Posts Tagged ‘Innovation’

Redefining Medical Technology in the Toronto-Waterloo Corridor

As the second-largest technology supercluster in North America, the Toronto Waterloo Corridor is a global hub of research, innovation, and talent with over 5000 tech startups, 16 universities and colleges, and 81 innovations hubs and accelerators.

The Toronto-Waterloo Region ranked in the top 20 global ecosystems for Artificial Intelligence and Life Science and one of the top six ecosystems for talent in Life Science, as per Startup Genome’s 2019 report, representing a growing competitive advantage in AI-powered medicine that was highlighted during two major innovation events, Toronto’s Elevate Tech Festival and the Waterloo Innovation Summit     

#Moonshots: Elevating Canadian Tech Startups to the Global Stage

For the third year in a row, Elevate Tech Festival hosted a global audience of technology leaders, policymakers, disruptors, celebrities, and media in celebration of the Canadian innovation ecosystem.

This year, the festival was focused around the theme of ‘Moonshots’ in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 moon landing, which had inspired a shift toward science and engineering that ushered a revolution in technology.

Highlighting this year’s theme, astronaut, Founding Fellow at the Creative Destruction Lab’s Space program, and Elevate festival Co-chair, Colonel Chris Hadfield, took the main stage. Col. Hadfield’s presentation focused on humanity’s history of setting and achieving moonshot goals and encouraging the continuation of this ideology in business. 

The festival’s theme carried through to the annual ElevateR pitch competition where 32 of Canada’s top startups pitched their moonshots ideas in a March Madness style competition. This year, the ElevateR pitch competition featured an all-female panel of world-class investors and celebrity judges. The competition showcased a diverse range of advanced new and emerging technologies, from microsatellite-enabled quantum key distribution network being developed by Qeynet, to hardware and software solutions being developed for real-time online information in the construction industry by ElevateR pitch finalist, Exact Technology Corporation. Canadian AI-powered medtech startups maintained a dominant presence throughout the pitch competition this year, highlighting Canada’s strengths in these high impact fields. This includes companies such as Conversation Health, who are innovating conversational AI solutions, Animo who are using AI to quantify and predict psychological well-being, MedStack who are delivering automation-powered developer-flexible cloud hosting, VoxNeuro who are commercializing the world’s first objective cognitive health assessments, Braze Mobility, who are developing blind spot sensors for wheelchairs, and Elevate Pitch winners, Village Technologies, with their AI-powered app for tracking infant speech development.

ElevateR Pitch Competition Winner Maryam Nabavi, Co-founder & CEO of Village Technologies pitching to the judges.

A true testament of Canadian AI-powered medtech rising to the global stage, Deep Genomics CEO and Elevate AI track panelist, Brendan Frey, revealed that the company’s proprietary AI drug discovery platform has identified a novel treatment target and corresponding drug candidate for Wilson disease, a rare and potentially life-threatening genetic disorder. “This is an important milestone for patients affected by Wilson disease and it represents a significant advance in the drug discovery community more broadly,” said Brendan Frey in a press release. “Within 18 months of initiating our target discovery effort, we identified a genetic mutation that causes the disease, the chemical properties needed in a molecule to target the mutation, and a compound that warrants further investigation. We are delighted to nominate the first ever AI-discovered therapeutic candidate and are eager to move it rapidly into the clinic for the potential benefit of patients.”

Brendan Frey, CEO of Deep Genomics presenting at the Elevate AI Track

On the Elevate AI stage, Frey posed the role of medtech innovators as “custodians of helping the patients” and explained how his company has made strides by taking advantage of the recent exponential growth in genetics data and by integrating heterogeneous datasets to tremendously increase overall performance in drug discovery.

Frey was followed on stage by Vector Institute Chair, Ed Clark, who stressed the need to combine social and economic policies in order to sustain the Canadian tech industry. He argued that while Canada had a first-mover advantage in the AI space, we are now in a race that will require Canadians to be more competitive in order to survive and prosper. 

