The Short Report – November 2, 2022: National Women’s Health Research Initiative; Ted Rogers Centre for Health Research receives $90 million; Canadian VC funding declines; Gairdner Awards; and more
November 2, 2022
The Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB), in an agreement with Ontario Power Generation (OPG), committed $970 million in a low-interest loan toward Canada’s first small modular nuclear reactor (SMR). OPG is developing and constructing the 300-megawatt SMR next to the provincially owned company’s existing 3,500-MW Darlington Nuclear Generating Station in Clarington, Ont. The investment — CIB’s largest in clean power to date — covers all preparation required prior to reactor construction, including project design, site preparation, procurement of long lead-time equipment, utility connections, implementing a digital strategy, and related project management costs. The Darlington SMR, expected to start producing electricity by the end of this decade, will keep about 740,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases annually out of the atmosphere. CIB
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The Government of Canada is investing up to $350 million, through the renewed Venture Capital Catalyst Initiative (managed by Business Development Bank of Canada) in four venture capital funds-of-funds managers. The four VC funds managers are HarbourVestPartners, Kensington Capital Partners, Northleaf Capital Partners, and Teralys Capital. The fund managers will now work to raise additional private sector capital so they can invest in other VC funds as well as directly investing in innovative firms. They are expected to create a total investment pool of about $1.4 billion, according to International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development. ISED
The Government of Canada announced $30 million from Budget 2022 for the Coordinated Accessible National (CAN) Health Network, to help small and medium-sized businesses bring their innovations to markets across Canada and around the world. The investment will support the CAN Health Network’s expansion into Quebec, the territories and Indigenous communities. The national partnership of leading Canadian health organizations and businesses in health care innovation provides an integrated marketplace for SMEs that includes access to buyers’ sites and fast-tracked and scalable procurement. ISED
The Government of Canada officially launched the National Women’s Health Research Initiative (NWHRI), supported by $20 million over five years provided in Budget 2022. The initiative will drive research to enhance health outcomes, eliminate gaps in access to care, and improve the quality of care for women, trans women, girls and gender-diverse communities. The NWHRI is delivered through a partnership between the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and Women and Gender Equality Canada. CIHR
The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada awarded more than $35 million to fund 585 research projects from 71 Canadian institutions through the 2022 Insight Development Grants competition. The grants support research in its early stages, enabling development of new research questions and experimentation with new methods, theoretical approaches, or ideas. Among the research being funded are projects that will investigate housing vulnerability, collective care for the post-pandemic future, and supporting post-secondary Indigenous students with regard to cultural identity, belonging, and diversity. SSHRC
Innovation, Science and Economic Canada invested, through the Strategic Innovation Fund, $15.9 million to support a $77-million project with EXFO to create a 5G centre of excellence in Montreal. EXFO, headquartered in Quebec City, intends to develop one of the world’s first artificial intelligence-based automated network solutions that will autonomously run 5G network testing and quality assurance centres in Canada and around the world. The new centre of excellence will develop and commercialize four new AI-centric technology platforms to supply deployment and operation of the next-generation 5G telecommunications networks. ISED
Sustainable Development Technology Canada awarded $4.3 million to Cascadia Seaweed, based in Sidney, B.C., to construct a 100-hectare ocean seaweed farm and agrifeed processing facility in northern British Columbia. The first phase of the three-year project is expected to begin this fall, with seaweed seeded-line trials at a potential site near Prince Rupert. Cacadia Seaweed, with First Nations partners, produces seaweed for a variety of uses, including agrifeed supplement now in its formation, and an in-vivo testing phase, due to be launched commercially next year. The Fish Site
