Five CECRs receive $78.9 million in new funding in competition geared towards existing centres

Mark Henderson
August 22, 2018

The federal government has finally announced the results of last year’s competition for existing Centres of Excellence for Commercialization and Research (CECR), with five returning centres sharing $78.9 million over five years. The successful CECRs were chosen from a field of 25 letters of intent and 10 full applications, all of which were previously or are currently receiving funding through the program.

The competition wrapped with decisions made in September/17 and an official announcement slated for late 2017 or early 2018. That announcement was not made until July 30, however, a delay attributed to the availability of a minister to make the announcement. Science minister Kirsty Duncan made the announcement at an event at Hamilton’s McMaster Univ, host institution to the successful Centre for Probe Development and Commercialization (CPDC).

The competition marks the final time either CECR or Business-Led NCE competitions will be overseen by the NCE Secretariat, following the federal government’s decision to transfer those programs to the Strategic Innovation Fund in the department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED).  The NCE will continue to manage centres whose funding was awarded under its watch.

Four of the five successful CECRs are primarily medical or health related (see chart) although their research programs are more appropriately described as multidisciplinary.

“The centres are all multidisciplinary but four have a clear medical focus,” says Jean Saint-Vil, associate VP in charge of the NCE program, adding that the NCE program has become more multidisciplinary over time. “(The CECR program) has been adjusted based on what’s happening in the economy … The steering committee opened up the competition to all existing CECRs.”

Each CECR is established as a not-for-profit, allowing it to receiving funding from sources other than the NCE program. With a central focus on commercialization, each centre is required to demonstrate its ability to become sustainable once the period of eligible CECR funding expires.

“Mitacs … exists beyond NCE funding. All centres have this potential,” says Saint-Vil. “There have been some very important successes like CDPC that highlight what this program can do.”

Wavefront failure

The latest CECR competition announcement follows the high profile failure of Wavefront, an ambitious incubator and accelerator designed to assist businesses by adopting mobile telecommunications technologies and Internet of Things (IoT). Wavefront (formally known as the Wavefront Wireless Commercialization Centre Society) received $19.6 million in NCE funding to support its activities from 2011 to 2021 but the Vancouver-based CECR declared bankruptcy earlier this year, removing all content from its web site. It owes more than $2 million to creditors that include the CECR program, the National Research Council and the BC Innovation Council, among others. Wavefront also received $9.5 million over five years from the Canada Accelerator ad Incubator Program in 2014.

Saint-Vil notes that, of the 94 networks funded by the NCE program since its launch in 1989 and the 31 CECRs  funded over the last 11 years, Wavefront is the first to close down through bankruptcy. He adds that each CECR has its own board of directors and a different business model designed to best serve their respective sectors by acting as investors, incubators or service providers.

The five centres that successfully applied for renewed funding are:

Centre for Probe Development and Commercialization (CPDC) ($10.5 million over 4 years). CPDC is an original CECR launched in 2008 and the only centre to receive a third round of funding. CPDC will use the new funding together with major funding from the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research and industrial and academic partners to “develop and manufacture radiopharmaceuticals – an emerging class of diagnostic tests and treatments for diseases that include cancer and heart disorders”.  Two of the centres’s spinoff companies - Fusion Pharmaceuticals and NuGeneris Inc – are co-located with the Fraunhofer Project Centre for Biomedical Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing at McMaster Univ.

Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer - Commercialization of Research (IRICoR) ($25 million over 5 years).  IRICoR is based at the Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer (IRIC) of the Université de Montréal. Its mandate is to “accelerate the discovery, development, and commercialization of novel therapies in cancer, immunotherapy, and related fields” utilizing a unique business model that uses a team of professionals to identify promising projects, assist research teams in maturing their projects and developing and implementing commercialization strategies, highlighted by agreements between the academic and private sectors. On August 20, IRICoR announced that it had received $4.1 million over five years from the Quebec government through its recently launched Québec Life Sciences Strategy 2017-2027.

Quebec Consortium for Industrial Research and Innovation in Medical Technology (MEDTEQ) ($19.5 million over 5 years). MEDTEQ – which also received $4.9 million through the Quebec Life Sciences Strategy – is mandated to “accelerate innovation and position, on a global scale, products and services developed by the Canadian medical technologies industry” by supporting collaborative industry led projects. It focuses on four strategic areas: connected health, imaging and simulation, human performance and personalized health. In particular, it specializes in helping smaller firms break into international markets by partnering with large institutions and companies, uses experts in residence to create “living-lab type environments” and supports projects by smaller firms categorized as “High Risk High Reward”.

Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM) ($15 million over 5 years). CCRM leverages its public-private consortium model to support foundational technology development that accelerates the commercialization of cell and gene therapies, and regenerative medicine technologies. Located in the MaRS Centre in Toronto, CCRM is part of the Regenerative Medicine Alliance of Canada, a recently established organization whose members include the highly successful Stem Cell Network, a traditional NCE that has thrived beyond its NCE funding, which expired in 2017.

Leading Operational Observations and Knowledge for the North (LOOKNorth) ($9.9 million over 5 years). LOOKNorth – the only non-medical centre to receive follow-on funding, aims to network Canada’s world-leading expertise in remote sensing to “ensure responsible, sustainable land/water use management and safe operations in a changing global climate system”. By combining remote sensing technologies with scientific and traditional Indigenous knowledge, LOOKNorth will be gauged on its ability to “build local capacity and create significant socio-economic benefits” in Canada’s North.


CECR Competition Winners
Centre Location Amount*
Centre for Probe Development and Commercialization (CPDC) Hamilton $10.4M
Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer - Commercialization of Research (IRICoR) Montréal $25.0M
Quebec Consortium for Industrial Research and Innovation in Medical Technology (MEDTEQ) Montréal $19.5M
Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM) Toronto $15.0M
Leading Operational Observations and Knowledge for the North (LOOKNorth) St. John’s $9.9M

* All amounts over five years, except for CPDC over four years


Competition Timeline
November 2016 Competition launched
February 27/17 Letter of Intent (LOI) deadline
March/17 LOI results sent to applicants
August 4/17 Full Application deadline
August/17 Expert panel review of full applications
September/17 Review of full applications by Private Sector Advisory Board
September/17 Decision by NCE Steering Committee
Winter 2017-18 Official announcement of CECR 2018 competition results *
Dec-Feb/18 Funding agreements and amendments circulated for signatures
Late March/18 Funding starts

 * Official announcement delayed until July 30/18


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