The Short Report: November 22, 2023
November 22, 2023
The federal Tri-agency Institutional Programs Secretariat announced $248 million in funding to support 34 new Canada Excellence Research Chairs (CERCs) at 18 Canadian post-secondary institutions – the largest number of CERCs awarded in a single competition in the program’s history. The investment includes funding for new research chairs announced in Budget 2022. The funding will enable the new Chairs to establish research facilities in Canada and contribute to their institutions’ pursuit of excellence in research, train young scholars and scientists, and develop a new generation of world-class talent. Research by the new Chairs encompasses fields that include: crystal engineering for green chemistry and energy utilization; regenerative lung medicine using unique three-dimensional bioprinting; Indigenous leadership in coastal tenure and land agreements; mitigating the impacts of climate change on the tundra and boreal forests; health equity for marginalized populations ahead of future health emergencies; advancements in precision education; and more. Tri-agency Institutional Programs Secretariat
Export Development Canada (EDC) and green hydrogen developer EverWind Fuels Company have reached agreement on a $125-million loan through EDC to support the green fuel hub EverWind is developing in Point Tupper, Nova Scotia. This loan will support clean power generation and clean hydrogen production for export to markets in Germany and around the world, as well as for domestic consumption. More than $180 million of private capital has been invested to date in EverWind’s green fuel hub. The company is targeting one million tonnes of green ammonia (a carrier for hydrogen fuel) production a year, starting in early 2026, in the initial phases of the Point Tupper project, with potential for up to 10 Mt when fully complete. To supply power to the project, EverWind plans to build what it said will be the largest wind farm in the Western Hemisphere. Membertou, Paqtnkek, and Potlotek are First Nations equity and development partners in the hub. EverWind also is pursuing a green fuels project on the Burin Peninsula, on the south coast of Newfoundland. EverWind Fuels
InBC Investment Corporation, a strategic investment fund created by the B.C. government, announced a total $29-million investment into companies and venture funds. InBC’s investments alongside other investors include $4 million in Salmon Arm-based 4AG Robotics and $5 million in Vancouver-based Clarius Mobile Health Corp. InBC also invested $10 million in Amplitude Ventures Fund II and $10 million in the Pender Technology Inflection Fund II – venture funds supporting B.C. companies. 4AG Robotics is an agritech company developing and building robotics solutions, including harvesting robots, for agriculture producers. Clarius Mobile Health produces wireless handheld ultrasound scanners, enabling healthcare practitioners to manage and perform exams from anywhere. InBC
The Government of Canada and Government of Ontario are investing up to $25 million – through the Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership – to expand production capacity and boost energy efficiency in the agriculture and food sector. Through the Agri-Tech Innovation Initiative, funding will be provided to eligible farm and food processing businesses to help them invest in innovative technology, equipment or processes that will expand production capacity or enhance efficiency. Innovative technology and equipment projects, up to $100,000, will be eligible for up to a 50-per-cent cost-share. Larger projects will be eligible for a 35-per-cent cost-share, up to $100,000 in funding. Applications for the Initiative will be accepted starting on February 15, 2024. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is investing up to $9.2 million over five years – through the Agricultural Climate Solutions-Living Labs program – in creating a new living lab in Manitoba. Led by the Manitoba Association of Watersheds, the living lab aims to accelerate the sector's response to climate change by bringing together producers, scientists and other partners, to co-develop, test and evaluate on-farm beneficial management practices (BMPs) on multiple sites across the province. These BMPs, which support nutrient management, water retention, crop and livestock integration, soil health and more, will help store carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while providing environmental co-benefits. This new initiative adds to the four living labs launched earlier this year and the nine living labs announced in 2022. With a total of 14 living labs under the ACS-Living Labs program, there is now at least one living lab in every province. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
The Ontario-based Next Generation Manufacturing Canada (NGen) global innovation cluster, in partnership with the Canadian Space Agency’s space applications of mining technologies program, launched NGen’s Moonshot 4 Mining, Minerals and Manufacturing Initiative (M4M3). The $5.5-million program is designed to support the development of novel In-Situ Resource Utilization solutions for mining, minerals and manufacturing for both lunar and terrestrial environments. NGen is seeking projects with dual-use applications that will strengthen Canada’s technological leadership in space and help revitalize the long-term competitiveness of our most important industrial sectors. NGen said the M4M3 program will lead to next-generation innovations that help tackle the challenges of establishing a permanent human presence on the Moon, leveraging Canada’s strengths in fields like artificial intelligence, robotics, quantum sensing, and additive manufacturing that can then be re-applied back on Earth. NGen
The Prairies-based Protein Industries Canada global innovation cluster is investing just over $4.5 million in an $11.4-million project (with consortium partners contributing the remainder) to commercialize a whole-muscle cut of plant-based salmon that transforms from raw to cooked. The first of its kind to market, the product will offer consumers an experience that offers the same taste and texture of its seafood counterpart, the project partners said. They include Toronto-based New School Foods, Liven Proteins and Burnaby-based NuWave Research. The new project builds off New School Foods’ and Liven Proteins’ first project, which proved out the technology necessary to formulate a full, muscle-cut type product, made from animal-free collagen through precision fermentation. The consortium’s project will focus on the scale-up of production and the sale of a fully commercial, market-ready product. Protein Industries Canada