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research will provide $1.1 million over five years to establish a new research chair, at Université Laval, focused on vaccine hesitancy. The Chair in Applied Public Health on the Anthropology of Immunization Issues, in collaboration with the National Institute of Public Health in Quebec, will be held by anthropology professor Ève Dubé. She will aim to identify individual, social, cultural or structural factors that lead people to doubt the value of vaccination. Journal de Montréal
Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) announced the launch of the Canada-Ukraine Science Partnership, aimed at helping Ukraine preserve and rebuild its science and research capacity. The partnership will provide temporary employment to Ukrainian scientists fleeing the war by leveraging NRCan’s regional lab network, relationships with academia and existing relations with Ukrainian science institutes. The partnership is the first initiative of the Supporting Scientists in Crises Abroad: Canada-International Science Partnerships program. NRCan aims to hire up to 20 scientists by the end of this fiscal year. NRCan
Pacific Economic Development Canada, through its Jobs and Growth Fund, is investing about $1.15 million in Accelovant Technologies Corporation. The funding is aimed at enhancing the company’s capacity to develop and export fibre optic sensors needed by the semiconductor industry. Accelovant, based in North Vancouver, plans to increase staff, purchase new equipment, and expand its facility. PacifiCan
The Government of Manitoba is investing $12.5 million in RRC Polytech’s new Interdisciplinary Health Sciences and Community Services Simulation Centre. The 16,630-sq-ft centre, housed at the college’s Nortre Dame Campus in Winnipeg, will be built over two years and feature dynamic learning spaces with immersive technology and settings. The facility will be used annually by 1,000 RRC Polytech students from 15 programs, spanning nursing to paramedicine to child and youth care practitioners. RRC Polytech
RESEARCH & TECH NEWS
The Rogers Foundation announced a $90-million gift to the Ted Rogers Centre for Health Research (TRCHR) to significantly expand the reach of the TRCHR in reducing the impact of heart failure in Canada for children, youth and adults. The TRCHR collaboration includes The Hospital for Sick Children, University Health Network, and the University of Toronto. The gift will be matched with $94.3 million in institutional support and additional fundraising. The investment will enable discovery research and help more patients understand the genetic basis of their disease and receive unique, personalized approaches to heart health. UHN Foundation
Business leader Joan Snyder, who died in April this year at age 90, has left a legacy gift of $65.7 million to boost health research, student learning, and sport-science research at the University of Calgary. Of her gift, $35 million will be directed to the Calvin, Phoebe and Joan Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases to enhance its strengths in microbiome and organoid development and research (miniature organs grown in labs using patients’ cells). Another $30 million will establish the Joan Synder Fund for Excellence in Kinesiology. The gift to UCalgary is part of Snyder’s legacy gift of more than $100 million to community organizations. UCalgary
CIFAR, Amii and the Vector Institute named eight leaders in artificial intelligence research as new Canada CIFAR AI Chairs. Seven of the new chairs are affiliated with the Vector Institute in Toronto, while the eighth is at Amii in Edmonton. Three of the new chairs are from University of Toronto, two are from University of British Columbia, and one each from University of Waterloo, University of Alberta, and Queen’s University. The new chairs, making a total of 119 Canada CIFAR AI Chairs, will advance Canadian research identified through the second phase of the Pan-Canadian AI Strategy as priority areas: AI for health; AI for energy and the environment; the fundamental science of AI; and the responsible use of AI. CIFAR
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Schmidt Futures, based in New York, is investing $148 million in the Eric and Wendy Schmidt AI in Science Postdoctoral Fellowship, to apply artificial intelligence to research in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The Fellowship will initially support about 160 post-docs across nine universities around the world, including the University of Toronto and universities in the U.S., the U.K., and Singapore. Each university will select up to 20 Fellows per year for up to six years. The Fellowship includes an annual stipend of $100,000, training and workshops, and participation in the Global Meeting Series to promote adoption of AI in STEM research. Schmidt Futures
