The Short Report – June 15, 2022: CREATE program receives new NSERC funding, feds provide up to $100M to Saskatchewan potash mine, Alberta invests in quantum hub, $24M for research on life-saving organ transplant technology, and more.

Mark Lowey
June 15, 2022


Alectos Therapeutics, based in Burnaby, BC, has entered into a $700 million licensing and collaboration agreement with the American multinational pharmaceutical firm Biogen. This partnership is aimed at developing products to improve the quality of life for patients with Parkinson's disease. The focus of this work has been on glycomics, specifically the carbohydrate compounds that are implicated in neurodegenerative conditions like Parkinson's. As part of this work, Alectos has supported research at GlycoNet, a research organization funded by the federal Networks of Centres of Excellence program. GlycoNet

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada announced funding of up to $21.45 million for a total of 13 training initiatives through NSERC’s Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) program. These initiatives will provide students and postdoctoral fellows with multidisciplinary training and mentoring opportunities in a collaborative setting to development their professional, research technical skills. Click here to see this year’s CREATE grant recipients and their universities. NSERC

The Government of Canada is investing up to $100 million to help Australia-based mining giant BHP create the “world’s most sustainable potash mine” in rural Saskatchewan. The funding, through Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada’s Strategic Innovation Fund, is to help reduce the mine’s carbon footprint and invest in more environmentally friendly technology. The mine will emit 50 per cent less carbon dioxide, 60 per cent less water, and 60 per cent less equipment underground compared with traditional potash mines, according to BHP. BHP’s Jansen mine project, about 140 km east of Saskatoon, is currently in Stage 1 development (a $7.5-billion investment by BHP) and is expected to be operational by 2027. The mine will have initial production capacity of 4.3 to 4.5 million tonnes per year, increasing Canada’s potash production by nearly 22 per cent.  CBC; Govt. of Canada

The Government of Alberta is investing $23 million under the Alberta Technology and Innovation Strategy to develop a quantum hub, called “Quantum City,” at the University of Calgary, in a strategic partnership with the University of Alberta and University of Lethbridge. Quantum City aims to accelerate development, application and uptake of Alberta-grown quantum technologies. The use of new quantum technologies and applications has the potential to offer solutions across all sectors, including in energy and mining, autonomous navigation, medical imaging and diagnostics, cybersecurity and quantum computing. Quantum City’s purpose is to enhance regional capacity and infrastructure to fast-track these new technologies, develop skills and talent, and attract additional anchor companies interested in commercializing quantum technologies in the province. Government of Alberta; University of Calgary

The Government of Nova Scotia announced a $2.5-million investment in the Verschuren Centre for Sustainability in Energy and Environment in Sydney, to expand into a national biomanufacturing centre. The Verschuren Centre is already home to a bioreactor — one of only three in Canada. But its expansion into a national bioprocessing centre will increase the centre’s bioreactor capacity by more than 10 times. The Government of Canada, through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, is contributing $2 million toward the expansion. An additional $2.3 million is coming from the Next Generation Manufacturing Canada supercluster, $1.3 million from the Verschuren Centre, and $500,000 from DeNova, a clean tech company in Nova Scotia. Government of Nova Scotia

The University of Ottawa and Toronto-based quantum technology company Xanadu announced a new partnership to drive Canada’s quantum computing approach beyond fundamental scientific research. The partnership provides researchers and students at uOttawa with opportunity to gain practical experience using Xandu’s commercially available quantum computers and working with in-house experts. The collaboration will advance development of quantum computing, novel quantum algorithms, and applications by validating the use-cases in real-world settings, the partners said. Canadian SME Business Magazine

Eighteen early-career researchers have been named CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars for 2022-24. The CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars Program provides $100,000 in unrestricted research support, in addition to mentorship, global networking and professional skills development. For two years, scholars join one of CIFAR’s 12 research programs for the opportunity to collaborate with CIFAR fellows. This year’s cohort will be contributing to CIFAR programs: Bio-inspired Solar Energy; Child & Brain Development; Gravity and the Extreme Universe; Learning in Machines & Brains; Quantum Information Science; and Quantum Materials. Selected from more than 200 eligible applications from 32 countries, the 18 selected scholars reside at institutions in six countries: Canada, Chile, India, South Africa, the U.K. and the U.S. CIFAR

Leading Canadian universities say they intend to continue R&D with Huawei Technologies Co., despite the federal government’s decision to ban the Chinese telecommunications giant from 5G wireless networks over national security concerns. Huawei spends about $25 million annually on university R&D projects aimed at developing advanced communications technologies including 5G and 6G wireless, and reaps intellectual property from the partnerships. The company participates in research programs, often as a sponsor, at about 20 Canadian post-secondary institutions, including: University of British Columbia; McGill University; Carleton University; University of Calgary, and University of Waterloo. The Globe and Mail

