The Short Report - Oct. 6, 2021: McGill's new innovation fund, an insect research facility for USask, U15 calls for investment in university security measures, and more

Cindy Graham
October 5, 2021


Interac has acquired exclusive rights to SecureKey Technologies (Toronto), a digital ID and authentication provider that works with governments, financial institutions, and businesses to simplify access to online services and applications. Interac says the acquisition will enable it to develop a national, standards-based digital identity platform for Canadians. The two companies will continue to operate and collaborate as wholly independent entities. – Interac

RELATED: The movement to give every Canadian a digital ID by 2021 is gaining momentum

Toronto-based artificial intelligence (AI) Software as a Service (SaaS) startup SalesChoice is partnering with Purolator and the Government of Ontario through Ontario’s Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network (AVIN) on a driver health and safety project that will test the effectiveness and scalability of an AI-based, predictive mood tracking and prescriptive mobile application. AVIN's contribution to the project of $100,000 is being matched by both Purolator and SalesChoice for a total project value of $300,000. – SalesChoice

Dorval, Quebec-based Novartis Pharmaceuticals is collaborating on a multi-year partnership with Montreal-based Innodem Neurosciences to fund a clinical trial that uses artificial intelligence (AI)-powered eye tracking software to assist clinicians in diagnosing and monitoring disease progression of multiple sclerosis. Novartis hopes to demonstrate that the technology is efficient, accessible and scalable to people living with MS in Canada and globally, given that current eye tracking infrared technology is costly and not easily accessible, particularly in remote communities. – Cision


A new engineering biology centre at the University of Saskatchewan's Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS) will receive a combined $3.2 million in funding through Innovation Saskatchewan's Innovation Science Fund ($2 million) and the Canadian Agricultural Partnership ($1.2 million), as well as matching funding through the Canada Foundation for Innovation. The centre was established to attract investments and companies to Saskatchewan's agriculture and food sectors as well as to reduce the capital needed to set up and operate businesses looking to deliver research, development and large-scale production. – USask

Meanwhile, USask is designing and constructing a new Insect Research Facility (USIRF) on its Saskatoon campus. The USIRF, the first of its kind in a western Canadian university and one of a handful in Canada designed to conduct research on arthropod plant pests and beneficial insects, will be led by Dr. Sean Prager, the first entomologist at USask’s College of Agriculture and Bioresources. Contributions for design and construction include $500,000 from Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF) as part of its $32 million Capacity Initiative. Additional funding includes $285,000 from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, $70,000 from the Saskatchewan Canola Development Commission, $70,000 from Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, $70,000 from the Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission and $50,000 from USask. – USask


McGill University has launched its McGill Innovation Fund to support the development of innovative technologies as well as the spinoff companies that emerge from the University. The fund is open to McGill members who have declared a Report of Invention to the Office of Innovation and Partnerships and aims to improve the chances of university innovations being implemented once they leave the classroom or laboratory. The fund will provide as much as $475,000 in its first year, making it one of the largest funds of its kind in Canada and the biggest in McGill’s 200-year history. – McGill

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories has issued a call for proposals for the third round of its Canadian Nuclear Research Initiative (CNRI) program. Launched in 2019, the program was established to accelerate the deployment of small modular reactor (SMRs) and advanced reactor (AR) designs, including next-generation on-grid reactors and fusion technologies. The deadline for this round of submissions is Dec. 22, 2021, and projects will be selected in the spring of 2022. – CNL

AGE-WELL NCE, Canada's technology and aging network, has chosen finalists for the 2021 AGE-WELL National Impact Challenge competition sponsored by the Ontario Brain Institute (OBI) and the Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation (CABHI). Finalists will explain how their technology-based solution can positively impact older Canadians and/or caregivers during AgeTech Innovation Week, a free virtual event for anyone with an interest in technology and aging. The winner receives $25,000 in cash and in-kind prizes while a runner-up is eligible for a $10,000 cash prize. Finalists include Braze Mobility (Toronto), Hyivy Health (Waterloo), Neighborli (Vancouver), PROVA Innovations (Hamilton) and StrongerU Senior Fitness. – AGE-WELL