Aduro Clean Technologies Inc., in partnership with Western University, announced a joint research project supported by a $1.15-million grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and Mitacs’ Accelerate grants program. Aduro, based in Sarnia, Ont., develops patented water-based technologies to chemically recycle plastics and transform heavy crude and renewable oils into value-added resources and higher-value fuels. Researchers at Aduro and Western University will evaluate the effects of contaminants in plastic feedstocks, including food, organic waste, plasticizers and fillers, to maximize output, quality and yield. Aduro Clean Technologies
Communitech has acquired briefed.in, a data platform that tracks investment in Canadian tech startup firms. Communitech says the acquisition has strengthened the data engine behind its Team True North Strategy to identify and support Canada’s highest-potential companies, entrepreneurs, investors and innovators. Communitech also added Malcolm MacGregor as chief business development and partnerships officer, responsible for supporting the Kitchener, Ont.-based accelerator’s mission of helping tech companies start, grow, and succeed. Communitech
Nine Canadian universities are ranked in the top 100 of the QS Quacquarelli Symonds QS World University Rankings: Sustainability 2023. The new rankings evaluated 700 universities from around the world based on their “ability to tackle the world’s greatest environmental, social, and governance challenges.” The leading Canadian universities were: University of Toronto (ranked #2); University of British Columbia (#3); Western University (#17); McGill University and University of Waterloo (tied for #42); Université de Montréal (#60); University of Calgary (tied for #79); Dalhousie University (#86); and the University of Saskatchewan (#91). The leading university globally was the University of California, Berkeley. QS
A research facility in the Northwest Territories that attracted scientists from Canada, the U.S., and Europe studying climate change has been partly destroyed by a late season wildfire. The Scotty Creek Research Facility, about 50 km south of Fort Simpson, was founded in the 1990s by William Quinton of Wilfrid Laurier University. The facility was handed over to the Łı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́ First Nation (LKFN) in August this year. LKFN says five of the nine buildings, including equipment, lab space, solar arrays and sleeping accommodations, burned to the ground, with total damages of more than $1 million. The station will not run for the next year as it rebuilds. CP
Several of Alberta’s leading tech companies have released an open letter to newly elected Premier Danielle Smith contending that the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA) is unnecessarily regulating the designation of software engineer and has made the position subject to “onerous, restrictive, and unnecessary certification requirements.” Benevity, Jobber, Neo Financial, and Samdesk are a few of the more than 30 signatories to the letter, as well as organizations such as Platform Calgary and the venture studio Thin Air Labs. The Council of Canadian Innovators coordinated the letter, which asks the premier to intervene in the dispute. APEGA argues it has the legal right and requirement to restrict the practices of engineering and geoscience, along with the related titles and designations, to licensed individuals and companies. Betakit
VC & PRIVATE INVESTMENT
Venture capital funding declined across almost all Canadian innovation ecosystems in the third quarter of 2022, according to reports by briefed.in. Declines included:
- Toronto – VC funding in Toronto in Q3 2022 totalled $254.9 million, a two-year low for the city and a decline of 85 percent year over year. So far this year, Toronto startups have raised less than half the total capital raised in 2021.
- Waterloo Region – The region bucked the trend in other innovation systems, with tech companies raising a cumulative $111.7 million in VC funding in Q3 2022 — a 246-percent increase compared with the third quarter of 2021. However, Q3 2022 was the lowest deal volume on record in the Waterloo Region over at least the last three years.
- Quebec – VC funding in Quebec’s tech sector fell to a three-year low in Q3 2022, totalling $90.2 million, a 64-percent decrease from the previous quarter this year. On the positive side, seed-stage deals in Quebec fell by 33 percent, compared with more than 70 percent in Toronto, B.C., Alberta and Waterloo Region.
- Alberta – Alberta’s tech companies raised $31.7 million in VC funding in Q3 2022, a decline of 88 percent compared with the previous quarter this year. Despite the decline, Alberta tech startups have raised a cumulative $505.9 million in 2022, surpassing 2019, 2020, and 2021 in terms of investment dollars by, respectively, 200 per cent, 65 percent and 41 percent.
