The Short Report - Oct. 27: Dr. John Polyani awarded 2022 Andrei Sakharov Prize, rapid growth in Ontario's AI ecosystem, U of A's promising antiviral research, and more

Cindy Graham
October 26, 2021


Alberta Innovates has started a new round of funding for the development of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, industrial internet of things, augmented reality and unmanned aerial vehicle technologies in Canada’s energy industry under its Digital Innovation in Clean Energy (DICE) program. The program has made $2.5 million in funding available with up to $350,000 available per project. This round complements investments in the first DICE projects in 2020, where 17 projects supported by $3 million in DICE funding created $16 million in project value. A webinar for interested applicants is taking place on Thursday, Oct. 28 from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. EDT. – Alberta Innovates

Newfoundland-based engineering design software firm CoLab Software has raised $17 million in Series A funding for its collaboration platform for engineering teams. The round was led by New York-based investment firm Insight Partners (New York) with participation from new and existing venture capitalists and angel investors including Xometry (Maryland), Onshape (Boston), GrabCAD (Cambridge, Mass.) as well as Bosch, Tesla and Atlassian. – CoLab


Metal and mining corporation Rio Tinto is renewing its 25-year-long R&D partnership with The Université du Québec à Chicoutimi (UQAC) following an agreement to invest $2 million over the next three years. The funding will allow UQAC and Rio Tinto to continue their work developing bauxite and tailings processing technologies. – UQAC

SpaceQ reports that senior Ukrainian officials are heading to Canada in November to visit Guysborough County where Maritime Launch Services (MLS, Halifax) has proposed to build a spaceport to help research and communications organizations launch satellites into low earth orbit. Construction on MLS's spaceport is to begin this fall; it would be the only operational spaceport in Canada after the abandonment of the Churchill Rocket Research Range in the 1990s, and the first commercial spaceport for orbital launches in the country. In May MLS contracted with St. Francis Xavier University’s FluxLab to implement the air monitoring program for the project; an MOU was signed between MLS and St. FX in January 2020. – SpaceQ

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles office of the Trade Commissioner Service of Canada and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) have developed the Canadian Space Payload Accelerator, an online 12-week program to provide participants with an opportunity for Canadian organizations to accelerate their ideas in the space exploration industry. Selected Teams will need to show "how their payload designs could engage in activities supporting science goals for returning humans to the moon, therefore advancing one or more of the Artemis III Science requirements as defined by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)." – SpaceQ


Montreal-based breast cancer research consortium the McPeak-Sirois Group and the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) have launched a registry to learn how patients with metastatic breast cancer are treated in Quebec and to research the efficacy of novel therapies in its treatment. The registry will foster collaboration between researchers and give them access to data from potentially thousands of patients being treated at ten other partner institutions in Quebec. – MUHC

A team of researchers at the University of Alberta has discovered new antiviral agents that could lead to safer and more effective COVID-19 treatments than other current drugs under development. The team, led by Dr. Joanne Lemieux, received funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and Alberta Innovates. Co-investigators on the project are Dr. Lorne Tyrrell, distinguished university professor of medical microbiology and immunology and founder of the Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology; Dr. James Nieman, head of chemistry for the Applied Virology Institute; Dr. Howard Young, professor of biochemistry; and John Vederas, university professor of chemistry in the faculty of science. – U of A


A Vector Institute report compiled by Deloitte has found that Ontario's artificial intelligence (AI) ecosystem grew between April 2020 and March 2021. The assessment tracked 10 metrics including AI job creation and retention, investment, application and commercialization to measure the progress of governments, businesses, and institutions in strengthening Ontario’s AI ecosystem. Among the report highlights: more than 7,200 new AI jobs were created in Ontario, nearly double last year’s figure; $2.16 billion in venture capital investment flowed into Ontario’s AI ecosystem — up $254 million from the previous year, and the estimated median spending on AI R&D grew by a factor of 5.5 to 6.3 compared with last year. – Vector Institute

Results from the AUTM (formerly Association of University Technology Managers2020 Canadian Licensing Activity Survey show startups are a core focus of university technology transfer offices, with more than 86 percent of 104 new startups remaining in their institution’s home province. The survey shows the pandemic has had a significant impact on startup formation in 2020, with the number of newly formed businesses declining to 104 — a drop of 11.9 percent from 2019 — while the average number of startups formed per respondent reverted to 2017 levels, representing a 20 percent decline compared to 2019. The ratio of operational startups per respondent declined 35 percent from 24.2 in 2020 compared to 37.4 in 2019. – AUTM

Meanwhile, the AUTM 2020 survey marks the first year that University of Calgary has ranked number one among research institutions in Canada for startups, surpassing the University of Toronto and the University of Waterloo as previous leaders. UCalgary was responsible for 21 of 104 startups across all Canadian research institutions in 2020, ahead of Toronto’s 17, Waterloo’s 11, McGill’s 10 and UBC’s 8. – UCalgary


Nobel laureate Dr. John Polyani has been awarded the 2022 Andrei Sakharov Prize, which recognizes outstanding leadership and achievements of scientists in upholding human rights, by the American Physical Society. Polyani is University Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto and received the award for his seventy years of work advocating for a nuclear-weapons-free world, upholding human rights and freedom of speech, for educating the public on the essential role of science in society, and for his "visionary approach to bringing about a hopeful, peaceful future." – U of T

British Columbia's new Centre for Innovation and Clean Energy (CICE) has made appointments to its executive team and board of directors, with Dr. Ged McLean appointed executive director and Yemi Adefulu deputy executive director. The CICE was founded by the Government of British Columbia, the Government of Canada and Shell Canada to accelerate innovation in GHG emission reduction by bringing together innovators, industry, governments and academics to accelerate the commercialization and scaleup of B.C.-based clean energy technologies. The B.C. government and Shell Canada have each committed $35 million to the centre while the Government of Canada has committed up to $35 million as part of Budget 2021 and delivered through Natural Resources Canada’s Energy Innovation Program. – Cision

Related: Ottawa, B.C. and Shell invest $105 million in new low-carbon innovation centre

Dr. Sioban Nelson has been appointed president of the board of directors of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. Sioban, who is a CAHS Fellow, succeeds Dr. Christopher Simpson MD, FRCPC, FACC, FHRS, FCCS, FCAHS, now past President. – CAHS

The Capital Angel Network (Ottawa-Gatineau) has appointed Suzanne Grant as executive director. Grant replaces Nolan Beanlands, who left the organization in September to become manager of early stage investments at Ottawa-based fund manager BridgeGreen Capital. – Ottawa Business Journal

Women’s Executive Network (WXN) has released the names of the top 100 award winners from its 2021 Canada's Most Powerful Women list. Among the winners in the science and technology category for women in STEM roles are Dr. Carrie Bourassa, scientific director of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research - Institute of Indigenous Peoples’ Health; Dr. Anita Layton, Canada 150 Research Chair in mathematical biology and medicine at the University of Waterloo; Dr. Karen Mossman, vice president research at McMaster University; Dr. Carolyn Ren, co-founder, VP and CTO of QuantWave Technology and co-founder and co-director of Air Microfluidic Systems, and Dr. Rita Orji, Canada Research Chair at Dalhousie University. Full list of WXN STEM winners


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