,” said Krywiak in a press release. – Ontario Centres of Excellence

People

The Short Report, October 9, 2019: Digital scholarship, e-commerce, astrophysics

The University of Alberta library has opened its new Digital Scholarship Centre (DSC), featuring Western Canada’s largest touch-screen data visualization wall, podcasting and webinar equipment, 3D printers and scanners, a VR room, and high-performance computers. – Folio

University of Calgary alumnus Wayne Foo, the founding CEO of the oil exploration company Parex Resources Inc, has made a $3.24-million gift to the school’s Faculty of Science. The gift establishes five Parex Resources Innovation Fellowships, as well as one Parex Resources Visiting Innovation Fellowship, to support research that leads to startup creation and technology advancement. – UCalgary News

The Ottawa-based e-commerce giant Shopify is building a team in the Chinese city of Shenzhen. The company is recruiting a head of business development to build partnerships with Chinese brands and exporters. Analysts believe the company could also tap the massive market of Chinese online shoppers. – Financial Post

The Université de Sherbrooke opened an $11.2-million design studio to support technological innovation and entrepreneurship.The Studio de création – Fondation Huguette et Jean-Louis Fontaine offers a 2,500-sq.-m. space for experimentation and prototyping. – USherbrooke

The University of Waterloo launched the Centre for Astrophysics, a new research hub focused on observation and experimentation. With an annual budget of about $500,000, the new hub will support long-term international research projects by 13 faculty members and 30 PhD and post-doctoral researchers on the Waterloo research team. – Waterloo Region Record

Macleans magazine released its annual ranking of Canda’s best comprehensive universities. Simon Fraser University took the top spot, followed by University of Victoria and University of Waterloo. – Macleans

More than a hundred CEOs of tech companies wrote an open letter to the campaigning party leaders, urging them to develop tech policies that will help the Canadian tech sector gain better access to talent, growth capital and new customers. Organized by the Canadian Council of Innovators, the CEOs write that “Canada’s productivity is lagging and our future economic prosperity is at risk.” – CBC

THE GRAPEVINE

Communitech CEO Iain Klugman announced that he will step down in 2021. Klugman has helmed the Kitchener-Waterloo tech incubator for more than 15 years, during a period when the number of local startups jumped from 200 to 1,400. The last year has seen a dramatic transition in the organization’s public funding, as its provincial funding was cut by 30%, while the federal government committed $52.4 million to a new scaling platform shared by Communitech, Toronto Innovation Acceleration Partners (TIAP) and Invest Ottawa. During his tenure, Klugman launched Fierce Founders, Canada’s first accelerator for women-led companies, and advocated for large-scale policy improvements like the  Global Skills Strategy. – BetaKit

As Yukon College prepares to complete its transition to Yukon University in 2021, making it the first university in the North, the institution has posted a position for YukonU’s first President and Vice-Chancellor. The school is looking for someone who “will embrace a teaching focused institution, research and the critical role of a post-secondary institution in society and the North in particular.” – Academica Careers

The Short Report, October 16, 2019: Ecocities, fintech adoption, animal testing

The British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) opened an Ecocity Centre of Excellence for applied research and training in support of cities becoming ecologically sustainable. The Centre will be led by Dr. Jennie Moore, BCIT Director, Institute Sustainability, and founding coordinator of Vancouver’s EcoCity Network. – BCIT News

Accounting firm Ernst & Young published a new fintech adoption index that shows a dramatic spike in the use of financial technology by Canadian consumers, up to 50% from 17% two years ago. Despite the increase, Canadians lag behind the rest of the world in fintech adoption, across all age brackets. – Financial Post

The University of Windsor opened the Canadian Centre for Alternatives to Animal Methods (CCAAM), Canada’s first research centre for alternatives to animal testing methods, with the help of a $1-million private donation—the largest single gift in the school’s history—from Eric and Dana Margolis, whose family foundation supports Humane Society International/Canada. – The Windsor Star

Canada ranks at the bottom of OECD countries for creating unicorns (or tech startups that reach a $1 billion dollar market value), despite coming in third for absolute venture capital (VC) dollars invested, behind the U.S. and China but ahead of many more populous countries, according to a study from the University of Toronto’s Impact Centre. The study seems to put to rest the notion that Canada lacks venture capital, but highlights the failure to foster domestic scaleups. – IT World Canada

George Brown College partnered with Changzhou Health Vocation Technical College (CHVTC) to support exchanges and collaborative program delivery between George Brown’s Centre for Health Sciences and the Chinese college. – George Brown College

HEC Montréal has launched an undergraduate distance-learning program for French-speaking students who want to learn how to start a business. The short, intensive program takes students through ten modules to design an entrepreneurial project and requires them to submit deliverables for each phase of their projects. – HEC Montréal

In a speech ahead of the province’s fall economic statement, Ontario’s Finance Minister Rod Phillips highlighted the importance of boosting the province’s competitiveness: “When we talk about Ontario, some of us will recall when we were a top 10 North American jurisdiction, on par with our neighbours to the south like New York, who today is number five. People are often surprised to find out we’re ranked 45th, one place ahead of Montana. We should be doing better and we can do better.” Phillips noted that the province has underperformed in the global competition for talent. – The Star

Olds College and Zone Startups Calgary are collaborating to support early stage agriculture technology companies through the Olds College Smart Farm and Zone Startup Calgary’s program offerings. Olds College

THE GRAPEVINE

The Insurance Institute of Canada (IIC) created a new director role to lead technology-learning initiatives. The Toronto-based Director of Learning Innovation and Technology will recommend and implement learning technologies for IIC members. – Academica Careers

Toronto’s Vector Institute will recruit three new tenure-stream faculty positions in deep learning. The announcement follows news that the Institute has cross-appointed eight new faculty members and 29 affiliate researchers at universities across Canada. – Business Insider

R$ 33/10