The Short Report, March 11, 2020: Anonymizing research applications mitigates gender bias; Superclusters spend a fraction of their budget; Athena Pathways aims to train 500 women in AI

Mark Mann
March 11, 2020

Three maritime research projects led by researchers at the Université du Québec à Rimouski (UQAR) have received more than $3 million in funding through a joint international funding initiative between the Agence nationale de la recherche (ANR) in France and the Fonds de recherche du Québec (FRQ). The projects address issues related to sustainable ocean transport, the effects of shipping on aquatic life, and climate change adaptation. - UQAR

New research by Stefanie K. Johnson and Jessica F. Kirk indicates that anonymizing can mitigate gender bias in the review of scientific research applications. The authors found that "when indications of candidates’ gender (such as their first name) were removed from applications for time on the Hubble Space Telescope, women were selected at a higher rate than when their gender was obvious." - HBR

Staples Canada launched a concept store in Ottawa on March 7 that includes coworking space called Staples Studio and an "enhanced services space known as Solutionshop." Staples Studio is intended to serve Ottawa's entrepreneurial community with amenities like a collaborative workspaces and a podcast studio. - Benzinga

The Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) only spent two thirds of its $3.3-billion budget in the 2018-2019 fiscal year, including money earmarked for programs such as Connect to Innovate and the Superclusters Initiative, according to ISI's annual results report. For example, of its $244-million budget, the Superclusters Initiative only spent $5.6-million. The unspent money could be reprofiled for future years, but critics say the delays indicate larger problems with the innovation agenda’s design. - The Globe and Mail

Vancouver healthtech company WELL Health Technologies Corp. has launched VirtualClinic+, a telehealth services platform available to Canadians and free to people in B.C. The company has ramped up the program in response to the COVID-19 epidemic. An estimated 4.8 million Canadians are currently without a family doctor. - WELL Health

Innovation minister Navdeep Bains told CBC that Canada “won’t get bullied” by other jurisdictions in making a decision about Huawei and 5G networks, and will instead make its own “independent decisions based on [its] own analysis.” Bains made the statement just days before top 5G advisor to the Trump administration Robert Blair met with officials from Public Safety, National Defence, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, and the Department of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development, among others, to discuss America's security concerns over Huawei. - Mobile Syrup

Ottawa-based AI company Mindbridge acquired the UK accountancy tech firm Brevis Limited. Mindbridge offers risk detection for the financial services space, using a combination of machine learning and artificial intelligence to detect anomalous patterns, unintentional errors, and intentional misstatements. The company raised $29.6 million last year, of which $14.5 million came from the Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) to support a $140.8 million project to create a data analysis tool. In August, Mindbridge hired former chief information officer to the federal government Alex Benay as its chief client officer, though Benay left shortly after to go to KPMG as its partner of digital and government solutions. Mindbridge says the Brevis acquisition will help grow its customer base in the UK and Europe, and includes Brevis founders and principals, Stuart Cobbe, Sam Zalin-Miller, and Daniel O’Sullivan. - BetaKit

Canada’s International Trade Minister Mary Ng participated in a kick-off event for York University's ELLA (Entrepreneurial Leadership & Learning Alliance), an accelerator program supporting 54 women entrepreneurs from York Region and the Greater Toronto Area. The federal government is providing $1.8 million in funding for ELLA, led by Innovation York. Shopify has signed on as the premier partner in support of the program. - YorkU

Athena Pathways is partnering with the Digital Technology Supercluster, University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) and Northeastern University to train 500 BC women in AI in 18 months. Led by the Artificial Intelligence Network of BC (AInBC), the project aims to increase BC’s pool of scientific and technical expertise and make it more inclusive, while delivering real value in the form of trained interns, workers and executives to businesses. - BCIT

The McMaster Innovation Park (MIP) is expanding to include TorStar's 258,000-square-foot Spectator Building to make space for what it calls a Life Sciences Megahub. “We’re realizing the true social and economic value of our research and helping to grow the region’s life sciences cluster. Our researchers are spinning out companies, creating jobs, and attracting investment and industry to the Park," said Karen Mossman, McMaster‘s acting vice-president of research. The completed park will employ 5,000 people and span 2.5 million square feet of space. The redeveloped Spectator property won't target startup companies but rather mid-market, high-growth companies with 40 to 100 employees. - McMaster, The Spec

Patriot One Technologies has received a contract from Innovative Solutions Canada to provide its PATSCAN Multi-Sensor Covert Threat Detection Platform to Correctional Service Canada (CSC), deploying in March 2020 at an undisclosed location. - Newswire

Ontario has awarded $3.57 million to the University of Waterloo to support 29 research projects. Wilfrid Laurier University also received $247,000 for four projects. The funding is part of the province's plan to invest $38 million into 183 research projects across the province through the Ontario Research Fund. - The Record

Ottawa startup GBatteries announced it will receive up to $3 million through the Breakthrough Energy Solutions Canada program, an initiative backed by Natural Resources Canada, BDC and Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a fund that aims to advance clean energy innovation in Canada. GBatteries uses artificial intelligence to optimize the charge rate of electric vehicles. Nine other winners were announced on February 12, including Intelligent City Inc. from Vancouver, which builds energy-efficient family housing, and BIOME from Toronto, which improves wind energy production at existing wind farms. - Ottawa Business Journal

Genome BC launched its 2020-2023 Strategic Plan, which builds on the downward trend of cost and time to read DNA, the development of portable sequencers. Anticipating profound uptake and application of genome sequencing technology, the organization is looking forward to a rapidly expanding field of business and research that includes interdisciplinary approaches involving artificial intelligence, computational biology, blockchain and other emerging disruptive technologies. Genome BC will continue to leverage provincial investment with co-funding from partners to "drive the acceleration of research and translation into new products, services and systems." - Genome BC


Matthew Mendelsohn is joining Ryerson University as a visiting professor, after four years heading up a “results and delivery” unit in the Privy Council Office. In his role as deputy secretary to the Cabinet, Mendelsohn was tasked with instilling a "deliverology" approach — popularized by Michael Barber in the UK — to helping the Liberal party fulfill its commitments. Mendelsohn's Impact and Innovation Unit created Impact Canada, designed to "accelerate the adoption of innovative funding approaches," and which is currently developing over $700 million in outcomes-based funding initiatives. Mendelsohn served as deputy minister in the Ontario government from 2004 to 2009, and directed the Mowat Centre at the University of Toronto from 2009 to 2016. - The Province

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