Next Generation Manufacturing Canada (NGen) invested $4.3 million in Toronto software company Basetwo, in partnership with biotechnology company Genecis in Toronto. Basetwo’s and Genecis’s project utilizes hybrid models, a cutting-edge simulation technology that fuses artificial intelligence with the fundamental principles of physics and chemistry, to model complex industrial systems such as bioreactors or distillation columns. The aim is to create AI-enabled “digital twins” of bioreactor systems capable of predicting and optimizing operations at various scales in real-time, enabling model-predictive scale-up and technology transfer. The project also focuses on optimizing Genecis’s novel manufacturing processes that convert food waste into biodegradable plastics. Basetwo
Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada announced additional funding of up to $3.8 million for the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub (WEKH) to continue providing support for women entrepreneurs across the country. WEKH is a national network consisting of 10 regional hubs and an accessible digital platform that helps connect women entrepreneurs with the resources and information needed to grow their businesses. The WEKH is a key component of Canada’s first-ever Women Entrepreneurship Strategy, a nearly $7-billion initiative that has helped support tens of thousands of women entrepreneurs across Canada since its inception in 2018. ISED
Pacific Economic Development Canada announced more than $3.6 million in funding – through its Business Scale-Up and Productivity Program – to Lucent BioSciences, based in Coquitlam, B.C., to expedite development of Nutreous, the firm’s innovative seed treatment technology. Nutreos is a biodegradable and microplastic-free seed coating designed to promote strong germination, vigour and crop establishment – supporting the transition of traditional agriculture inputs to sustainable alternatives. The announcement followed the grand opening of Lucent’s Soileos sustainable micronutrient fertilizer plant in Rosetown, Saskatchewan, earlier in November. Lucent Biosciences
Natural Resources Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada announced a combined federal investment – through the Green Infrastructure-Energy Efficient Buildings Program – of more than $3 million for partners driving innovation for energy efficiency in buildings across British Columbia. The investments include nearly $1.8 million for Introba (formerly Integral Group) for a new construction demonstration program expected to result in the design and construction of 11 net-zero-energy-ready buildings across B.C. Additional support is being provided by the BC Ministry of Energy. The University of Victoria will receive $750,000 to develop, deploy and test an online platform to optimize design solutions for net-zero-energy-ready and high-performance buildings. NRCan
Pacific Economic Development Canada announced more than $2.6 million in funding for SALUS Technologies, a Vancouver-based safety software company developing innovative technology to advance construction site safety. SALUS is addressing the inefficiencies and risks associated with manual safety processes. With their cloud-based platform, workers can submit critical safety documentation directly from the field – providing organizations with real-time visibility and actionable insights into their team’s safety compliance. The funding will allow SALUS to expand its software capabilities, bolster its workforce, elevate customer support and expand to new markets. SALUS
The B.C. Centre for Innovation and Clean Energy (CICE) is investing $2.6 million to advance innovative solutions that can reduce emissions or create new clean energy feedstocks, while also addressing the challenge of sustainably managing wood waste and increasing wildfire resiliency in B.C. The Centre said this non-dilutive funding for four projects, will fast-track the commercialization and scaling of solutions across the entire forest residue management value chain, including collection, transportation, processing and end-use. CICE
Pacific Economic Development Canada (PacifiCan) announced funding of more than $1.1 million to Burnaby-based Greenlight Innovation Corporation, a market leader in the testing equipment required to develop and manufacture hydrogen fuel cells, electrolysers and energy storage devices. With this funding, Greenlight will upgrade its internal business systems to improve inventory management and reduce administrative and operational costs. PacifiCan
Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions (CED) is contributing $1 million to Cintec agroalimentaire, to acquire and install equipment to help develop and process new sources of food high in plant proteins and to support the industry as it produces new finished products with added value. Cintech agroalimentaire is an innovation and applied research centre affiliated with the Cégep de Saint-Hyacinthe public college. The funding will help Cintech agroalimentaire acquire and install the equipment, including a twin-screw extruder and an atomiser. CED
Environment and Climate Change Canada announced the launch of a new application period for the Low Carbon Economy Challenge, known as the Challenge Fund. The Challenge Fund will invest up to $170 million to support projects that deploy proven, low-carbon technologies, such as energy efficiency retrofits, waste diversion, and fuel switching including with renewable energy production or heat pump installations. The aim is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across sectors and contribute to meeting Canada’s 2030 emissions-reduction target. For example, the University of Victoria, supported by up to $2.4 million from the 2022 Challenge Fund, is electrifying a portion of the district energy system that services 32 buildings across its main campus. Environment and Climate Change Canada
TECH NEWS, RESEARCH & COLLABORATIONS
