Electronic Products & Technology

Feature

Alberta-Ontario innovation program initiates grants


West Tech Report has covered ACAMP and New Ventures BC in the past and we are pleased to spread the word on another excellent program, the Alberta-Ontario Innovation Program. In partnership with Alberta Innovates Technology Futures (AITF), Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) and the Provincial Governments of Alberta and Ontario, this program focuses on commercializing the innovative potential from our academic institutions. Valued at $12-Million, the Alberta-Onterio Innovation Program supports inter-provincial projects engaged in solving challenges facing key industries in both provinces.

I recently had the opportunity to ask Tom Corr, president and CEO of the OCE, about why we should increase collaboration between industry and publicly-funded academic research institutions. We asked how this program makes an impact and who this program might interest.

Q: Why do we need to support collaboration between academic institutions and companies?

“There are some incredible things happening in research facilities in our academic institutions that can lead to job creation and economic prosperity,” says Corr. “By fostering that and supporting young entrepreneurs and start-ups, more employment and a better quality of life can be achieved.” The key issues for SMEs working with Universities include knowing how to deal with researchers and University policies. These include intellectual property (IP) ownership policies, where a private enterprise might be paying 100% for the IP through the university, but the University keeps the rights to the IP for the purposes of further research and education. Even though the IP is not for commercialization, nevertheless it can lead to uncertainty. Also, the university researchers may be students, they may graduate and move on to other opportunities, but in the corporate environment, there are timelines that need to be followed. A University’s focus is on education, so these timelines can be elongated as a result.

Q: What is your niche – what size company does the OCE serve?

“OCE is Ontario’s leader in industry-academic collaboration. We connect the dots between leading-edge research and industry need. We also work to help academics become entrepreneurs themselves. We have recently expanded our suite of programs to include young entrepreneurs,” says Corr. The OCE serves companies from start-ups to international giants.

Q: Does the OCE support companies by helping them commercialize their products?

“Yes. But not so much commercialize products for companies as commercializing research from academic institutions by connecting that research to industry that can commercialize it,” explains Corr. What differentiates this program from many others is its effort to leverage research and development from academic institutions by connecting that research to industry that can commercialize it.

Q: How does the creation of partnerships help the OCE succeed in its objectives?

“We rely heavily on our partnerships to make our programs successful. This ranges from requiring matching industry funds to augment OCE’s awards to striking [this] partnership in Alberta,” says Corr. By working together with other provinces, both Alberta and Ontario have set up a model where researchers and companies can put the best resources on the table from both provinces, and avoid duplication as well. So, if a company comes along with some great work from the University of Alberta, then this program helps him get for instance, colleagues from University of Waterloo to work on a joint project with industry partners. Corr adds, “All our programs can be strengthened through partnerships and we always strive to strike them wherever possible and appropriate.”

Q: Who might this program interest?

“It would be of interest to companies that would benefit from common research projects undertaken both in Alberta and Ontario,” says Corr. This is an exciting opportunity for academic institutions and companies to participate in this unique collaboration between Alberta and Ontario. Expressions of Interest will be accepted until February 13, 2015. More information on this program, including full guidelines and application criteria, is available at www.oce-ontario.org/albertaontario.

On a separate note for 2014, one of this year’s Western Canada Correspondent articles featured Gonzalo Tudela from Vandrico, who recently gave an excellent TED Talk: ‘How Wearable Technology Will Change Our Lives’. Find the talk at http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/How-Wearable-Technology-Will-Ch