This was echoed during a panel discussion by Carole Piovesan of INQ Data Law, Natalie Raffoul of Brion Raffoul, and Sean Silcof, technology reporter at The Globe and Mail. Alluding to Canada as an “open-source factory of ideas” the panel noted that while Canada had the first-mover advantage, our adoption rate for AI technology is slow with majority of Canadian patents ending up in the hands of foreign companies, thus stressing the need for increasing commercialization and keeping Intellectual Property (IP) in Canada. Piovesan argued that privacy compliance extends beyond legality as “a democratic value, that we are entitled to preserve our IP” and discussed patenting as part of a company’s risk management, particularly as the growth of AI and big data is spurring a shift from tangible to intangible assets and markets.

#UWBeyond: Seeding the Revolution in Predictive Medicine  

The 2019 Waterloo Innovation Summit showcased some of the leading local minds who are driving the transformation from acute to preventative and predictive medicine by leveraging cutting-edge technologies and sophisticated machine learning data algorithms to reduce healthcare costs while increasing the speed of discovery and improving patient outcomes.

For Alexander Wong, Canada Research Chair in AI & Medical Imaging, professor at the University of Waterloo, and co-inventor of DarwinAI’s Generative Synthesis AI technology, this transformation is about opening the black box of machine learning and providing more information to clinicians through augmented intelligence human-machine collaborations. The by-product of years of scholarship from the University of Waterloo, DarwinAI’s platform uses AI to understand a neural network and then learns to generate new, highly optimized, smaller and faster networks while enabling explainable deep learning. Wong’s team recently created a family of compact deep convolutional neural networks called AttoNets to demonstrate how the new human-machine collaborative design approach can be used for a broad range of tasks including video action recognition, video pose estimation, image captioning, image super-resolution, and image generation. AttoNets are faster than available neural networks and are efficient for edge computing with extensive applications in aerospace, automotive, finance, agriculture, medtech, consumer electronics sector, and more. Wong spoke at the summit about the tremendous potential of AI-enhanced health care to fill in the gaps with predictive and preventative models.

Jodie Wallis, managing director for AI in Canada at Accenture, and
Alexander Wong, Canada Research Chair in AI & Medical Imaging, in a panel discussion at the Waterloo Innovation Summit.

Illuminating the evolution of bioengineering and the future of disease modeling & drug discovery Ron Li, CEO and founder of Novoheart Inc. and a distinguished University of Waterloo alumnus, shared his journey from idea to real-world application. Li founded Novoheart in 2014 and grew it into a global stem cell biotechnology company pioneering an array of next-generation human heart tissue prototypes. Novoheart was the first company in the world to engineer a miniature living human heart pump known as “heart-in-a-jar” that can revolutionize personalized, precision medicine and drug development.

Shedding further light on the revolution in personalized medicine, Roderick Slavcev, CSO of Mediphage Bioceuticals and Cody Shirriff, co-founder and CEO of Serenity Bioworks addressed current challenges and opportunities for aligning the safety and efficacy of genetic therapies. Mediphage is currently developing world-class genetic medicines utilizing its core platform technology, Ministring DNA, to improve the quality of life for patients suffering from chronic genetic diseases. Ministring DNA is a unique and novel gene delivery vector with the potential to cure genetic diseases for which treatments are currently limited or unavailable. Shiriff is the co-inventor of Serenity’s CargoTek™ platform technology, which improves gene therapies by inducing a state of tolerance and dampening adverse pro-inflammatory reactions. Slavcev addressed further challenges related to high risk aversion with initial funding in medtech, urging for higher investor risk tolerance and praising programs such as the Canadian Scientific Research & Experimental Development (SR&ED) tax credit program as strong incentives for doing research in Canada.