Annette Verschuren, chair of the board at Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) is resigning, following the resignation about a week ago of SDTC’s CEO Leah Lawrence. Verschuren’s resignation, effective December 1, 2023, comes a couple of days after the federal Ethics Commissioner opened an investigation into her role in approving pandemic-relief payments in SDTC’s portfolio of companies, including energy-storage developer NRStor Inc. – of which Verschuren is the chair and CEO – and which received a $217,000 pandemic-relief payment. In a statement, SDTC’s board said Verschuren “has been a tireless advocate for entrepreneurs across Canada’s cleantech system.” The board said it will meet this week to discuss next steps until a new chair is appointed by the federal government. Verschuren is chair of the MaRS Discovery District Board and chair Ontario Energy Association, according to her bio which as of Monday was still posted on SDTC’s website – along with a prominent photo of her and Lawrence visiting a cleantech firm. Verschuren was president of The Home Depot Canada and president and co-owner of the arts and crafts store chain Michaels of Canada. Previously, she was vice-president, corporate development of Imasco Ltd. and executive vice-president of Canada Development Corporation. Jessica McDonald, an SDTC board director also resigned last week. McDonald was previously chair of the board at Canada Post, president and CEO of British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority, and board chair of Powertech Labs. The Auditor General of Canada has launched its own investigation into SDTC’s spending. SDTC’s annual funding was set to double from $157 million last year to $318 million in 202502026. R$, The Globe and Mail
See also: Allegations of mismanagement beset Canada's main clean tech funding organization
Analysis: Government needs to fix problems at Canada's main cleantech funding organization
Federal suspension of SDTC funding worries investors and industry, but not whistleblower
Aslan Renewables, based in Prince Edward Island and founded by successful tech entrepreneur Andrew Murray, is developing scalable modular dams designed to bring Canada’s 50,000 historical hydro sites back to life with modern technology. In March 2024, Aslan plans to launch a pilot project as part of a power purchase agreement with the Government of Prince Edward Island involving three dam sites, which will supply upwards of 350,000 kilowatt-hours of hydroelectricity to the province’s grid each year. A subsequent phase is planned to include industrial and tidal sources of hydro, allowing the province to source more than 10 per cent of its power from local and sustainable hydro sources by 2035. With simple installation and a modular approach, Aslan dams are designed to power small communities, schools, hospitals and businesses from local waterways. Developed over the past three years in partnership with the University of Prince Edward Island, Mi’kmaq and Abegweit First Nations and private landowners, Aslan dams are tailored to Canadian climates, flow dynamics and fish populations. Newswire.ca
Unilever opened its new global artificial intelligence lab, Horizon3 Labs, in Toronto to accelerate the generation of new AI concepts, designs and projects that can be scaled and shared across its business globally. Horizon3 Labs grew out of the company’s focus on the use of AI to increase productivity and efficiency. Currently, Unilever is using AI across its business, including generative AI in its customer service and marketing, and advanced analytics and machine learning in supply chain and logistics. For example, the company currently has 50,000 ice cream freezers around the world that are AI-enabled to efficiently place the right product in the right freezer at the right time. Unilever
Calgary-based Sio Silica, a quartz silica producer for renewable energy products, electronics and other applications, is planning to go public on the New York Stock Exchange through a merger with Houston-based special purpose acquisition company Pyrophyte Acquisition. Terms of the merger imply an enterprise value of $708 million and equity value of $758 million for the combined company, the firms said. Following the closing of the business combination, proceeds are expected to be used to fully fund construction of the first phase of Sio’s extraction and processing facility in Winnipeg. However, Manitoba’s Clean Environment Commission is urging caution and far more research before the province licenses the proposal to extract millions of tonnes of silica sand, buried 60 metres below agricultural fields in the Rural Municipality of Springfield on the eastern boundary of Winnipeg, from a freshwater aquifer that services thousands of residents. BusinessWire
Winnipeg-based digital agriculture firm Farmers Edge received a non-binding proposal from its majority shareholder, Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited, to acquire all the common shares of Farmers Edge that Fairfax doesn’t already own, for 25 cents per share. The proposal would take Farmers Edge private and value the company’s equity at $10.5 million or $4.07 million to minority shareholders, on a non-diluted basis. The offer – which represents a 99-per-cent discount from Farmers Edge’s initial public offering price of $17 per share in March 2021 – comes as Farmers Edge grapples with a significant decline in valuation and ongoing liquidity issues. The board of Farmers Edge has formed a special committee of independent directors to evaluate Fairfax’s proposal and explore potential alternatives. In March 2021, Farmers Edge, which was among the most prominent precision farming companies in Canada, completed its initial public offering on TSX to raise $143.75 million at $17 per share. But the company’s market capitalization has plummeted from its IPO valuation of $835 million to a current third-quarter revenue of just $4.4 million. Farmers Edge, Investing.com
More people in Alberta are driving electric vehicles, with the number of EVs registered in the province increasing from 83 in 2012 to 9,338 in 2022, according to data from the Electric Vehicle Association of Alberta (EVAA). The number of registered EVs is up 65 per cent year-over-year in Alberta, although this represents only 0.26 per cent of the total vehicles on the road in the province. Based on the data, EVAA forecasts the number of registered EVs to climb to 1,026,401 by 2032, making up 26 per cent of total registered vehicles in Alberta. CTV News
Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) and fusion power plant technology developer Kyoto Fusioneering Ltd., headquartered in Kyoto, Japan, announced a strategic alliance agreement outlining how the organizations will work together to jointly explore opportunities to accelerate development and commercialization of fusion fuel cycle technology, a critical-path system for fusion energy commercialization. A large majority of the world’s fusion power plant designs use tritium as fuel. CNL and Kyoto Fusioneering aim to:
- Innovate tritium fuel cycle technologies and systems – Advancing the readiness level of the complete tritium fuel cycle with a focus on safety, public protection, and system economics.
- Support fusion developers in design and development of pilot plants – Providing comprehensive design, consulting, engineering, testing and technology to meet the needs of public and private fusion energy development programs globally.
- Support tritium handling and management – Offering insights and solutions for efficient tritium behavior control and extraction in fusion pilot plant devices.
