The Short Report - April 7, 2021: VC investment hits $4.4 billion in 2020, Ontario’s rise as a hub for autonomous vehicles, Gairdner Awards recognize biomedical research, and more

Cindy Graham
April 7, 2021


The Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer – Commercialization of Research (IRICoR), one of the Networks of Centres of Excellence, and Ovarian Cancer Canada are awarding $1.15 million each to three winners of a competition to accelerate ovarian cancer research. The projects will focus on development of therapeutic ovarian cancer vaccines (Dr. Claude Perreault, Université de Montréal); targeted therapy options for human epidermal growth factor receptor-2 (Dr. Jean-Simon Diallo, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute), and a gene editing platform project to produce CAR-T cells for clinical application (Dr. Julian Lum, Deeley Research Centre, BC Cancer). – Cision


The governments of Canada and Quebec are each providing a non-repayable contribution of more than $9 million to the Association québécoise des technologies (AQT) and its partner École des entrepreneurs du Québec (EEQ) to support Quebec small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) making the shift to e-commerce. The federal assistance comes from the Regional Economic Growth through Innovation (REGI) program, while Quebec’s contribution is part of the newly launched Offensive de transformation numérique. – GoC

The Government of Ontario is investing $10 million in auto parts companies through the Ontario Automotive Modernization Program (O-AMP) to position Ontario as a North American hub for building autonomous vehicles. Further support for the auto sector was announced in Ontario's 2021 Budget with $56.4 million over four years to create the Ontario Vehicle Innovation Network. OVIN is building on the Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network (AVIN) to accelerate the development of next generation electric, connected and autonomous vehicle and mobility technologies. – ONGov

In related news, the AVIN R&D Partnership Fund is providing nearly $1 million to auto tech startup Gatik (California, Toronto) towards development of its autonomous vehicle technology and autonomous delivery adoption technology. Gatik partnered with Loblaws last November to launch Canada’s first autonomous delivery fleet. – Betakit

The AVIN fund is also investing in Transoft Solutions (ITS - Waterloo) to develop a crash risk prediction system to improve traffic safety across the regional municipality of Durham, Ont. ITS is matching $876,000 in support from the AVIN R&D Partnership Fund with nearly $2 million in industry funding for a $2.67-million project designed to prevent collisions and improve road safety. – Transoft

McGill University’s Bensadoun School of Retail Management will receive $5 million from the Government of Quebec’s Ministry of Economy and Innovation to support interdisciplinary research and SMEs. The funding will be provided over four years with a significant portion of the funds supporting Bensadoun School’s retail innovation lab. The funding will also support professional development opportunities, executive education, knowledge dissemination and best practices. – McGill

Natural Resources Canada is committing nearly $3 million to the University of Alberta to support a project that converts waste lipids to hydrocarbons used to produce biofuels. The funding will enable the Alberta Biojet Initiative to go forward for the next decade. – UofA

Next Generation Manufacturing Canada (NGen) is investing $3 million on a collaborative project featuring over $1.4 million in co-funding to develop and scale a production monitoring and optimization platform with partners Saputo (Montreal), Accuenergy (North York) and Panevo (Toronto) using industry 4.0 technologies for food processing and related supply chains. – NGen

FedDev Ontario is making a $1.5-million repayable contribution to Burlington-based healthcare technology company AceAge to scale operations and meet increasing demand for its in-home medication dispenser and organizer. Electrical distributor Gerrie Electric (Burlington, Ont.) will also receive a $1.4 million repayable contribution to consolidate and digitize its operations. – GoC

A non-repayable contribution of more than $1.4 million from the federal government is going towards Quebec’s Centre technologique en aérospatiale to support innovation and adoption of new technologies among Quebec SMEs in the aeronautics sector through the acquisition of new equipment. Funds were granted under the Regional Economic Growth through Innovation program, an initiative of Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions. – GoC

Alberta Innovates is issuing a request for proposals (RFP) to address the scaleup gap in SMEs in Alberta. Up to $25 million in funding is available for a three-year contract for three or more accelerators with an option to extend for an additional two years. The RFP is open until April 30, 2021 and consideration will be given to both private and not-for-profit acceleration models. – Alberta Innovates


The 2021 Narwhal Report has identified Canadian private technology companies that are likely to become world-class firms based on financial velocity, growth and firm size. The report is developed by innovation economist Charles Plant with support from Waterloo’s Communitech, Invest Ottawa, and the MaRS Discovery District (Toronto). – Narwhal Project

In the first survey of its kind to look at intellectual property in Canada, the Intellectual Property Awareness and Use Survey (IPAUS) carried out by Statistics Canada in collaboration with Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada and the Canadian Intellectual Property Office found that high growth Canadian firms (representing 7.5% of businesses in Canada) made up almost 17% of businesses that owned patents in Canada and almost one-fifth of businesses that owned patents outside Canada between 2017-2019. There were also significant differences in the propensity to own patents between small and medium enterprises, and large enterprises. – StatsCan


The Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association reports that VC investment in Canada hit its second-highest level last year. Total dollars invested in 2020 amounted to $4.4 billion from 509 deals, which was higher than the five-year average ($3.8 billion from 517 deals in 2015-2019) with fewer deals made. – CVCA

VC firm Inovia (Montreal) closed its second growth-stage fund with US$450 million in March. In 2019, Inovia launched its first growth-stage fund to close at $US400 million by investing in companies such as Montreal’s Lightspeed and Waterloo’s Vidyard, Clearpath Robotics and DarwinAI. – Inovia

Nano One Materials (Vancouver) has closed its bought deal offering over-allotment options in full for nearly $29 million. Nano One produces low-cost, high-performance cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles and plans to use the proceeds for R&D, pilot plant expansion, and business development and strategy. – Nano One


Dr. Daniel Drucker, Dr. Joel Habener, Dr. Jens Holst and Dr. Mary-Claire King are 2021 Canada Gairdner International Award laureates for seminal discoveries or contributions to biomedical science, and are among the recipients of the 2021 Canada Gairdner Awards announced by the Gairdner Foundation. – Gairdner Foundation

Chris Albinson has been chosen as the new CEO of Kitchener-Waterloo innovation hub Communitech, replacing Iain Klugman, who has led the innovation centre since 2004. Albinson co-founded C-100, a nonprofit that supports Canadian entrepreneurs in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he also co-founded a venture fund. He will take up the role of CEO on May 17. – Communitech

Joseph Wong has been appointed vice-president, international at the University of Toronto for a five-year term, effective April 7, 2021. Wong is a professor of political science and the Roz and Ralph Halbert Professor of Innovation at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy. He was appointed U of T’s interim vice-president, international during the pandemic’s first wave last summer. – UofT

Heather Campbell has joined Alberta Innovates as the executive director of clean technology. Campbell is also the team lead, legal registry for TC Energy Corporation and  commissioner of the Calgary Police Commission, as well as a member of the advisory council for Western Engineering, and is co-chair of Alberta’s Anti-Racism Advisory Council. – LinkedIn


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