This was echoed by Armen Bakirtzian, CEO and co-founder of Intellijoint Surgical, in a panel discussion on scaling up in a highly competitive sector with panelists Alexa Roeper, CEO and co-founder of Penta Medical, and Chris Wormold of Veramito. Bakirtzian noted that while early-stage grants and the SR&ED program make it easier for companies to get started in Canada, customer acquisition can be challenging. The gap that emerges after product development and before commercialization presents an adoption risk. As a result, Canada has become known for “selling too early” and there is an urgent need to build skill to scale. “There is a great startup scene when it comes to medtech and healthtech in KW,” Bakirtzian said. “I think where we could do better is investing in them and investing in them to stay and scale in Kitchener-Waterloo.”

Catherine McIntyre, Author at The Logic, Armen Bakirtzian, CEO and co-founder of Intellijoint Surgical, Alexa Roeper, CEO and co-founder of Penta Medical, Chris Wormold of Veramito in a panel discussion at the Waterloo Innovation Summit.

Intellijoint recently launched a med-tech hub in Kitchener, The Medical Innovation Xchange (MIX) that will help local medtech companies to grow their business. The purpose of MIX is to connect and unite the local medtech community, provide access to state of the art lab, manufacturing and office space, provide mentorship, and facilitate partnerships. “We wanted to focus on creating an infrastructure that really makes KW attractive for companies when they graduate from startup to scale up,” Bakirtzian explained. “There is a different set of challenges when you are scaling a company versus when you are starting a company. Intellijoint Surgical is 9 years old, we have gone from 0 employees to now 70 employees, we have done over 10,000 hips all around the world, so we want to be able to pay it forward and help the younger companies in town to build their own knowledge on how to scale up a medtech company.” 

The Waterloo Innovation Summit went behind the scenes of Waterloo’s booming medtech community with a series of pulse checks on some of today’s most promising startups.

Moazam Khan, co-founder and CEO of Curiato Inc., revealed a new skin data platform and smart technology designed to collect skin data in real-time and predict patient risk. Curiato is a Kitchener- based startup developing smart healthcare solutions to help prevent life-threatening pressure injuries. One of the initial applications of their AI platform is to manage and prevent the silent epidemic of bedsores with further applications in injury management, pain management, infection control, and even robotic surgery.

Hendrik Walther, CEO and co-founder of OcuBlink, developed an artificial eye model that is assisting research centers and pharmaceutical and medical device companies to test and develop better ophthalmic products. OcuBlink began as an initiative of the Centre for Ocular Research & Education (CORE) and now operates as an affiliate. OcuBlink’s versatile model provides a physiological blink with controllable speed/rates, similar wettability to real corneas with an artificial tear film and clinical tear break up time.  

Michael Reimer, assistant professor at the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC), discussed the integration of quantum computing in medicine and explained its pivotal contribution to the next evolution of health care. This includes real-world applications being developed at the IQC such as the development of control electronics around sensors, fabrication of indium-gallium-arsenide (InGaAs) sensors that can detect in the infrared for dose monitoring in cancer treatment, as well as the development of multipixel nanowire arrays to integrate in a charge-coupled device (CCD) camera for ophthalmic imaging detection of blinding diseases.

Shak Lakhani, founder and head of R&D at AVRO Life Science, discussed how a polymer skin patch revolutionizes the delivery of medications. Avro is a Waterloo-based, preclinical stage pharmaceutical company developing OmniDerm™, a platform transdermal technology for the passive delivery of small drug molecules.

Morteza Ahmadi, co-founder and CEO of Qidni Labs, described a reality where renal replacement therapy is available anytime, anywhere. Qidni Labs is a Kitchener-based startup developing an artificial kidney and portable dialysis machine to help improve the lives and survival rates of kidney failure patients.

2019 Waterloo Innovation Summit Pulse Checks.
Top left to bottom right: Hendrik Walther, CEO and co-founder of OcuBlink; Shak Lakhani, Founder and Head of Research and Development at AVRO Life Science; Morteza Ahmadi, co-founder and CEO of Qidni Labs; Michael Reimer, Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC); Moazam Khan, co-founder and CEO of Curiato Inc.