Central to the collaboration is UNITY-2, a fusion test loop proposed for construction at the Chalk River Laboratories in Ontario Designed to emulate fusion power plant conditions, UNITY-2 will be a global first, integrating a full deuterium-tritium fuel cycle with the highest safety and tritium handling standards. General Fusion in B.C., which received nearly $50 million on a Strategic Innovation Fund grant, has been working on fusion for 20 years and recently announced plans for a test reactor in Richmond, B.C. that can keep an internal temperature of 100 million degrees Celsius. CNL
Amazon announced it will buy 415 megawatts of power from a 495-MW wind farm in Vulcan County in southern Alberta, according to Danish investment firm Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP), which is building the project. The 83-turbine wind farm, named Buffalo Plains, which will be the largest onshore wind farm constructed in Canada, is scheduled to be operational by the end of 2024. Amazon also buys electricity from the Travers solar project, Canada’s largest solar energy development located a few kilometres from Buffalo Plains. The Travers project was developed by Greengate Renewables and CIP, and is owned by Axium. Amazon will use the electricity to power its planned cloud computing hub in Calgary and fulfilment centres as part of a broader target to reach 100- per-cent renewable energy supplies by 2030. Sustainable Biz, GlobeNewswire
The University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences received a $1.5-million donation from RBC’s Climate Action Institute to bolster research in low-emission agricultural practices. The gift will fund research grants for 30 undergraduate and 15 graduate students at UManitoba. The research program will be based in the university’s Glenlea Research Station, the world’s longest continuous running field-scale greenhouse gas monitoring facility, located south of Winnipeg. Students will work closely with top researchers as well as producer organizations in areas such as regenerative agriculture, soil health and livestock nutrition in the quest for climate-smart agricultural systems. UManitoba
Centrus Energy in Bethesda, Maryland, started the first commercial domestic nuclear fuel production in the U.S. in 70 years, by delivering the first load of high-assay, low-enriched uranium (HALEU) fuel made at its Piketon, Ohio, plant to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Centrus Energy said it’s on track to produce 20 kilograms of HALEU by the end of the year, and then expects to produce 900 kg in 2024. The 93 currently active nuclear power reactors in the U.S. burn about 2,000 tonnes of uranium fuel each year. However, advanced nuclear reactors that are expected to go on line in the coming years require specialized fuel currently made on a commercial scale only in Russia. The DOE expects to invest about US $600 million to mature next-generation reactors through its Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program, and nine out of 10 of those reactors use HALEU fuels. Less than one per cent of natural uranium is U-235, the uranium isotope capable of sustaining a nuclear chain reaction. Today’s reactors use low-enriched uranium, which is almost five percent U-235. HALEU is enriched further to a concentration, or assay, of almost 20 per cent U-235, which is still considered low-enriched compared with the 90-plus per cent level required for weapons-grade uranium. Nevertheless, a report by the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine noted that expanding the global use of HALEU would potentially exacerbate proliferation and security risks because of the greater attractiveness of this material compared with the low-enriched uranium used in light water reactors. IEEE Spectrum
See also: Debate intensifies over using reprocessed spent nuclear fuel in small modular reactors
Taking a close look at the benefits and risks of small modular reactors
VC & PRIVATE INVESTMENT
The Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) announced a financing agreement for up to $210 million with Parkland Corporation, a North American convenience and fuel retailer. The financing positions Parkland to strategically expand its electric vehicle charging network, including the installation of up to 2,000 new charging ports at up to 400 sites in communities across Canada. The agreement it the CIB’s second investment under its Charging and Hydrogen Refuelling Infrastructure initiative. Parkland’s existing EV charging network is primarily located in B.C. which has the highest proportion of EV drivers in North America. To date, CIB investments in electric vehicle charging infrastructure will enable the installation of approximately 4,000 public fast charging ports across Canada. CIB
Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) announced an investment of about $200 million in Northvolt AB, an integrated battery platform focused on the R&D, manufacturing and recycling of sustainable battery cells and systems. The financing, in the form of convertible debt in the parent company located in Sweden, will contribute to the Northvolt Six battery factory in Saint-Basile-le-Grand and McMasterville, outside of Montreal – scheduled to begin construction before the year’s end. CDPQ joins the Investment Management Corporation of Ontario, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System in backing Northvolt. CDPQ
York University’s YSpace, the university’s entrepreneurship and innovation hub, will partner with BDC’s Thrive Lab to support and advance early-stage, women-led social impact businesses. Thrive Lab partners, which include MaRS Discovery District, Front Row Ventures and The Firehood, will recommend companies to fund and help with due diligence. BDC will provide an average of $250,000 to each startup, with partners contributing additional capital and offering support like coaching. Announced in the fall of 2022, the $100-million Thrive Lab is part of BDC’s $500-million Thrive Platform, the largest investment platform in the world supporting women-led businesses. The Thrive Lab’s first phase will co-invest – alongside 25 partners from across Canada, including YSpace – in businesses at the earliest stages of development, where they face the most fundraising challenges. BDC has earmarked $35 million for the first phase of the initiative. York University