- British Columbia – B.C.’s tech ecosystem raised $111.3 million in Q3 2022, a 90-percent decrease compared with the third quarter in 2021. The number of deals fell by 56 percent in Q3 2022 compared with the previous year’s quarter. Betakit, briefed.in
Bell Canada launched Bell Ventures, its corporate venture capital initiative to encourage development of early-stage and growth companies that harness Bell’s 5G and fibre networks. Bell Ventures will invest in companies working in the areas of network security, Internet of Things, robotics, telematics, clean technology, augmented/virtual reality, and the metaverse. Bell Ventures will be led by Curtis Millen, who is senior vice-president, corporate strategy, and treasurer at Bell. Bell Canada
Bast Fibre Technologies (BFT) Inc. in Victoria, B.C., closed a major strategic financing deal with Ahlström Capital of Finland, in which Ahlström will acquire 20 percent of BFT. BFT, which makes sero™ hemp fibre, will immediately begin work to expand fibre manufacturing capacity at its U.S.-based flagship facility in North Carolina and its facility in Germany. The financing will enable BFT to produce more than 10,000 tonnes of its hemp fibre by 2023, and up to 50,000 tonnes by 2026. BFT
TELUS International announced it is acquiring U.S.-based WillowTree, a full-service digital product provider with 1,000 employees in seven countries including Canada, for US$1.225 billion. As part of the transaction, major stakeholder Insignia Capital Group will sell its stake in WillowTree after initially investing in the company in 2018. For TELUS, the acquisition adds talent, more than 50 new marquee brands, diversifies client base, and adds two new delivery countries. TELUS
Montreal startup nolk, which offers a data and analytics platform for e-commerce brands, has raised $30 million in Series A funding. The all-equity round, which closed in July, was led by the Fonds de solidarité FTQ, with participation from Fondaction, Export Development Canada, Panache Ventures, and a number of undisclosed private investors. Nolk said that the capital will mainly be allocated towards acquisitions, with a portion of it going to continued investments in technology and working capital. nolk
REPORTS & POLICY
Eighteen percent of Canadian businesses experienced cybersecurity incidents, compared with 21 percent of Canadian businesses in both 2019 and 2017, according to a survey by Statistics Canada. Thirty-seven percent of large businesses (250 or more employees) were impacted, compared with 25 percent of medium-sized businesses (50 to 249 employees) and 16 percent of small businesses (10 to 49 employees). Sixty-one percent of businesses reported spending some money in 2021 to detect or prevent cybersecurity incidents, with the total amount of spending increasing by about $2.8 billion in 2021, to $9.7 billion, compared with 2019. The most common types of cybersecurity incidents were those to steal money or demand ransom payments (seven percent) and incidents to steal personal or financial data (six percent). Statistics Canada
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State-sponsored cyber programs of China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea continue to pose the greatest strategic threats to Canada, according to the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security’s new National Cyber Threat Assessment 2023-2024. The report outlines the most common cyber threats to Canadians and Canadian organizations, the likelihood that these cyber threats will occur and how they will evolve in the coming years. Ransomware is the most disruptive form of cybercrime facing Canadians and it remains a persistent threat to Canadian organizations, says the report. It also says critical infrastructure is increasingly at risk from cyber-threat activity but, in the absence of direct international hostilities involving Canada, it is unlikely that state-sponsored actors would intentionally disrupt Canadian critical infrastructure. Communications Security Establishment Canada.