Vancouver-based ag-tech company Semios has raised $100 million through private equity and venture capital firm Morningside Group (Boston) to accelerate R&D programs and deploy solutions to help growers reduce their chemical inputs, manage water and improve crop outcomes. Semios uses sensors to monitor climate, soil moisture, and insect and disease activity in tree fruit and tree nut crops and has more than 120 million acres of farmland under management in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Europe and South Africa. Semios raised $100 million in February 2020, also through the Morningside Group, which was used to take over three companies in the same field — Altrac (California), Centricity (Washington) and Australian-based Agworld. – Cision


Research findings from the University of Manitoba indicate that gender remains key to predicting the types of experiences natural sciences and engineering (NSE) professors will encounter during their career path and suggests that gender bias continues to be a determining factor for those within NSE professions. Commenting on the findings, U of M researcher Annemieke Farenhorst noted that “Tri-Council and other funding initiatives place an increasing importance on fully integrating EDI as part of the research enterprise in Canada, for example because research teams that are more diverse and inclusive tend to be more successful in research innovation and knowledge translation.” – U of M

The U15 Group of Canadian Research Universities, in a recent statement on protecting Canadian values and research, is encouraging the Government of Canada to implement security measures that will prevent the inadvertent targeting or profiling of members of any one community and recommends that "security assessments be conducted transparently to ensure the community clearly understands the nature of the risks that are being assessed." In their pre-budget submission to the 2022 federal budget, the U15 calls on the Canadian government to address increasing national security concerns by investing in university security administration, cyber security, data protection systems and communications networks. – U15 Statement and U15 Pre-Budget Submission

The Senate Prosperity Action Group, a working group of 12 members of Canada’s Senate, has released a report recommending policy actions after hearing presentations from more than 40 experts from across the economic and political spectrum on where Canada should turn in developing the next wave of prosperity. Rising to the Challenge of New Global Realities: Forging a New Path for Sustainable, Inclusive and Shared Prosperity in Canada is available for download and will be discussed at a virtual event hosted by the Public Policy Forum on October 7. Here's the event registration.


The Government of British Columbia and BC Hydro are incentivizing residents to switch from fossil fuels to electricity in a new five-year plan. BC Hydro plans to invest more than $260 million to implement the plan over the next five years, including nearly $190 million to promote fuel switching in homes, buildings, vehicles and industry, and more than $50 million to attract new industries to B.C. that are looking for clean power to run their businesses and reduce their carbon footprint. The plan also includes programs to reduce the time required to get customers connected to BC Hydro’s grid. – Government of BC

Caisse de depot et placement du Québec (CDPQ) is planning to sell its oil production investments— assets which currently make up one per cent of its portfolio—by the end of next year in a new plan to fight climate change. CDPQ increased its carbon intensity target after surpassing its 2017 goal of reducing intensity by 25 per cent per dollar invested. The new plan is to reduce its carbon intensity by 60 per cent by 2030 and to increase its portfolio of low-carbon assets to $54 billion by 2025, triple the total in 2017 and up from its current $36 billion portfolio. – CDPQ


Dr. Peter Loewen has been appointed the new director of the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, effective Nov. 1, 2021. Loewen is currently Munk's associate director for global engagement and the director of PEARL (Policy, Elections and Representation Lab). He served as director of U of T’s School of Public Policy and Governance from 2016 until its amalgamation with Munk's School of Global Affairs in 2018. Loewen assumes the role of director from Professor Cheryl Misak, who has served as interim director since December 2020 following the departure of Michael Sabia, who was appointed deputy minister of finance. – Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy

The Canadian Medical Hall of Fame has announced its 2022 inductees for health leadership in Canada. They include Sir John Bell, the Late Thomas A. Dignan, Dr. Daniel Drucker, Dr. David J.A. Jenkins, Dr. Jonathan L. Meakins, and Dr. Noralou P. Roos. – CMHF

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