Deep Sky, a Montreal-based carbon removal project developer, announced it raised a total of $75 million in its Series A funding to support gigaton-scale carbon removal in Canada. The round included conversion of the company’s $17.7-million seed note and $57.5 million in new capital co-led by Brightspark Ventures and Whitecap Venture Partners, with major participation from Investissement Québec ($25 million) as a mandate of the government of Quebec, OMERS Ventures, and Business Development Bank of Canada’s Climate Tech Fund. Deep Sky will use the fresh capital to: begin planning and construction of its first commercial facility; grow the team; build corresponding carbon removal software for selling carbon credits; and fund its Alpha research facility, the world’s first carbon removal research centre. Deep Sky
4AG Robotics, an ag-tech company based in Salmon Arm, B.C., raised $17.5 million in financing. The round was led by BDC Capital’s Industrial Innovation Venture Fund and InBC Investment Corp., with participation from Emmertech, Jim Richardson’s family office, Lex Capital and several Canadian angel investors. 4AG (pronounced “forage”) Robotics develops and builds robotics solutions, including harvesting robots, for agricultural producers. The funds will enable the company to accelerate deployment of robotic solutions for mushroom harvesting. Venture Capital Journal
Ambyint, a provider of AI-powered production and artificial lift optimization software for the energy industry, announced the successful close of its latest capital round (the amount wasn’t disclosed) and relocation of its head office from Delaware to Calgary, where the company started. The round was led by existing investors Mercury and Montrose Lane, plus new investors BDC Capital and Accelerate Fund III. Ambyint said the new capital will focus on accelerating customer growth, increasing energy and tech talent, and optimizing product enhancements including expansion of the company’s proven emissions mitigation capabilities. Ambyint
Toronto-based artificial intelligence company Tech Spark AI announced a $1.4-million pre-seed round to build out its new generative AI platform called Spark Plug. The round was led by TD Bank, with participation from Salesforce, the federal government and NBA Canada. Tech Spark AI was founded by Tamara Huggins eight years ago to develop school curricula for Black and brown students across North America. Spark Plug aims be a Black-owned alternative to current AI search platforms, mainly ChatGPT. Spark Plug’s first iteration allows users to translate classic literature from standard text to African American Vernacular English, a dialect that originated in the Black American community and is now used broadly by Gen Zers on the internet. TechCrunch
The Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund is investing up to $5.5 million in the Calgary Entertainment Arts Production Hub (CEAPH) at Bow Valley College. CEAPH will be a world-class facility in downtown Calgary and a creative arts ecosystem that aims to grow careers and companies in the creative industries. At the Hub, students will have access to training, reskilling and upskilling programs, including 3D animation and visual effects, game development, post-production, augmented and virtual reality, motion capture, esports, podcasting and more. Between 2024 and 2028, CEAPH is expected to train 675 individuals and support more than 125 companies. To date, the Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund has allocated more than $82 million to 26 projects, spurring $800 million dollars of investment, the creation, training and retention of more than 3,000 jobs, and supporting or starting more than 500 local companies. Bow Valley College
REPORTS & POLICIES
The Council of Canadian Innovators (CCI), in an open letter, urged Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland to reaffirm the federal government’s commitment to enact open banking and release a roadmap for its implementation. The letter currently includes more than 50 signatories, including from fintechs such as Borrowell, Neo Financial and KOHO Financial, the National Crowdfunding & Fintech Association of Canada, the Canadian Anti-Monopoly Project, and innovation hubs such as Communitech and MaRS Discovery District. The belief that Canada’s financial sector is strong because it is concentrated in a handful of very large banks is “deeply misguided,” the letter says. A wave of innovation is well underway within global financial services, and the most competitive and forward-looking leaders are based elsewhere, it says. “It’s time for Canada to catch up with the European Union, the United States and the UK to ensure we have affordable and innovative open banking.” The Liberal Party of Canada promised two years ago to enact open banking in Canada by the end of 2022. CIC
The total cost of government support for electric vehicle battery manufacturing by Northvolt, Volkswagen and Stellantis-LGES is estimated to be $43.6 billion from 2022-2023 to 2032-2033 – $5.8 billion higher than the announced costs of $37.5 billion, according to a report by the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO). Of the $43.6 billion, PBO estimated that $26.9 billion (62 per cent) in costs will be incurred by the federal government and $16.7 billion (38 per cent) will be borne by the governments of Ontario and Quebec. The federal and Quebec governments recently announced a production subsidy of up to $4.6 billion for Northvolt. The federal government used PBO’s methodology to estimate a break-even timeline of nine years for that subsidy, based on full production in every year. However, based on Northvolt’s projected annual production schedule, PBO estimated a longer break-even timeline of 11 years. PBO estimated a break-even timeline of 15 years for the $13.2-billion production subsidy announced for Volkswagen, and 23 years for the $15-billion production subsidy for Stellantis-LGES – consistent with PBO’s previous estimate (of 20 years), based on their combined production schedules. PBO cautioned that its estimates of the break-even timelines for the production subsidies are based on several optimistic assumptions. “It is certainly possible that the break-even timelines for the production subsidies exceed our estimates,” PBO said. “In addition, our break-even analysis only considers the cost of the production subsidies. Including other costs (such as construction support, foregone revenues and debt servicing) would further extend the break-even timelines.” PBO
