Recent News

Latest Issue:

Number 9

Volume 33 September 18 2019

Mark Mann

The polarizing national debate over what to do about our dependence on Alberta’s oil riches is devolving rapidly.

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Global community confronts the implications of human genome editing

The WHO has launched a global registry to track research on human genome editing—the first concrete recommendation of an advisory committee charged with determining what an effective oversight and governance framework should look like in the CRISPR era. At the same time, medical and scientific societies in other nations are grappling with the unprecedented ethical and scientific implications of altering the human genome in future generations.

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Opinion Leader:
Robert Luke

Structural bias is constraining the value of Canadian research. We need to recognize and reward more diverse research activities.

The policy imperative underwriting current research and innovation policy initiatives fails to take in the scope of research capacity in Canada. We need a frame of reference that encompasses the breadth and depth of Canadian researchers’ contributions to innovation.

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News Bites

News Briefs

The Short Report, September 18, 2019: Transdisciplinary research, digital verification, carbon capture

The University of Lethbridge officially opened its $280-million, 38,500-sq.-m. Science Commons. The facility aims to foster transdisciplinary research by congregating multiple science departments under one roof and by providing opportunities for collaboration. – University of Lethbridge

Vancouver fintech startup Trulioo raised C$70 million from institutional investors. Trulioo will use the funding to scale its operations in new markets. The company offers identity verification to five billion consumers worldwide, as well as more than 250 million businesses in over 195 countries. – BetaKit

The University of Calgary’s Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking received federal funding through the Research Support Fund’s Incremental Project Grant to create an entrepreneurship program and pitch competition for women in STEM. Called WELab, the program will provide entrepreneurial mentorship and training to any female-identifying students, staff, and faculty interested in building or growing a business, social enterprise or side hustle. – University of Calgary

The OECD has released a paper titled “How are digital technologies changing innovation? Evidence from agriculture, the automotive industry and retail.” The paper examines sector-specific dynamics that differentiate the opportunities created by digital technologies, and calls for a sectoral approach to designing innovation policies. – OECD

Quebec’s Institut national de la recherche scientifique has embarked on a Canada-wide research project to fight greenhouse gas emissions by trapping carbon dioxide (CO2) in mining waste, led by Louis-César Pasquier. Led by the University of British Columbia (UBC) and joined by the University of Alberta and Trent University, who have together invested $1.2 million in the project, along with $2 million in funding from Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) and another $1.2 million from industry, the project’s researchers are partnering with three large mining companies to conduct field trials and further investigate the potential of mineral carbonation for carbon capture. – INRS

New federal rules on methane measurement, scheduled to come into effect in January 2020, have already spurred innovation in technology and equipment related to measuring methane emissions, the CBC reports. Both large and small oil and gas companies are investing in equipment to monitor methane leaks. – CBC

New Democrat Party leader Jagmeet Singh promised to create new incentives for the auto industry, if elected. Singh said he would revive a $300-million innovation strategy to support the development of zero-emission vehicles, on the condition that manufacturers and suppliers invest in keeping jobs on Canadian soil. – National Post


The University of Toronto is seeking a director of institutional research and data governance. The successful candidate’s role will be to develop and maintain a coordinated approach to data-driven decision making by working closely with the university’s senior administration across its three campuses. The director will advise on a business intelligence roadmap to leverage data assets, facilitate the development of analytical capacity across the institution, and foster inter-divisional collaboration on data projects, according to the posting. – University of Toronto

Energy storage company VanadiumCorp named Dr. Gilles Y. Champagne its chief technology officer. Previously the VP of engineering and development at Imergy Power Systems  in Silicon Valley, Champagne has held executive positions in various cleantech companies in Canada, the US and Europe. – Newswire

New University of Windsor president Robert Gordon responded to the provincial government’s  new performance-based funding model in an introductory address to staff, faculty and students. He told the assembled audience that difficult decisions will be made as a result of the impending financial challenges. Gordon said that workforce readiness is one of his early priorities and stated that the university is looking for ways improve learning opportunities outside the classroom. – Windsor Star

The Royal Society of Canada announced 10 medals and four awards to be bestowed on 14 Canadian scientists, scholars and researchers at the Awards Ceremony at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier in Ottawa on Friday, November 22, 2019. – Royal Society of Canada