The Summit wrapped up with a HealthTech pitch competition featuring very-early-stage startups from Waterloo’s Velocity incubator. Pitching companies included Insula Medical, developers of a  novel insulin delivery system with seamless smartphone integration, SheCycle, which is working to end the cycle of poverty for women in developing countries with a focus on menstrual hygiene management, Watermine Innovations, which uses a proprietary machine learning and AI algorithm to develop new therapeutics, and pitch competition winner, Bloomry, which is developing AI software to help coach educators work with their student’s mental health issues.

Velocity director and pitch competition moderator, Jay Shah, spoke about the impact of Velocity for local startups in providing the infrastructure, financial support, mentorship, and lab access to budding local companies. Shah invited the local tech and investment community to Canada’s largest seed investment event, Corridor Demo Day, where over 50 of Canada’s most investment-ready Seed to Series A startups from the Toronto Waterloo Region will be pitching to more than 150 potential investors. Corridor Demo Day is a collaboration between Corridor based organizations including Communitech, Velocity, OneEleven, Accelerator Centre, DMZ, Techstars Toronto, MaRS, NEXT Canada, Innovation Factory, RIC Centre, CDMN and more.

These accelerators and innovation hubs represent long term private and public investments in Canadian technology that are particularly critical for local medtech startups, who typically face average path to market that can exceed exceeding five years before a product sees a return on investment.  

The ability of early-stage startups to scale to the global stage, therefore, remains contingent upon the level of investment in the region with recent provincial government funding cuts to innovation hubs across Ontario threatening the future growth of the Toronto-Waterloo innovation ecosystem.

In discussion with Nora Young at the Summit, professor and Nobel Laureate in Physics, Donna Strickland, spoke about increasing dialogue and long term vision in research and encouraged the adoption of a national model where industry is willing to make long term investments together with government and academia.

Professor and Nobel Laureate in Physics 2018, Donna Strickland, in conversation with
Canadian broadcaster and writer Nora Young at the 2019 Waterloo Innovation Summit.

Alluding to the laser, which began with Einstein’s equations in 1917 but didn’t actually exist until 1960, Dr. Strickland emphasized, “There has to be time for science to keep going because it’s the body of knowledge we have that we can use to always come up with new solutions.”

Bridging the Commercialization Gap- Funding Opportunities

Is your company investing heavily in R&D but struggling to commercialize your innovations?

Read our latest Excellence in Manufacturing blog series to learn about various non-dilutive financing options available to Canadian companies that can help close the gap between performing R&D to commercialization in the ICT, Manufacturing, and Agri-food sectors.

To learn more about various funding options that can help your company to innovate and grow, contact us today to arrange for a free, no obligation consultation with one of our government funding experts.

National Defence launches IDEaS Program

Originally announced in June 2017 with the release of Canada’s defence policy Strong, Secure, Engaged, the new Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEaS) Program was launched on April 9, 2018 to provide a total of $1.6 billion for Canada’s defence and security innovation community over a 20 year period, including funding of $313 million over the first five years.

The IDEaS program aims to bring together networks of experts, provide support and opportunities to innovators, and  facilitate the integration and adoption of new capabilities for the Canadian Armed Forces and public safety and security communities.

IDEaS launched its inaugural public Call for Proposals (CFP) and the Competitive Projects (CFP) are now open with 16 various defence and security challengesAdditional opportunities will be announced regularly.

All innovators will have equal opportunity to present their solutions for solving defence and security challenges through the following:

  1. Ideation: brings together multi-disciplinary teams of innovators and operators to help refine various aspects of the defence and security challenges.
  2. Competitive Projects: innovators present their solutions toward defence and security challenges. IDEaS helps mature their solutions into prototypes and potential capabilities.
  3. Innovation Networks: connects innovators with better opportunities to support new and existing networks.
  4. Contests: provides grant prizes for the successful demonstration of promising solutions.
  5. Sandboxes: innovators demonstrate and test their prototypes with an opportunity to receive feedback on their applicability in a defence and security setting.
  6. Innovation Assessment and Implementation: procures limited numbers of prototypes for evaluation in a realistic operational environment with direct feedback provided to innovators.
  7. Mobility: allows for active exchange of personnel to share expertise build capability.
  8. Integrator: allows for DND experts to follow projects and seek where the innovations might best be directed towards solving defence and security challenges.

