Posts Tagged ‘scaling up’

Workforce Development Funding for Biotech Companies

As issues with climate change and rapidly depleting resources are becoming more urgent, there is a pressing need to form strategies to achieve sustainable development goals (SDGs). In Canada, a bio-economy is being adapted as a key strategy to support SDGs. Bio-economy is defined as economic activities associated with the invention, development, production and use of products and processes that are based primarily on biological resources. This emerging paradigm spans several industries including medical technology, agri-biotech, renewable energy, and biomaterials.

Rapid developments in biotechnology require a skilled talent pool to meet industry demands. However, the shortage of skilled professionals in the biotech space and unwillingness to employ recent graduates stunt industry growth. As 80% of the Canadian bio-economy consists of small to medium-sized enterprises, limited resources are often cited as a barrier to hiring new talent.

Wage-subsidy programs, like the Student Work Placement program and the Science Horizons Youth Internship program offered by BioTalent Canada, can help knock down barriers related to initial hiring costs by providing financial support to employers. BioTalent Canada also facilitates connections between full-time students/recent graduates and employers seeking fresh candidates that may potentially meet future recruitment needs through student work placement and internship programs.

Student Work Placement Program (SWPP)

Wage subsidies provided by this program cover the cost of a co-op student’s salary by 50% (maximum of $5,000); or 70% (maximum of $7,000) for first-year students and under-represented groups. Since September 2017, the program has placed over 900 students with over 275 employers providing the students with industry skills and employers with opportunities to increase their workforce.

To qualify for the program, employers must:

  • Show a clear focus on bio-economy, in either the nature of co-op position or the employer.
  • Provide a full-time co-op placement position with a minimum of 16-week placement.

The participant/student must be:

  • Enrolled as a full-time student at a post-secondary education institution and studying in fields related to science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM), business and/or any other program
  • A Canadian citizen, permanent resident, or persons to whom refugee protection has been conferred and legally entitled to work in Canada

Applications are currently being accepted for 2019-2020 co-op placements.

Science Horizons Youth Internship Program

This program offers wage subsidies (maximum of $15,000) to bio-economy employers for hiring recent STEM graduates into a STEM position with an environmental focus. As of March 2019, the program has placed 106 graduates with 67 employers across 37 cities nationwide. Growing participation in this program would equip participants with tools to pursue career paths specific to solving environmental/sustainability issues and increase the number of skilled professionals in the environmental sector.

To qualify for the program, employers must:

  • Provide a position with a clear environmental component.
  • Provide an internship position with full-time hours and a duration between 6-12 months (minimum of 6 months)
  • Shoulder 50% of the internship cost.

The participants must be:

  • Aged 30 or under at the beginning of the internship and graduated in the last 3 years from a post-secondary institution from a STEM program.
  • Canadian citizens, permanent residents, or persons who have been granted refugee status in Canada, and legally entitled to work in Canada

The program is currently accepting applications until March 30th, 2020.

Bio – Economy Subsectors Eligible for Funding From Bio-Talent Canada

Bio-health

  • Medical cannabis
  • Medical Devices
  • Biopharmaceuticals
  • Nutraceuticals
  • Natural-compound bioactives
  • Bio-molecules
  • eHealth/Artificial Intelligence

Bio-energy

  • Biodiesel
  • Ethanol
  • Methane
  • Bio-oil
  • Sustainable development

Bio-industrial

  • Biocatalyst
  • Biosolvents
  • Bioplastics
  • Biocoatings
  • Bioadhesives

Agri-biotech

  • Agri-fibre composites
  • Animal Genetics
  • Plant Genetics
  • Livestock Vaccines
  • Animal Nutritional Supplements
  • Functional Foods

To learn more about how your company can leverage non-dilutive funding to develop your workforce, grow your business, support R&D activities, and accelerate commercialization contact us today for a free consultation.

Authored by Rebecca Galicha, Technical Writer at NorthBridge Consultants.

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.”

Federal SR&ED Legislative Proposal Status Update


on June 21, 2019, Bill C-97, an Act to implement certain provisions of the 2019 federal budget received royal assent and became law.

The Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) Tax Incentive Program provides a  basic 15%, non-refundable credit to all businesses performing SR&ED in Canada. Eligible small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can qualify for enhanced 35% refundable tax credit rate of qualifying SR&ED expenditures up to $3M per fiscal year.

Eligibility for the 35% rate was determined by a business’ level of taxable capital and income from the prior fiscal year. 

  • The taxable capital threshold is between $10M and $50M.
  • The taxable income threshold begins at $500,000 taxable income in the prior year and reduces current fiscal year eligibility for the enhanced credit on a sliding scale until $800,000 taxable income in the prior year.

Budget 2019 proposed to eliminate the income threshold to qualify for federal enhanced (refundable) SR&ED investment tax credits for taxation years beginning on or after March 19, 2019, for SMEs, in order to increase support for SMEs that are scaling up their R&D efforts or have variable income from year to year. The capital threshold will continue to apply.

The new law will allow CCPCs with taxable capital of up to $10M to access to the enhanced refundable SR&ED investment tax credit regardless of their taxable income.


Example of Calculating tax credits for CCPCs
in Ontario above the small business limit


The table above presents an example for calculating SR&ED tax credits for a CCPC in Ontario that qualifies for the federal ITC and provincial ORDTC, with less than $10M in taxable capital and more than $500,000 in taxable income. In some cases, companies may also qualify for the Ontario Innovation Tax Credit (OITC) at a tax credit rate of 8%.

Contact us today to find out how the new legislature will impact your business or if you would like to learn more about various government funding sources to innovate and grow your company.

New FedDev Funding Announced- Business Scale-up and Productivity Stream

If your company is a Canadian or provincially incorporated businesses located in southern Ontario you may be eligible to receive a repayable grant to cover up to 35% of eligible project costs for a maximum of $10 million per project through the FedDev Stream 1: Business Scale-up and Productivity Stream.

The recently announced Business Scale-up and Productivity Stream aims to accelerate the growth of firms and assist with the adoption and adaptation of new, innovative technologies that support scale-up, productivity, development of and entry into new markets to help companies become globally competitive.

Applications will be accepted on an ongoing basis with no submission deadlines.

Eligible costs include:

  • Labor
  • Expertise
  • Non-Capital
  • Capital

Eligible applicants must demonstrate:

  • A minimum of 65% funding available for the project.
  • A sustainable business model
  • Financial, managerial, technical, and operational capacity
  • Minimum of 5 full time employees.
  • Market/industry demand
  • Potential for market growth
  • A viable project plan

Preference will be given to projects focused on issues and opportunities identified by FedDev Ontario as priority sectors, or projects that reinforce Ontario’s competitive advantage.

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