The Short Report, Sept 11, 2019: Genome lab, industrial IoT, ecommerce

The federal government and the province of Quebec are teaming up to fund the creation and operation of a Montreal-based international centre of expertise for the advancement of artificial intelligence, focused on the responsible and ethical development of AI technologies, as part of the Global Partnership on AI (GPAI). Ottawa is committing $10 million over five years to the project, while Quebec awarded a $5 million grant to Montréal International to either create the organization or draw one from abroad. The centre will seek to expand commercialization and adoption of AI-enabled tech in Canada. – BetaKit

Canadore College officially opened the first functional genome lab at an Ontario college, featuring leading-edge genome sequencing technology. The lab was created through a collaboration between the college and The DNA Company. Canadore has been approved for a post-graduate certification in applied genomics program – the first graduate program in the area in the field – beginning in 2020. Separately, a committee of North Bay city council recommended rezoning a vacant lot to allow for the development of a research park led by the college. The proposed “innovation park” could create more than 370 jobs. Five companies with a connection to the college have expressed interest in the project. – North Bay Nugget

A new program called Scale Without Borders (SWB) aims to support newcomer tech entrepreneurs through networking opportunities, showcases and classes. The program is spearheaded by Nouhaila Chelkhaoui, the lead for Ryerson DMZ’s accelerator and women founders programs. – BetaKit

Suncor will replace coke-fired boilers with two emission-reducing cogeneration units at its Oil Sands Base Plant. The units, which provide energy-efficient steam generation for bitumen extraction, will be in service by 2023 at an estimated project cost of $1.4 billion. The units are also capable of generating 800 megawatts (MW) of power that will be transmitted to Alberta’s energy grid, equivalent to approximately 8% of Alberta’s current electricity demand. – Suncor

Toronto venture capital firm McRock Capital raised $80 million from energy giant Royal Dutch Shell PLC for a fund focused on “industrial internet of things” (IIOT). This is the second time McRock Capital has created an IIOT-focused fund: the first, in 2015, raised $70-million and saw the successful backing of Miovision Technologies of Kitchener, Ont., and Calgary-based Decisive Farming; now the firm is aiming for $100 million. – Globe and Mail

ISED announced more than $40 million in investments for innovation projects: $27 million for projects across Edmonton and surrounding areas through the Business Scale-up and Productivity program, the Regional Innovation Ecosystems program, and the the Western Diversification Program; $13 million investment for three Niagara, Ont.-based projects through FedDev Ontario; and $453,000 for two projects led by the Vancouver Economic Commission (VEC). – BetaKit

Ottawa-based ecommerce giant Shopify has acquired warehouse automation and management technology developer 6 River Systems for $450 million. The acquisition gives the company access to the same robotics experts from Kiva Systems who helped develop Amazon’s robotics business. The deal is part of Shopify’s $1-billion plan announced in June to launch a network of fulfilment warehouses and shipping logistics capabilities in the United States. – TechCrunch

The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board is pushing into private credit to make up for dwindling yields elsewhere. CPIB increased its private debt investments from $5.1 billion in 2011 to $32.7 billion at the end of March. The pension fund is now reporting more than $400 billion in assets. – BNN Bloomberg

Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan) has issued seven recommendations aimed at supporting economic growth, competitiveness and the fight against climate change by investing in skills and innovation. The recommendations include expanding SME participation in the R&D ecosystem by investing in business innovation engagement services based in colleges, institutes and polytechnics; investing in social innovation research; and supporting  the development of a national framework to promote the integration of climate change adaptation and mitigation into postsecondary education. – CiCan

FedDev Ontario is investing $5 million in Brock University through its Community Economic Development and Diversification stream to create a facility aimed at making Niagara a research and innovation leader in bioagriculture, bioscience and chemical manufacturing sectors. – BrockU


Norquest College president and CEO Jodi Abbott has announced she’s stepping down and will leave her post in January. Her resignation is the latest in a series of executive departures at post-secondary institutions in Alberta, following new rules introduced by the NDP government in 2018 that limits base pay at universities to $447,000, whereas the president at Norquest is in the second lowest tier and would have a maximum base salary of $267,500. Abbott earned $485,371.84 in salary and benefits in 2018. Under Abbott’s leadership, the college’s enrolment more than doubled to 18,381 students, and she raised $170 million to open the Singhmar Centre for Learning in 2017. – Edmonton Journal

Sun Life Financial appointed Léo Grépin the new president of Sun Life Asia, replacing Claude Accum when he retires at the end of the year. Grépin will be responsible for life, health and wealth-management businesses in the Philippines, Hong Kong, China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia and India, a region that constitutes a fifth of Sun Life’s annual profits. Grépin’s appointment comes at a time when some companies are redirecting their manufacturing from China to Southeast Asia. – Globe and Mail (PAYWALL)

