The winter-spring season in Canada coincides with the fiscal year of some government, both at the federal and provincial levels. Thus, British Columbia’s new government handed down its first full budget last February 20 while Ontario is scheduled to announce its budget on March 28. But none was more anticipated by the R&D and innovation communities than the federal budget, which delivered up to $6.4 billion over five years in commitments for the sector.
Last fall, Ontario named its first chief scientist after a nearly year-long search, selecting Dr Molly Shoichet, a biomedical scientist in Univ of Toronto. RE$EARCH MONEY spoke with her last month to learn more about what she and her team will be working on.
Tech skills development and a previously announced innovation commissioner were the sole STI highlights of the British Columbia Budget, which was announced February 20 and stands in stark contrast to the research and innovation-heavy federal Budget delivered a week later.
Ontario has announced a life sciences venture capital initiative to provide provincial firms with much-needed capital to grow their business. The Ontario Capital Growth Corporation (OCGC), the agency managing the province’s VC interests, is seeking fund managers who can leverage the province’s $50-million investment.
A concerted effort by the research community is being credited with the largest increase in support for fundamental research in history.
In what may be well be remembered as Canada’s first truly 21st century research and innovation Budget, the Liberal government has committed to investing more than $6.4 billion in scientific research, technology and business innovation assistance.
Should university mindset about innovation evolve?
Canada’s innovation ranking over the past two decades has not improved, according to the latest OECD data. Let me express alarm in the situation as publicly funded research is an important contributor to innovation.
National Research Council receives new funding, flexibilities; IRAP boosted to handle larger projects
The National Research Council (NRC) and its Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) will receive $148 million in new funding through the 2018 federal Budget to support a “reimagined” NRC calibrated to deliver on the federal government’s Innovation and Skills Plan.
A new study shows that efforts to innovate by women entrepreneurs are not being recognized because of a dominant focus on technologies. Titled Everywhere, Everyday Innovating – Women Entrepreneurs and Innovation, the report says women in Canada are innovating in all aspects of the business but are hampered by policies and programs that restrict the concept of innovation to technology and goods rather than services.
The whole ecosystem is patting themselves on the back, confident that their concerted efforts to lobby behind the Naylor report recommendations — foremost of which was an increase in budget – did not fall on deaf ears. RE$EARCH MONEY offers excerpts of what the ecosystem has to say about the federal budget.
The honeymoon is over and the Chief Science Advisor is getting right down to business. But it was a jam-packed 100 days for Dr Mona Nemer, who was appointed last fall as Canada’s first chief science advisor (CSA) 10 years after the previous Conservative government eliminated the position and dismissed her predecessor, Dr Arthur Carty.
Alberta Enterprise Corporation, the provincial government’s independent fund of funds manager, has invested $5 million in Panache Ventures’ new Canadian seed fund. This investment comes after Panache Ventures recently closed up to $25 million in deals, and the company is keen to support more seed-stage startups across Canada. Panache Ventures is led by former startup operators and angel investors who are well entrenched in the local ecosystem. Managing partner Patrick Lor is based in Calgary while managing partner Mike Cegelski and partner David Dufresne are from Montreal. The firm is looking to invest in companies innovating in emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and blockchain, as well as virtual reality, enterprise SaaS (software as a service), and data analytics. Panache Ventures said it is already studying several deals with the hope of developing a large-scale portfolio of seed-stage companies across the country. With a target fund size of $40 million, Panache Ventures plans to invest in about 140 startups over the next four years. For Panache, Calgary is a focal hub for its operations in the west where they see a vibrant and growing technology ecosystem ripe for investment opportunities. Alberta Enterprise Corporation finds Panache’s focus on early-stage funding to be a good fit to the company’s goal of providing access to capital to young companies through fund managers.
InnoCité MTL, Montreal’s accelerator for smart cities, has merged with incubator Centech to combine their services and help more startups. The two organizations say the combination will put under one roof the best experts in smart cities development. InnoCité MTL is an initiative of the city of Montreal while Centech is a technology incubator created by École de Technologie Supérieure (ETS), one of Canada’s largest engineering schools. With the merger, InnoCité MTL will be added to Centech’s 10 ÉTS Open Innovation Cells as a smart city innovation cell. These innovation cells, measuring 56 m2 and located in Montreal’s Quartier de l’innovation (QI), allow collaboration among young companies, students, researchers and research chair holders for private-public sector partnerships.