Generative AI tools like ChatGPT are likely to have the greatest impact on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professionals and knowledge workers, according to a report by The Conference Board of Canada. Tools like ChatGPT are most likely to impact roles with a dual focus on writing and programming skills, according to the report. Roles that require strong competencies in both domains are uncommon, but do exist, which is the case for some STEM professionals and knowledge workers. Individuals in these professions that require proficiency in both writing and programming are positioned to experience the largest impacts of generative AI tools, according to the report. However, due to its current limitations, effective use of AI still requires knowledge and judgment, meaning these tools are likely to play a complementary role in the workplace, supporting rather than replacing people in their roles. At this point, major job displacement appears unlikely as tools like ChatGPT may improve task efficiency and reshape existing roles, said The Conference Board of Canada. One study found that people in certain roles with access to ChatGPT worked 40 per cent faster and the quality of their work increased by 18 per cent, the report noted. “Beyond task efficiency, AI tools have the potential to facilitate significant gains in labour productivity,” Michael Burt, vice president at The Conference Board of Canada, said in a statement. “This could accelerate the pace of Canada’s technology adoption and usher in broader economic growth. Organizations that don’t learn how to make use of these tools risk being left behind by their competitors.” The Conference Board of Canada
Eighty-six per cent of companies across the globe are not fully prepared to leverage AI and AI-powered technologies to the fullest potential, according to the inaugural Cisco Readiness Index. Yet of those companies that California-based Cisco surveyed, 97 per cent say the urgency to deploy AI-powered technologies has increased in their company within the past six months. The Cisco Readiness Index investigates readiness across six pillars: strategy, infrastructure, data, governance, talent and culture. Organizational readiness is categorized into four levels: pacesetters (fully prepared), chasers (moderately prepared), followers (limited preparedness) and laggards (unprepared). The breakdown of respondents for Cisco’s Readiness Index is: pacesetters (14 per cent), chasers (34 per cent), followers (48 per cent), and laggards (four per cent). The Index is based on a double-blind survey of 8,161 senior business leaders at organizations with 500 or more employees with responsibility for AI integration and deployment within their organization. Cisco
Four out of five Canadian banks rank in the top 20 in AI “maturity” – based on talent, innovation, leadership and transparency – out of 50 banks worldwide, according to a report by London-based Evident, an AI benchmarking and intelligence platform. Royal Bank of Canada ranked third on the list, TD Bank 11th, Bank of Montreal 16th, Scotiabank 18th, and CIBC 41st. The Evident AI Index is based on more than 100 individual indicators developed in partnership with leading subject matter experts spanning banking, technology and benchmarking. JPMorgan Chase in the U.S. ranked No. 1 for the second year running, followed by Capital One. North American banks hold six of the top 10 positions, with European banks generally lagging behind their North American peers. Across the banks, the report found a 10-per-cent increase in the volume of AI talent from May to September 2023, against a reduction of 2.5 per cent in overall headcount. Evident
A Canadian carbon dioxide removal (CDR) industry removing hundreds of millions of tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere by 2050 could create more than 300,000 jobs, add $143 billion in GDP, and support other crucial industrial sectors like construction, equipment manufacturing, steel and cement, according to a report by Carbon Removal Canada, an independent policy initiative. Canada has an abundance of land, extensive coastlines, and large geologic CO2 storage potential needed to achieve CDR at large scale, the report says. Canada’s potential geologic CO2 storage resource is estimated to range from 198 to 678 gigatonnes of CO2 across several provinces – mainly across Saskatchewan and Alberta in saline formations in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin – and in federal offshore areas. If this resource were converted into practical capacity, Canada could store between 360 and 1,000 years’ worth of current annual economy-wide CO2 emissions, according to the report. However, if Canada is going to build out the CDR industry to help address climate change, “considerable actions must be taken this decade to achieve the required scale by mid-century.” CDR will need to scale in even less time than solar power, the report says. It recommends that policymakers create a goal for building out CDR this decade, with a target in the range of five million tonnes of CO2 CDR capacity being actively developed by 2030. Carbon Removal Canada
A globally accepted framework for responsible sourcing of mineral value chains is needed, according to a report (https://bit.ly/3uqXlqT) by RE-SOURCING, an EU-funded multi-stakeholder platform that aims to advance responsible sourcing of raw materials along and across mineral value chains. A common framework will address the issues of fragmentation, while setting out clear guidance and targets for companies and governments for responsible sourcing practices, the report says. Incentives and mandatory requirements are necessary to level the playing field for responsible business practices, it says. Also important is the information exchange and collaboration among stakeholders to foster responsible sourcing practices. “The significance of integrating responsible sourcing discussions into international political forms for global impact is high.” The report recommends building upon actions already in progress to foster a collaborative effort among all stakeholders to drive responsible sourcing forward. RE-SOURCING
THE GRAPEVINE – News about people, institutions and communities