Encana Corporation made changes to its executive team with the promotion of Michael McAllister to president, Brendan McCracken to executive vice president of corporate development and external relations and Greg Givens to chief operating officer. McAllister joined Encana nearly twenty years ago and previously served as Encana’s executive vice president and chief operating officer. He will continue to report to CEO Doug Suttles and will assume leadership responsibilities for operations, exploration and land, marketing and midstream and corporate services. – Encana



The Short Report, September 4, 2019: Master of Information, ocean protection, beef research

Dalhousie University‘s School of Information Management (SIM) is offering a new title to prospective library studies grad students: Master of Information. The renaming of the Master of Library and Information Studies program reflects changes in the library profession as digital information has become pervasive. The revised program will support more career options related to digital transformation, data management, community engagement and human-centred design. – Dalhousie

Two new challenges have been launched through the Innovative Solutions Canada program: the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is inviting small businesses to develop a computer model that will help specialists determine which vaccination strain would be most successful at preventing and controlling foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks in livestock; and the National Research Council Canada wants SMEs to develop new solutions for medical drug delivery and carbon manufacturing.  – CFIA, NRC

Ottawa has awarded more than $8.2 million for four research projects at Concordia University and McGill University to improve protocols and decision-making to minimize the environmental impacts of oil spills. The projects are funded under the $45.5 million Multi-Partner Research Initiativeto support collaborative research among oil spill experts. The funding for the research projects is part of the $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan. – Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Canadian research network PermafrostNet will receive more than $5 million over five years from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) to support permafrost science. The collaboration between 12 universities and more than 40 partner organizations is led by Carleton University’s Stephan Gruber, professor and Canada Research Chair in Climate Change Impacts/Adaptation in Northern Canada. Permafrost underlies more than one-third of the Canadian land surface and nearly all of it will experience thaw during the 21st century. – Carleton University

CANARIE announced $2M in funding to support the Canadian Association of Research Libraries’ (CARL) Portage Network, a national, library-based research data management (RDM) network. The funding will expand Portage services and tools and add capacity to national RDM resources. – CANARIE

The Ontario government opened the Ontario Beef Research Centre in Elora. The centre will provide access to research and technology for Ontario’s 6,800 beef farms, as well as support research related to animal welfare, reproduction, nutrition, meat quality and safety. – Ontario

Vancouver software firm Clio has secured investments from American growth equity firms TCV and JMI Equity totalling US$250-million, which represents the largest single venture-capital financing in Canadian history. Clio provides cloud-based services to lawyers, such as time tracking, case management and billing. With the new financing, co-founder and CEO Jack Newton said he sees the company evolving to become the operating system for law firms. – The Globe and Mail

Alberta Innovates, the Natural Resources Canada Clean Growth Program, and Emissions Reduction Alberta are teaming up with industry partners to fund BIOSALIX, a coal mine reclamation project in Alberta valued at $10.5 million. The project will use municipal organic waste from Edmonton to replenish soil at the mine site in order to grow a willow crop that may be used as a biomass feedstock for renewable energy. – Alberta Innovates

Google’s Sidewalk Labs has partnered with the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan to launch Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners, a company that will invest in “technology-enabled” urban infrastructure, such as dynamic traffic-monitoring systems using multiple sensors. – The Globe and Mail

Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada announced a $12-million investment in Rockport Networks to support the company’s $50-million Networking at the Edge (NATE) project, which will create software-enabled network systems for data storage while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. – ISED

Bishop’s University is unveiling $9.3-million in renovated science labs, study spaces and a greenhouse this fall. The renovations will benefit students in astrophysics, biodiversity, epidemiology, cell biology and chemistry. – CBC

The government of Canada is putting $22 million towards a Low Carbon Innovation Centre for the Vancouver region, with a mandate to support green job growth while “aggressively reducing” carbon emissions. The project is part of a $183-million nationwide initiative called Low Carbon Cities of Canada (LC3). LC3 is a partnership between Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to accelerate climate solutions in order to meet 2030 and 2050 carbon reduction targets. – Journal of Commerce


Saskatoon-based uranium producer Orano Canada announced that Jim Corman will replace Vincent Martin as president and CEO. Corman joined Orano’s predecessor company, COGEMA, as a geological engineer in 1993 and has held multiple positions in the company since then. He’ll be returning to his home province of Saskatchewan from Paris, France, where he was director of projects and industrial support at Orano Mining. – Globe Newswire