Are you an innovator looking to showcase your ideas? Contact us today to help you find the financing options to take your ideas to the next level!

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Quebec Budget 2018 Highlights

The 2018 Quebec Budget, tabled on March 27, 2018, reports accelerated gross domestic product (GDP) growth from 1.4% in 2016 to 3% in 2017 and proposes several measures and investments that will impact businesses in Quebec including:

Innovation

  • Increasing the additional capital cost allowance rate from 35% to 60% for investments in computer equipment and manufacturing and processing equipment made after March 27, 2018.
  • Expanding tax holiday eligibility for large investment projects to include the development of digital platforms (“a computing environment that enables content management or use of a service that serves as an intermediary in accessing information, services, or property supplied or edited by the corporation or partnership, or by a third party, and which is not a tax-exempt platform”).
  • Broadening the tax credit for film and television production to include digital platforms.
  • Providing $348.7M for the implementation of a new biofood policy, including:
    • $180M to spur investment in biofood production and processing;
    • $62.8M to stimulate the development of the biofood industry; and
    • $29.7M to enhance efforts in innovation and training.
  • Committing $171.5M over 4 years to increase the appropriation and marketing of innovations including:
    • $120M to promote mobilizing projects in Québec;
    • $22.5M Support the restructuring the business model of the Centre de recherche industrielle du Québec (CRIQ);
    • $3.5M increase in financial support for niches of excellence in the regions;
    • $5M to support creation of the World Artificial Intelligence Organization in Montréal; and
    • $20.5M Support the Université de Sherbrooke’s project of an integrated innovation chain for digital prosperity.

Business Growth 

  • Reducing payroll taxes through:
    • A $1.2B reduction in the Health Services Fund (HSF) contribution for all small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs); and
    • A gradual reduction of the tax rate of SMBs in the service and construction sectors from 8% to 4%. The tax rate of SMBs in the manufacturing sector was reduced from 8% to 4% effective April 1, 2015, and was likewise reduced for SMBs in the primary sector effective January 1, 2017.
  • Stimulating growth of SMBs via:
    • $10M over 5 years for the creation of Réseau200, which will bring together entrepreneurs and their peers from the business world;
    • $35.4M for initiatives to support accelerators and incubators for Québec businesses;
    • An additional $2.4M over 3 years to support the creation of centres of excellence in the information and communication technologies (ICT) and digital technologies sectors; and
    • $3.4M to support SMBs in their growth projects.
  • Providing additional sums for specialized investment funds in collaboration with other investors, namely:
    • $61.5M for Teralys Capital, a private fund manager investing in innovative businesses;
    • $2M for the Accélérateur de création d’entreprises technologiques (ACET) Capital II fund to help technological entrepreneurs find adequate financing for starting their business; and
    • Support for development of social economy enterprises including continued support for the Chantier de l’économie sociale Trust and support for activities of tax-advantaged funds.
  • Enhancing electricity discounts for major projects, including:
    • An adjustment in the maximum duration of the discount for large projects, which is extended from four to six years; and
    • A 4 year deferral of the discount application period end date, which is moved back to December 31, 2028.

Workforce Development

  • Contributing $810M for a National Workforce Strategy to meet the challenges of the labour market, including:
    • Commitments to improve the flexibility of vocational and technical studies programs; and
    • Implementation of a new process for receiving and processing immigration applications under the Regular Skilled Worker Program which, once implemented, will also provide business and employment integration support (more details will be released in April 2018).
  • Creating a new refundable tax credit for training workers, via enrollment in a training program that leads to a diploma, employed in SMBs to support 30% of eligible training expenditures incurred between March 27, 2018 and January 1, 2023, with up to $5,460 provided per year for each eligible employee (30% rate is linearly reduced where total payroll exceeds $5M, reaching 0% at a total payroll of $7M).
  • Improving refundable tax credits for on-the-job training periods (internships) through:
    • Increasing maximum hourly rates and weekly caps;
    • Increasing base and increased tax credit rates for businesses that operate in remote resource regions, to encourage training young people; and
    • Increasing base and increased tax credit rates for Aboriginal people, to encourage Québec businesses to facilitate their employment integration.