India’s Tech Mahindra will invest $100 million over the next five years to create a new Centre of Excellence (COE) in Canada for major emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence and Blockchain. The Indian technology powerhouse made the announcement during Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to India in February. Tech Mahindra said the COE, to be based in Toronto, will facilitate access to cutting-edge technology for Canadians and Indians. It is also expected to create a pool of niche talent and generate high value-added employment in next-gen technology sectors. These results will be achieved through strong linkages and close cooperation by the envisioned COE with leading academic institutes, innovators and accelerators in the startup ecosystem, like the Vector Institute in Toronto.
Five projects in the Quebec City area have received funding to help companies and organizations move forward with their innovative projects. More than $831,000 in federal financial assistance are available through Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions (CED) with almost $480,000 being repayable. The fund recipients are the Centre en imagerie numérique et médias interactifs (CIMMI), the Corporation Inno-centre du Québec, Industries Chronox, LynX Inspection and Viagénie. These five will be helping other organizations and companies — like startups and small and mid-sized enterprises — with mentoring, consulting services, equipment and systems purchase, technology transfer and prototyping, app development, and other innovative solutions. The government funds are expected to create 11 permanent jobs in the region and generate up to $2.5 million in investments. The projects are also expected to improve business productivity and help communities.
Insurer Great-West Life Assurance Company is investing $300,000 over three years in Univ of Toronto’s Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) – Toronto, a seed-stage program located in the university’s Rotman School of Management. The nine-month program helps technology startups to scale up by providing entrepreneurs with mentorship, development support and guidance in looking for capital from venture capital firms. There are currently more than 100 companies in CDL-Toronto this year, and they recently had intensive sessions where they met with mentors, investors, corporate sponsors and successful entrepreneurs. Great-West Life’s parent firm, Great-West Lifeco, has interests in a joint venture investment in Portag3 Venture, which supports promising fintech companies in Canada and beyond. CDL-Toronto’s graduating ventures last year raised more than $46 million. Other CDLs are located in British Columbia, Calgary, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and a new one is scheduled to open in New York this year.
Toronto-based app developer Maple Corporation has received up to $4 million in series-A funding to grow and expand its business. Maple, which gives patients a 24/7 on-demand access to doctors, raised the additional funds with the help of a large private corporation specializing in medical cost containment and operations, and Jeff Fettes, co-founder and CEO of 24-7 Intouch, a contact centre headquartered in Winnipeg, MB. Ontario’s MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund, which focuses on fledgling technology firms, joined the investors in raising the oversubscribed fund. Operating for more than a year, the Maple platform covers eight provinces and two territories. The network has accommodated close to 20,000 patients and more than 100 Canadian doctors. The on-demand access to doctors for advice, diagnosis, and prescriptions is accomplished via secure text or video. Maple says the live chat or video is guaranteed only five minutes of wait time, cutting time for physician’s visits and patient’s recovery. Maple says the new funds will be used to serve as many Canadians as possible by building a distribution network of employers, benefit providers and insurers. One of Maple’s partners is Sun Life Financial, which makes virtual healthcare accessible to its clients.
Dr Kevin Smith will join the University Health Network (UHN) as president and CEO effective May 22. Known for his contribution to the healthcare systems at the national and provincial level, Smith is currently president and CEO of St. Joseph’s Health System in Hamilton and CEO of Niagara Health System. Smith is also serving as chair of the board of the Canada Foundation for Innovation, chair of the Council of Academic Hospitals of Ontario, a member of the Premier’s Health Results Table and special advisor to the Office of the Chief Health Innovation Strategist and a special advisor to the minister of Health and Long-Term Care. Previously, he served as chair of the Ontario Hospital Association and of the board of Home Capital. Smith has been a member of the boards of The Change Foundation, the United Way of Burlington and the Association of Canadian Academic Health Organizations. Smith is also a professor in the Department of Medicine, Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine at McMaster Univ and holds a PhD from the Univ of Sussex in England. A lifelong learner, he also took leadership courses at Harvard Univ, Wharton School of Business – CEO Leadership Program, and the Rotman School of Business’ Director’s Education Program.
Dr Eric Hoskins, former Ontario minister of health and long-term care and member of provincial parliament for St. Paul’s, Toronto, has been named head of the newly created Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare. When the federal budget was released on February 27, Finance minister Bill Morneau announced the creation of the council and the appointment of Hoskins, a day after Hoskins announced his resignation from Queen’s Park. Reporting to the federal minister of health and Morneau, the council has been tasked to study the economic and social impact of domestic and international pharmacare models. Hoskins and his team will work with experts in the field as well holding dialogs with national, provincial, territorial and Indigenous leaders. Hoskins is a medical doctor and member of the Order of Canada. He represented the provincial riding of St. Paul’s from 2009 up to recently and served in the cabinet of premier Dalton McGuinty and his successor, Kathleen Wynne.