Iain Stewart, president of the National Research Council (NRC). announced his retirement, effective January 2, 2024, after more than 30 years in the public service. Since being appointed NRC president in August 2016, Stewart has worked closely with NRC researchers and corporate staff to make significant contributions to the advancement of knowledge, government policy mandates and business innovation in Canada. The NRC has, since 2016-2017, published more 8,000 articles, been granted over 1,000 patents, earned more than $1.3 billion in contract revenue, provided research and technical advice to over 4,000 companies, supported more than 20,000 SMEs with their innovation projects, and operated research facilities across Canada and, in the case of astronomy, internationally. The NRC also has addressed large-scale challenges, including advancing the digital economy with semiconductors, AI and quantum, and supporting Canada’s efforts to address climate change and adaptation, and the need for a more sustainable society. NRC
See also: NRC president Iain Stewart on the agency's activities, priorities and future plans
Renewing National Research Council facilities and expanding international collaborations
Catherine Karakatsanis, PEng, chief operating officer of Morrison Hershfield, became president of la Fédération Internationale des Ingénieurs-Conseils (FIDC). She is the first woman president in the 110-year history of the global advocacy federation for national associations of consulting engineers, representing the business and commercial interests of more than 40,000 firms in more than 100 countries. Karakatsanis has held leadership roles with Engineers Canada, Professional Engineers Ontario, and the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers. She served on boards and foundations for Hydro One, Engineers Without Borders Canada, the Canadian Engineering Memorial Foundation, and the Hellenic Heritage Foundation, as well as on the board of governors, engineering advisory council and various outreach and student programs for Western University, her alma mater. Canadian Consulting Engineer
Dominique Hussey became the CEO of Toronto-based law firm Bennett Jones – the first Black woman to take the helm at a top Canadian law firm. Hussey had led the firm’s intellectual property litigation group since 2011. Bennett Jones and its partners also elected John M. Mercury as its executive chair. Hussey and Mercury will take over their respective roles on January 1, 2024, from Hugh MacKinnon, the firm’s chair and CEO for the last 18 years. Bennett Jones
Salesforce Inc. named Denise Dresser as the new CEO of Slack, after Lidiane Jones left the post to lead online dating and networking app company Bumble. Dresser was previously the company’s president of accelerated industries and an executive vice president for enterprise sales prior to that. BNN Blomberg
Insurer Sun Life appointed Ingrid Johnson, current president of Sun Life Asia, to a new position of vice-chair of strategic partnerships. The new role is part of Sun Life’s strategy to capitalize on global partnership opportunities. Sun Life’s Asian division reported significant growth in the third quarter, with net wealth sales and asset management net flows reaching $101 million, compared to a decline of $468 million in the previous year. Individual protection sales also saw an increase, reaching $521 million, up from $325 million last year. Insurance Business
Winners of the 2023 Mitacs Awards, to be presented November 22 at an awards ceremony in Ottawa, are:
- Reza Eslami, CEO of startup Sensofine, which he launched as a PhD student at Toronto Metropolitan University – Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation-PhD for his work to create a first-of-its-kind smart garment that measures blood sugar levels from sweat.
- Ketul Patel, a postdoctoral researcher in the Faculty of Science at the University of Calgary – Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation-Postdoctoral for his role in discovering a major advancement in pain management: a small molecule that targets a newly discovered pathway for pain relief, effectively mitigating pain without the detrimental side effects of opioids.
- Kirsty Choquette, a PhD student in the School and Clinical Child Psychology program at the University of Alberta – Mitacs Award for Inclusive Innovation for her game-changing work to ensure Indigenous youth are represented when it comes to evaluating the mentoring programs and supports in place to help them transfer out of child welfare services as adults.
- Hannah Fronenberg, a PhD researcher in the physics department at McGill University, who recently completed a Mitacs internship at New York University – Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation-International for her innovative work to uncover new information about the origins of the universe, pushing the frontiers of current knowledge of how stars, galaxies and planets were formed in the period directly following the big bang.
- Glenda Watson Hyatt, a Master’s researcher in the department of applied science at Queen’s University – Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation-Master’s for her disruptive efforts to remove employment barriers facing Canadians living with communication disabilities.
- Bern Klein, a mineral process engineer and professor in the Norman B. Keevil Institute of Mining Engineering at the University of British Columbia – Mitacs Award for Exceptional Leadership-Professor, for his ongoing work to foster collaboration and develop disruptive technologies in Canada’s mining sector.
- Georges Kaddoum, research director of the Resilient Machine Learning Institute at École de technologie supérieure – Mitacs Award for Exceptional Leadership-Professor, for his ongoing work to build an innovation hub to support Canada’s next-generation wireless networks, including cutting-edge 6G technology breakthroughs that make it possible to deliver extremely fast and intelligent telecommunication networks that self-heal, self-optimize and self-configure.
- Matthew Mitchell, a postdoctoral researcher in the Stewart Blusson Quantum Matter Institute at the University of British Columbia – Mitacs Award for Commercialization for his work to advance a new era in microchips that use photons (light) and electrons for 3D printing optical structures called wave guides.