Connect & Learn in Burnaby- MetroTech Connect Inaugural MeetUp at i-on-CONNECT

Please join us on Thursday March 15, 2018 at 6pm in the Sanctuary Lounge at i-on-CONNECT for MetroTech’s Connect Inaugural MeetUp to learn more about business financing for tech start-ups.

WHO:
Attendees: Anyone interested in being part of a network of collaborative, innovative, tech start-up focused humans!

Presenters:

  • Jaap Siekman MSc, PEng, PMP

Jaap is the Regional Manager for NorthBridge Consultants. He educates start-ups and growing companies on Government Funding programs that support R&D and Innovation in Canada. Jaap has 28 years of managerial experience in New Product Development, Engineering and Manufacturing in a variety of industries. Founded 25 years ago, and with ~20 professionals in offices in BC, ON, and QC, NorthBridge is an expert consultancy firm assisting businesses throughout Canada with Government Funding that supports R&D, Innovation and Growth.

Jaap will discuss a variety of Government Funding programs that support Product Development, commercialization and company growth, such as:

  • SR&ED
  • IRAP
  • Selling to the government: BCIP, ISC, CANSOFCOM, IDEaS
  • Clean tech: SDTC and ICE Fund
  • Agri-Food: Growing Forward, Agri-Innovation
  • Working with universities: Engage, CRD, Mitacs
  • Export marketing: CanExport, Going Global Innovation, Soft Landing
  • Hiring & Training Grants

Gary Bizzo – Strategist/Global Influencer
Gary has mentored over 1000 business leaders, investors and entrepreneurs and is a global social media influencer and author. Forbes, in May 2017, said Bizzo was one of the Top 25 Small Business Accounts on Twitter. London-based Richtopia said Bizzo was one of the Top 200 Social Influencers in the World for 2017. Entrepreneur Magazine, in 2014, said Bizzo was one of “17 Masters of Marketing & PR Entrepreneurs Can Learn From.” He is an Elite Weekly writer for Equities.com (the largest platform for emerging growth companies). He is the author of “How to Start a Successful Business – the First Time” and “Social Media RockStar – Social Media Marketing for Entrepreneurs and Business” both on Amazon. He also contributes to Stockhouse.com. Gary is a Partner at Equifaira – Liquidity Event Planners, specialists in strategy & execution, corporate finance, capital formation & investor relations. & TBA

WHAT: All things finance! Not only how to get money but how to spend and ways save it!

WHERE: The stylish, state of the art Sanctuary Lounge at i-on-CONNECT at One Innovation Place in North Burnaby. A short walk or bus ride from Production/University Skytrain Station and minutes from SFU, BCIT, Hwy#1 & Hwy#7

WHEN: We plan on having our Connection MeetUps on the third Thursday of most months – Thursday is, after all, the new Friday!!

HOW:
1) Register
2) Show up.
3) Network, eat pizza, have a beer, share experiences at a roundtable facilitated by one of our speakers.
4) Sit back and listen to the featured presentations.
5) Participate in a vote on your content…what do you want out of this MeetUp…this is all about you!
5) Head home smarter and more confident than when you arrived, buzzed on knowledge

HOW MUCH: $15 – same for everyone – through paypal/credit card online!

RUNDOWN:
6:00 pm: Network, food and bev, roundtables facilitated by our presenters
7:00 pm: MTC announcements & intros
7:10 pm: Presentations begin – Q & A to follow each
8:10 pm: Wrap up and topic proposals/voting

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    We offer opinions and insider information that can provide a pulse on government initiatives, the health of the Canadian economy, and firsthand thoughts from Canadian business owners.

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