The Short Report – Feb 17, 2021: NSERC supports Huawei research collaboration, ALS research gets a boost, Ottawa invests in SMEs transitioning to clean tech, and more.

Cindy Graham
February 17, 2021


The Brain Canada Foundation and the ALS Canada Research Program are awarding a total of $1 million to eight multidisciplinary teams at Canadian and international research institutions with the potential to quickly advance ALS research. Projects will be led by researchers at The Neuro (Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital), Western University, Weizmann Institute of Science (Rehovot, Israel), Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (Milan, Italy), CHU de Québec-Université Laval, University of British Columbia, Université de Montreal, The Hospital for Sick Children and the University of Toronto. Funders include the Canada Brain Research Fund, provincial ALS Societies, ALS Canada donors and community-based efforts. – ALS Canada

Vancouver's digital mental health therapy platform Starling Minds has launched two new programs with the Digital Technology Supercluster after the supercluster announced a $2.5 million co-investment with the federal government last June. The programs will deliver personalized, early-intervention and return-to-work mental health support to frontline healthcare and education workers. – Cision


Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council is awarding $4.8 million to select Canadian universities in collaboration with the Canadian arm of Huawei Technologies. Huawei hasn’t disclosed its financial contribution to the projects but has said it is “greater than $4.8-million.”  Critics contend that working with the company threatens Canada's national security and economic interests, but researchers are defending the partnership. – Globe and Mail

The Government of Canada will award more than $55 million to 20 small and medium-sized clean technology companies across Canada through Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC). The funding will support businesses seeking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, lessen the environmental impact of conventional mining methods and support more sustainable agricultural practices. – GoC

A new venture capital fund is being created in partnership with Montreal-based incubator Centech to support the creation and growth of next-generation technology flagships in Quebec. Boreal Ventures will support companies in the pre-seed and seed stages in science and engineering with initial investment capital of $26 million and will be the first venture capital fund dedicated to high-tech companies in Quebec. – Cision

Electronic Medical Record (EMR) provider MEDFAR Clinical Solutions (Montreal) has raised nearly $25 million led by Walter Capital Partners (Montreal) as MEDFAR moves to accelerate expansion of its EMR platforms to healthcare clinics across North America. MEDFAR offers end-to-end care management solutions to free caregivers from administrative tasks and streamline the clinical process in healthcare settings. – Walter Capital Partners

Toronto-based telehealth startup Felix has closed a $10-million series A financing round led by new investor Whitecap Venture Partners, with participation from Mantella Venture Partners, BrandProject and US-based H Ventures. Felix acts as a digital front door for healthcare services that people may find sensitive, stigmatized or inaccessible. The new funding round will support expansion to Quebec and the development of new care offerings for migraines, mental health and HIV prevention, among other health issues. – BetaKit

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation is investing $2.5 million over the next three years in social technology startup app HelpSeeker (Calgary) to better match Canadians to essential social services and supports in their local community. HelpSeeker connects people experiencing or at risk of homelessness with local services in over 200 communities in western Canada and the greater Toronto area, and with this additional funding plans to scale up to 5,000 communities nationally. – GoC

Canada Economic Development (CED) for Quebec Regions has made a non-repayable contribution of more than $2 million to Drummondville’s Centre national intégré du manufacturier intelligent (CNIMI) to modernize manufacturing businesses by adopting innovative digital technologies. The grant is one in a series of CED financial contributions that will total more than $13 million in manufacturing investments. – GoC

San Diego-based accelerator Nex Cubed has launched a program to support Canadian digital health startups that want to expand into the US market. Targeted digital health solution areas include telehealth, remote patient monitoring, connected devices, clinical decision support, mental and behavioral health and digital therapeutics. Companies will be matched with a dedicated subject matter expert to act as a guide to facilitate navigation through the US healthcare system. – Cision

The Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) received a $1.2-million donation from Dr. Hugh Robertson, the largest gift by an individual donor in NOSM’s history. It will help NOSM address health inequity, advocate for marginalized populations and increase access to care in Northern Ontario. Part of the donation will also be invested in a new centre for social accountability focused on four pillars: research and innovation, community impact, policy leadership and advocacy, and education. – NOSM

Project teams from the University of Calgary, McGill University and the University of Toronto and York University (jointly) have submitted design proposals to the Bank of Canada to research potential system designs and business models for a digital currency that would be widely accessible, secure and denominated in Canadian dollars. – Bank of Canada

Enterprise software firm SAP Canada announced September plans to open a new R&D facility in Montreal that will be designed to meet the needs of employees post-pandemic and will include an engineering unit to work on its Consumer Industry Cloud, which builds custom technology solutions for more than two dozen industries globally. – SAP

Research projects focused on informing protection measures for vulnerable whale populations will receive more than $800,000 in federal funding. Three projects aim to develop and test whale-detection technologies while two others will study the impact of shipping-related noise on the North Atlantic right whale, the St. Lawrence Estuary Beluga and the Southern Resident killer whale. – GoC


Dr. Nigel Smith, the executive director of SNOLAB, has been selected to serve as the next director of particle accelerator centre TRIUMF. Smith succeeds Dr. Jonathan Bagger, who departed TRIUMF in January 2021 to become CEO of the American Physical Society. Smith will begin his five-year term as TRIUMF director on May 17, 2021. – TRIUMF

Kelly Schmitt, president and CFO of Calgary-based corporate responsibility software company Benevity, has succeeded Bryan de Lottinville as CEO. De Lottinville will take on a new role as executive chair while Candace Li is promoted to CFO. – Calgary Herald

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