The Short Report, February 19, 2020: A new chemistry cluster in Ontario; Boris Johnson's brother joins ApplyBoard; selling our AI lunch

Mark Mann
February 18, 2020

Bioindustrial Innovation Canada (BIC) received $15 million from FedDev Ontario "to promote new sustainable innovations and bring business support to Eastern Ontario in Canada." Along with partners the St. Lawrence Corridor Economic Development Commission and St. Lawrence College, BIC will establish the Ontario Bioindustrial Innovation Network (OBIN), a hybrid chemistry cluster in Brockville, Ontario. The network aims to help sustainable chemistry and cleantech companies to improve their ability to commercialize products. 150 businesses and organisations are expected to receive assistance through the project, creating as many as 700 jobs. - Biofuels News

As giant companies like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Huawei spend tens or hundreds of millions on research hubs in Quebec, Ontario and Alberta, observers worry that intellectual property is being swallowed up. IP lawyer Jim Hinton estimates that a majority of Canadian AI patents end up belonging to foreign companies: "We’re selling our lunch. What we need to be doing is getting money out of our ideas ourselves, instead of seeing foreign talent scoop it all up. Otherwise we’ll never have a Canadian champion.” - Science Business

Ontario's Expert Panel on Intellectual Property has published its report on IP in Ontario’s innovation ecosystem. Created by the provincial government in spring 2019, the Expert Panel was mandated to develop an action plan for the development of a provincial IP framework that would exploit the benefits of Ontario’s investments in R&D and maximize the role of innovation intermediaries. Ontario shares the same challenges as Canada generally, where GDP per capita has fallen by 3% since 2010, even as the US has experienced a 35% increase over the same period. Canada also underperforms in job quality. Meanwhile, the pace of the intangible economy is accelerating. "Successful companies now principally compete on staking positions in value chains of intangibles rather than by only lowering costs in production supply chains," the authors observe. The panel recommends adopting a "Made-in-Ontario" approach that focuses on "education, IP generation and licensing/transfer, developing receptors for publicly-funded research and addressing regional differences related to language and access to expertise." - Ontario

Quebec City-based H2O Innovation acquired the U.K. chemical company Genesys for $28 million. Founded in 2000, the publicly-traded company specializes in membrane filtration technology, and saw 13.5% revenue growth over the same period of the previous fiscal year, with revenue of $33.3 million. “H2O is benefiting from sector tailwinds and is well-positioned to take advantage of the increased water infrastructure spending over the coming years,” says Haywood Capital Markets analyst Daniel Rosenberg. - Cantech Letter

The Montreal-based transportation and logistics company TFI International raised US$200 million at its initial public offering of 6,000,000 common shares on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), at a price of US$33.35 per share. TFI indicated that it expects to use the net proceeds to increase its available credit "for working capital and general corporate purposes, including potential acquisitions." - Axios Pro Rata, TFI International

Canadian Urban Transit Research and Innovation Consortium (CUTRIC)  is creating a research cluster comprised of seven institutes, dedicated to researching "zero emissions buses." CUTRIC and its members are contributing $4.2 million over three years, along with $551,000 through the Mitacs Accelerate and Elevate programs, to fund CUTRIC's National Academic Committee on Zero-Emissions Buses (NAC-ZEB). "This research will move Canada closer to achieving the goal of electrifying 5,000 buses across the country, as set by the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities," said Josipa Petrunic, executive director and CEO of CUTRIC, in a press release. - Newswire

Concordia University launched the Centre for Innovation in Construction and Infrastructure Engineering and Management (CICIEM), led by engineering professor Osama Moselhi. "We want to be an agent of change that helps transfer the traditional construction industry into the digital age," Moselhi said. The centre will research Industry 4.0 strategies like "digital twinning," IoT, automation and robotics, and virtual and augmented reality to improve building inspection and maintenance. The CICIEM is working with an advisory board comprised of executives from Hydro-Québec, Canam Group, Hatch and SNC-Lavalin. - Concordia


Jo Johnson, the younger brother of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, joined ApplyBoard as chairman of its advisory board. ApplyBoard is a recruitment platform for international students seeking to study in Canada, primarily, though the company is swiftly adding other countries to its roster. Johnson led the reintroduction of two-year work visas for international students studying in the U.K. The former MP  made headlines in September when he stepped down from parliament and quit his brother's Cabinet over "unresolvable tension" between "family loyalty and the national interest." Since then, Johnson has served as non-executive chairman at the online education company Tes Global. - CTV News

Charles Plant has left the University of Toronto's Impact Centre, where he was a senior fellow since 2013, "in order to follow [his] own advice and become more entrepreneurial." He will continue to conduct research and provide corporate development for scaling technology companies through the Narwhal Project. Plant was co-founder and CEO of the telecommunications software firm Synamics from 1987 to 2002, after which he taught at the Schulich School of Business and served as Managing Director - CFO at the MaRS Discovery District. - R$

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