The City of Calgary’s Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund is investing $4 million in the Thin Air Labs Fund Limited Partnership, as part of an initial fund raise close of nearly $20 million that the venture studio will use to bolster the Prairies tech ecosystem. The Thin Air Labs fund will support early-stage companies and help accelerate the growth of the local technology and innovation sector. Headquartered in Calgary, Thin Air Labs invests in early-stage innovation in Calgary, the Prairies and North America through its venture capital arm, offers services to fast-track business development, and nurtures the local innovation ecosystem through its connection to community builders and partners. Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund

Global IT and quantum tech firm Mphasis announced the opening on June 7 of its Canadian headquarters, located at First Tower in downtown Calgary. The Bangalore, India-based company – which had revenues of $1.6 billion in the 2022 fiscal year – plans to have 300 employees in Calgary by the end of 2022, and close to 1,000 jobs in Alberta created within the next three years. Mphasis also has partnered with the University of Calgary to create a quantum computing hub on campus and help students get experience in the field. InvestAlberta; The Moonlighters

The Ontario-based Next Generation Manufacturing Canada innovation supercluster is making a $3.4-million contribution to an $8-million project led by Montreal-based CarbiCrete, with partners Patio Drummond, a dry-cast concrete products manufacturer in Quebec, and Quebec-based software firm Innovobot Labs, to implement and optimize CarbiCrete’s carbon-negative concrete manufacturing process at industrial scale. CarbiCrete’s process for producing pre-cast concrete replaces cement in concrete with industrial byproducts and cures it with carbon dioxide, avoiding the GHG emissions associated with cement production while permanently sequestering CO2 within the resulting concrete products. Globe Newswire

Kitchener-Waterloo-based Accelerator Centre secured a $10-million investment from the Government of Canada through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario. The funding will go toward the launch of AC:Studio, a hybrid venture studio program focused on supporting early-stage startups across Canada. AC:Studio is expected to provide 100 startups with up to $100,000 in seed funding until March 2025. Betakit

Squamish, B.C.-based Carbon Engineering Ltd. has partnered with 1PointFive, a subsidiary of U.S.-based Occidental Petroleum Corp., to deploy up to 70 direct air capture (DAC) facilities by 2035. Carbon Engineering’s DAC technology captures CO2 directly from the air, either for permanent storage underground or conversion into clean synthetic fuels. Carbon Engineering will provide the DAC technology, while 1PointFive will build and deploy the DAC plants, each with an expected capacity of capturing up to 1 million tonnes per year of CO2. Carbon Engineering’s investors include Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. Carbon Engineering

Silicon Valley-based agri-tech VC investment firm SVG Ventures | THRIVE  awarded Vancouver-based Verdi its $250,000 “Sustainability award,” announced at Alberta Innovates’ June 1-3 Inventures conference. Verdi, created in 2019 as a spinout from the University of British Columbia, utilizes machine learning and third-party data collected by satellites to determine which parts of a specific crop are not receiving enough water and precisely how much water they need. SVG Ventures | THRIVE’s $250,000 “Innovation award” went to SpaceAG, a Peru-based company that uses drones, software and a data collection tool to help monitor crops and increase productivity. SVG Ventures | THRIVE


Even when organs are donated, up to 80 per cent of them go unused because doctors don’t have sufficient time to investigate the health and vitality of the organs before transplant. Now, a team of organ transplant surgeons from across Canada have been awarded $24 million over six years, through the New Frontiers in Research Fund, to develop ground-breaking and potentially lifesaving transplant technology. The project will build on the team’s 2018 invention of the Toronto Ex Vivo Lung Perfusion system, which uses specialized machines to maintain and treat donor lungs outside the body for up to three days before transplant. This gives surgeons more opportunity to test the lungs for function and viability before transplant, ensuring the best match and allowing more time to prepare recipients for surgery. The new project aims to develop the Ex vivo Organ Perfusion systems — a similar technology to that created for lungs — that will provide a platform to evaluate and treat the liver, kidney, pancreas, and heart, and eliminate infections in donor organs before transplant. New Frontiers in Research Fund

The Government of Canada renewed its investment in the Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse (CRISM), with funding of $117 million through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). The funding will be used to expand CRISM to five regional “nodes” (with a new node in Atlantic Canada now operating independently of the Quebec node), and to support a national study on methamphetamine use disorder. Established by CIHR in 2015, CRISM is a national research network of four large multidisciplinary teams, known as nodes, in regions across Canada. Each node is comprised of substance use researchers, service providers, decision-makers, and people with lived and living experience. The Nodes work together to support and generate the evidence needed to inform health policies and practices related to substance use. CIHR

The Governments of Canada and Manitoba released a Virtual Care Action Plan, outlining how Manitoba will use $7 million in federal investment through the Canada-Manitoba Virtual Care Agreement to develop and improve virtual health care initiatives for Manitobans. The action plan includes a new project to measure, prioritize and schedule surgical procedures, to reduce wait times for patients. Investments also support remote home monitoring to allow more patients to connect virtually with their health care team, as well as increased use of virtual care through video conferencing for mental health and primary care services, particularly for residents in rural or northern regions. Government of Manitoba