Toronto-based real estate valuation platform iLOOKABOUT (ILA) announced the appointment of James Kelsey as company director. Kelsey led the startup of the Corporate Finance Division for Bank of Montreal, and most recently served as vice chairman of North American Commercial Banking at the Bank of Montreal. – Stockhouse

Halifax-headquartered underwater inspection provider Welaptega appointed Tyler de Gier to general manager for its global business. The appointment is part of the company’s international growth strategy following its acquisition of global subsea equipment and solutions specialist Ashtead Technology in November 2018. – Offshore Engineer



The Short Report, August 28, 2019: International education, social enterprise, industrial R&D

Innovative Solutions Canada launched three new challenges from Health Canada: develop a tool to help medical professionals rapidly diagnose an infection and identify whether it stems from a virus or bacteria; create a tool that would use artificial intelligence and deep learning to help specialists quickly and effectively match organ donors and compatible recipients; and in a cost-effective way to test mixtures containing micro-organisms to determine the risks they may pose to human health and the environment. Successful small businesses may receive up to $150,000 to refine their R&D, and if accepted into Phase 2, receive up to $1 million to develop a working prototype. – Newswire

Communitech, in partnership with Thomson Reuters Labs and Gowling WLG, announced “Tipping the Scales,” a six-day immersive bootcamp in October for Canadian startups in the legal, tax and regulatory fields. – Financial Post

At Sustainable Development Technology Canada‘s annual public meeting, Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains announced $56 million in funding for 18 cleantech companies across Canada. Canada is number one in the G20 for cleantech innovation. The clean technology market is set to exceed $2.5 trillion by 2022. – Newswire

The federal government will spend nearly $30-million over the next five years to diversify global recruiting for international students coming to study at Canadian colleges and universities. The government will focus its marketing in countries with a growing middle class and where post-secondary capacity is limited. These efforts are part of the $148-million International Education Strategy (2019-2024) released last week. – The Globe and Mail

Ottawa will invest $3 million in WE Charity‘s WE Social Entrepreneurs initiative to support the creation of approximately 200 youth-led enterprises dedicated to addressing social issues at a community level, and will allow 30 already established social enterprises to become investment‑ready. – Newswire

The Government of Canada is investing up to $4.8 million in 21 women-owned or -led businesses and three organizations supporting women entrepreneurship in Quebec: Microcrédit MontréalYouth Employment Services Foundation, and Fédération des agricultrices du Québec. This funding is administered through Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions. – Newswire

Statistics Canada released its latest industrial research and development characteristics. The report states that in-house industrial R&D spending dipped 0.2% from 2016 to $18.7 billion in 2017, and preliminary estimates indicate a further drop to $17.7 billion in 2018, as well as a signal of intent to spend $18.3 billion on R&D activities in 2019. – Statistics Canada

The Institute for Research on Public Policy has released a study concluding that, despite having right conditions for innovation, Canada’s record on patents and IP development is modest at best. Researchers Nancy Gallini from Vancouver School of Economics and Aidan Hollis from the University of Calgary found that Canadians are increasingly likely to transfer or sell their IP to foreign entities rather than continuing to develop it in Canada. – IRPP

Transport Canada has selected two small businesses in Waterloo — LabForge Inc and Brisk Synergies Tech Corp — to develop a new system to enhance the safety of vulnerable road users by equipping commercial vehicles with sensors to alert drivers to possible collisions. – Newswire


Montreal AI start-up Deeplite announced the appointment of Nick Romano as its President and CEO. Romano will guide the company toward full commercialization of its software platform that automatically improves the speed and energy-efficiency of deep neural networks. Romano is a serial entrepreneur who founded and grew Messagepoint (f.k.a. Prinova) into a global PROFIT500 company. – Newswire

The Transition Accelerator, a new national organization seeking to solve major business or social challenges where significant GHG reductions can be built into the solutions, has appointed Dan Wicklum its CEO. Wicklum was CEO of Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA), executive director of the Canadian Forest Innovation Council, and a senior manager at Environment and Climate Change Canada and Natural Resources Canada. – Newswire

Canadian Science Policy Fellow Shawn McGuirk has been promoted to the position of Senior Policy Advisor at NSERC. McGuirk is a doctoral candidate and CIHR Vanier Scholar at the Goodman Cancer Research Centre at McGill University. – LinkedIn

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