The Government of Canada will only approve significant transactions by foreign state-owned enterprises in Canada’s critical minerals sector if there is “likely net benefit on an exceptional basis,” according to a federal policy update. As well, should a foreign state-owned company participate in these types of transactions, it could constitute reasonable grounds to believe that the investment could be injurious to Canada’s national security, regardless of the value of the transaction, according to the update. The move comes as the federal government aims to build resilience in the North American critical minerals supply chain with like-minded partners at home, within North America, and around the world. ISED
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Canada’s climate is warming at a rate two times faster than the global average, with the North warming three to four times more rapidly, says Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, in her annual report on the state of public health in Canada. The result is “multiple, cascading impacts” on Canadians’ physical and mental health, according to the report, released by the Public Health Agency of Canada. The report, which calls for “putting health at the heart of climate action,” says a strengthened and collaborative public health system can track and prevent the spread of infectious diseases, promote healthier and more resilient communities, and prepare for and respond to health emergencies. PHAC
Global demand for fossil fuels will decline much faster than expected if nations continue with current energy and climate policies, with coal use expected to peak in the next few years, natural gas by the end of the decade and oil in the mid-2030s, says a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA). At the same time, global investment in clean energy will increase to more than US$2 trillion per year by 2030, a rise of more than 50 percent from today, according to the IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2022. The report’s analysis found “scant evidence to support claims from some quarters that climate policies and net zero commitments contributed to the run-up in energy prices.” The global energy crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is causing profound and long-lasting changes that have the potential to hasten the transition to a more sustainable and secure energy system, says the report. IEA
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Stephen Toope started November 1 as president and CEO of CIFAR. Toope, previously vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge, is CIFAR's fifth president, taking over from Alan Bernstein. Prior to his position at the University of Cambridge, Toope was director of the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto. He also served as president and vice-chancellor at the University of British Columbia from 2006 to 2014, and was the founding president of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation. CIFAR
Myer Horowitz, who served as the University of Alberta’s ninth president from 1979 to 1989, has died. He was 89. The first president to rise through the full ranks of the university, Horowitz joined the U of A in 1969. He served as dean of the Faculty of Education from 1972 to 1975 and vice-president (academic) from 1975 to 1979 before becoming president. U of A
The winners of the 2022 Gairdner Awards — Canada’s most prestigious medical science prize — received their awards at a gala in Toronto. The recipients are:
- John Dick, Canada Research Chair in Stem Cell Biology at Princess Margaret Hospital and University Professor of molecular genetics at the University of Toronto, for the discovery and characterization of leukemic stem cells, providing insight into the understanding, diagnosis, and treatment of acute myeloid leukemia.
- Peter Cullis, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of British Columbia, for work developing nucleoside-modified mRNA and lipid nanoparticle drug delivery — the foundational technologies for the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines.
- Deborah Cook, Canada Research Chair of Research Transfer in Intensive Care and Distinguished University Professor of health research methods, evidence and impact at McMaster University’s Faculty of Health Sciences, for pioneering research that has developed and defined evidence-based critical care medicine in Canada.
- Zulflqar Butta, Robert Harding Chair in Global Child Health, co-director and senior scientist at SickKids Centre for Global Child Health, and professor of pediatrics, nutritional sciences and public health at the University of Toronto, for the development and evaluation of evidence-based interventions in child and maternal health for marginalized populations.
- Stuart Orkin, David G. Nathan Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, who discovered the molecular mechanism responsible for the switch from fetal to adult hemoglobin gene during human development, leading to a novel treatment for hemoglobin disorders.
- Drew Weissman, Roberts Family Professor in Vaccine Research at Penn Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, whose work helped enable development of effective mRNA vaccines for COVID-19.
- Katalin Karikó, senior vice-president of German pharma company BioNTech, biochemist and adjunct professor of neurosurgery at Penn Medicine for her contributions to mRNA technologies and the COVID-19 vaccines. Gairdner Awards
David Olefeldt, associate professor in the University of Alberta’s department of renewable resources, is the only Canadian researcher participating in an international study of climate change’s impacts on permafrost in the Arctic. The study indicates that thawing permafrost in the rapidly warming Arctic will emit at least two times the amount of greenhouse gases in the next 80 years as all of Canada’s GHG current emissions, Olefeldt says. The study, led by Northern Arizona University and the international Permafrost Carbon Network, also includes researchers from Germany and Sweden. Edmonton Journal
John Fryxell, professor and former chair of the integrate biology department at the University of Guelph, has received the 2022 Weston Family Ecosystem Research Award. The award recognizes researchers or ALUS (originally Alternative Land Use Services) partners for excellence and innovation in scientific research on ecosystem services produced on farmland for the broader public good. Fryxell has spent his career investigating the intersection of human activity and the natural world on three continents, pursuing a deeper understanding of boreal ecology, aquatic and terrestrial food web dynamics and biodiversity. ALUS