- Unilever Canada, a global consumer packaged goods corporation, earned the Mitacs Award for Exceptional Leadership-Industry for its pioneering work to apply artificial intelligence to precision marketing, demand forecasting and promotional planning, ultimately improving consumer engagement and pricing strategies. Mitacs
Trent University’s Cleantech Commons entered “knowledge partnership” with ProLytics Research Synergies to boost the work of clean technology entrepreneurs and innovators. The partnership will support and connect start-up and spinout ventures at Cleantech Commons as they develop, test, and scale their products, helping them to bring their ideas to market faster. Current Cleantech Innovation Portal members, as well as future Cleantech Commons tenants, will have access to a range of scientific, advisory and analytical services, including chemical analysis, experimental design, data consultation, food technology, biochemistry and molecular biology, and bioinformatics. ProLytics Research Synergies has strong ties to the Trent community, employing several Trent graduates and post-doctoral research fellows. Trent University
CPA Ontario announced the Innovation Leadership Accelerator for CPAs, a program for aspiring financial leaders. In partnership with leading Canadian innovators Jim Balsillie and John Ruffolo, the immersive 15-week program is designed to empower certified public accountants with the knowledge, exposure and experience needed to become future financial leaders of organizations driving innovation. CPA Ontario
The University of Waterloo opened its Multi-Scale Additive Manufacturing (MSAM) Lab, home for the university’s next-generation metal 3D-printing research. MSAM’s focus on additive manufacturing provides a more efficient and sustainable way to prototype and manufacture a range of products across myriad sectors that include aerospace, healthcare and automotive. Launched in 2017, Waterloo’s MSAM Lab has become the largest additive manufacturing academic facility in Canada and one of the most comprehensive facilities of its kind in the world. The MSAM Lab is located in Kitchener’s Catalyst137 facility and contains more than $25 million worth of state-of-the-art equipment including a quad-laser powder bed fusion machine. Funding for the MSAM Lab was provided by industry and government partners including the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, which provided $8.2 million in financing in 2021 to establish the Additive Manufacturing Alliance (AMA). Since its founding at the University of Waterloo in 2020, the AMA has supported 119 companies through R&D collaborations, prototyping and testing services, and training. Additionally, 39 products and services have been commercialized through this project to date. University of Waterloo
A special kind of genetic test that helps determine the best antidepressant for patients with moderate-to-severe depression could generate substantive health system savings and greatly improve patient outcomes, according to research from the University of British Columbia. Dr. Stirling Bryan, professor at UBC’s school of school of population and public health, and senior scientist at Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute, is co-senior author of a study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, that shows in B.C. alone, implementing pharmacogenomic testing could save the provincial public health system an estimated $956 million over 20 years. The study was funded by Genome BC, Genome Canada and Michael Smith Health Research BC. One in 10 Canadians will experience major depression at some point in their lives, making it one of the largest public health burdens. While more than 35 antidepressant medications are available in Canada, over half of patients don’t respond to the antidepressant they are initially prescribed and roughly 27 per cent report adverse effects. Previous studies have shown that up to 42 per cent of the variation in how patients respond to these medications is due to genetic factors. Pharmacogenomic testing uses genetic information, typically obtained using a cheek swab, blood test or saliva sample, to help guide medication selection and dosing. The researchers worked with patient partners, clinicians and health system and government partners to develop a simulation model that mimics the experience of patients with major depression, from diagnosis through to treatment, recurrence and recovery. By incorporating B.C. health administrative data, clinical trial data and defined treatment strategies, the model compared the projected journey of 194,149 adults with and without pharmacogenomic testing over a 20-year period. The model showed that pharmacogenomic testing would result in 37 per cent fewer patients experiencing treatment-resistant depression, where the patients’ depression does not improve despite trying several kinds of treatment. Pharmacogenomic testing also would result in patients spending 15 per cent more time without depression symptoms, resulting in an anticipated 1,869 fewer deaths and 21,346 fewer hospital admissions over 20 years, according to the research. Pharmacogenomic tests are not currently offered through the public health systems across Canada, but patients can pay for them through private companies. The researchers say their analysis makes a strong case for including pharmacogenomic testing as part of routine, publicly funded health care for people with major depression in B.C., but more work is needed to determine how such testing could be put into practice. UBC
Burnaby, B.C.-based Qu Biologics, a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company that announced its Phase 2 clinical trial in late-stage colon cancer, PERIOP-06, was awarded a $4,000 grant by the Accelerating Clinical Trial (ACT) Canadian Consortium. ACT was founded in 2022 and is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Clinical Trials Fund to support clinical trials across Canada. Qu Biologics is developing its Site Specific Immunomodulators (SSIs), a novel platform of immunotherapies designed to restore innate immune function. Qu Biologics also received Health Canada clearance and institutional-level ethics approval to proceed with a randomized placebo-controlled Phase 2 multi-centre trial to assess the effectiveness of its “QBERCO SSI,” an innate immune modulator, in reducing postoperative immune suppression and improving cancer outcomes in patients with late-stage colorectal cancer undergoing surgery for liver metastases. The study, which is led by gastroenterology oncology surgeons Dr. Rebecca Auer (Ottawa Hospital Research Institute) and Dr. Paul Karanicolas (Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre) and managed by the Centre of Clinical Trial Support at the Sunnybrook Research Institute, will enroll patients through a minimum of six academic oncology centers in Ontario. Qu Biologics
Future Ocean Foods debuted as the world’s first alternative seafood association, aimed at propelling the alternative seafood industry into a new era. The alliance already has 36 companies on board, spanning 14 countries – including Canadian firms Algarithm, By2048, Infusd Nutrition, Konsious Foods, Mara, New School Foods, Save Da Sea, Seed To Surf, and Smallfood. Forty per cent of Future Ocean Foods’ members are women founders, and this percentage is set to increase. The association’s goal is to bring together global initiatives united in a shared purpose to create sustainable, healthy seafood alternatives that support ocean conversation and address current challenges in food security. Future Ocean Foods’ focus is to foster collaboration and knowledge-sharing with members spanning the sectors of plant-based seafood, fermentation and cultivated food tech. Future Ocean Foods members are using plants and cells to help create seafood alternatives ranging from whole-cut salmon filets, sushi-grade tuna, smoked salmon, flaky white fish, shrimp, crab, calamari and much more. Alternative seafood is a rapidly growing industry, with the Good Food Institute reporting 40-per-cent year-over-year growth of sales (by pounds measured) between 2019 and 2022, and investment in the sector grew by 92 per cent from 2020 to 2021. Future Ocean Foods