In an open letter to five federal ministers, including François-Philippe Champagne, minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, 35 professional health groups representing 700,000 professionals across Canada called on the federal government to impose a comprehensive ban on advertising by fossil fuel industries, products and services. The groups cited detrimental effects of coal, oil and natural gas on health and the environment. They said stronger measures are needed to prevent the spread of misinformation about fossil fuels, including regulations mandating the disclosure of the health and environmental risks associated with fossil fuel production and use. Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment


Simon Fraser University ranked as Canada’s number-one university for innovation, the only Canadian university to break into the top 50 — at number 18 globally — in the World’s Universities with Real Impact (WURI) 2022 rankings. Queen’s University placed No. 84 for innovation. Simon Fraser also took the number-one spot in the world’s top 50 universities for entrepreneurial spirit. Queen’s University was number 21. Simon Fraser also was Canada’s highest ranked and only university — at number 24 — in industrial application (rather than traditional ways of counting research papers and lecturing) among the top 50 universities. The University of Waterloo was Canada’s top-ranked university — at number 45 — for ethical value. WURI, a new ranking system established by the Organizing Committee of the Hanseatic League of Universities, evaluates universities’ real contributions to society, highlighting creative and innovative approaches in research and educational programs. SFU; WURI

McGill University ranked Canada’s number 1 university — at number 31 — in the latest QS World University Rankings of more than 1,400 institutions around the world. Among the top 200 universities were: the University of Toronto at number 34; University of British Columbia number 47; University of Alberta number 110; Université de Montréal number 116; McMaster University number 152; University of Waterloo number 154; and Western University number 172. The QS World University Rankings assesses institutions across six categories, including academic and employer reputation, faculty/student ratio and research citations. QS World Rankings


A new report by the Canada West Foundation makes the case for governments at the municipal, provincial and federal level to support strong, consistent ESG (environmental, social and governance) reporting and provide clarity for investors. The report, “ESG: Why should governments care and what should governments do?”, offers 18 potential areas of action for governments and evaluates their usefulness. The report is the first in Canada to describe key actions that governments should take, such as:

  • build a solid foundation of ESG policy and regulations;
  • set targets, benchmarks or thresholds for ESG performance by companies;
  • manage government investments and public procurement using ESG/sustainability criteria;
  • organize public data in a way that’s easy for ESG-interested audiences to access and understand; and
  • mandate climate disclosure reporting;

The report also describes actions governments should avoid — such as not creating an ESG reporting framework for companies in your jurisdiction — because they cause more problems than they solve. Canada West Foundation

A coalition of more than 25 national Indigenous organizations released a new National Indigenous Economic Strategy, the first such strategy built and designed exclusively by Indigenous leaders, institutions, and organizations from across Canada. The strategy has four strategic pathways: People, Lands, Infrastructure, and Finance, with 107 “Calls to Economic Prosperity” to guide Canadian society toward a more equitable and prosperous future. If the gap in opportunities for Indigenous communities were closed, it would result in a boost of more than $30 billion to Canada’s GDP, according to the strategy. CISION


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has named Catherine Blewett deputy minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. Blewett is currently chief engagement officer for the Ocean Frontier Institute. She has served as deputy clerk of the Privy Council (2019-2020) and deputy minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (2016-2019). Mollie Johnson becomes associate deputy minister of Natural Resources Canada. Johnson is currently assistant deputy minister, low carbon energy sector, at NRCan. She has served as director general, policy, major projects management office at NRCan (2013-2015) and as director general, multilateral and bilateral affairs, at Environment Canada. Both appointments are effective June 20, 2022. PM’s Office

Dr. Eva Nichols, PhD, assistant professor of chemistry at the University of British Columbia, is the lone early-career researcher from a Canadian institution named one of 18 CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars for 2022-24. The CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars Program provides $100,000 in unrestricted research support, in addition to mentorship, global networking and professional skills development. Nichols’ research interests centre on the development and understanding of catalysts for the electrochemical reduction of oxidized carbon into valuable products. CIFAR

David Yeh, a former Obama administration official and a banker from BNP Paribas SA, a French international banking group, has joined Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce’s energy, infrastructure and transition investment banking team. Yeh has worked as a climate investor and helped lead a US$76-billion loan program as a senior advisor in the U.S. Department of Energy under former U.S. president Barack Obama. Also joining the CIBC banking group as managing directors are Neil Davids from BNP Paribas, David Janashvilli from Vancouver-based financial services firm Canaccord Genuity Group Inc., and, as executive director, Rutuja Jagtap from Mizhuho Securities, a Japanese investment banking and securities firm. The hires expand a group formed in 2021 with the idea that the transition away from carbon-based energy would require a broader range of expertise and services. BNN Bloomberg


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