Innovate B.C. awards $1.2 million to boost commercialization prospects of four tech projects

    1 of 5 2 of 5
      "The best way to predict the future is to invent it."
      — computer scientist Alan Kay

      This week, a provincial government agency granted $1.2 million to four B.C.-based research initiatives.

      Innovate B.C. is a government-funded agency that helps tech startups grow. And the recent grants came from its Ignite program, which was created to help bring innovative projects to market within three years.

      The winners are listed below.

      TimberOps ($300,000)

      UBC forest resources management associate professor Dominik Roeser, LlamaZOO, and FPInnovations are working on an immersive visual analytics platform for the forest industry. 

      According to Innovate B.C., it "integrates heterogeneous datasets into a common visualization context and delivers immersive analytic experiences through state-of-the-art virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) head-mounted displays (HMDs)".

      "The platform provides an alternative to expensive field trips for silviculture, harvesting, and transportation planning, saving valuable time, money, and resources for end-users," Innovate B.C. stated.

      Human in Motion Robotics

      Development of the next generation wearable lower-limb exoskeleton for mobility assistance ($300,000)

      SFU's director of the School of Mechatronic Systems, Edward Jung Wook Park, and Human in Motion Robotics Inc. are developing a wearable lower-limb exoskeleton intended to help people in wheelchairs walk with "full-legged mobility and independence".

      Called Exomotion, it's described as "breakthrough medical technology" that can transform the lives of people facing daily mobility challenges.

      The University of Victoria created this upbeat video in 2018 to showcase the work of Jeremy Wulff and his students.

      Reduction to Commercial Practice of a Universal Polymer Crosslinker and Adhesive ($300,000)

      The Wulff research group, led by UVic organic chemistry professor Jeremy Wulff, is collaborating with Epic Ventures Inc.

      Their hope to develop a new class of molecules for use in polymer chemistry, which focuses on the chemical synthesis and structure of polymers and macromolecules.

      "This game-changing technology is the first approach that allows virtually any material to be crosslinked using the same basic technology, including existing, commercially available polymer materials like wood and paper (e.g. cellulose), textile fabric (e.g. nylon or cotton), high-performance materials (e.g. ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene), and industrial plastics (e.g. silicone and polypropylene)," Innovate B.C. stated.

      "These materials have increased mechanical strength relative to non-crosslinked polymers and have increased resistance to degradation by solvents or microbial contaminants." 

      Terramera CEO Karn Manhas (right, with chief scientific officer Annett Rozek and Innovation, Science and Industry Minister Navdeep Bains) is a former member of the B.C. legislature.

      Computational Platform for Developing Actigate™-enabled Formulations for Agricultural Applications ($300,000)  

      SFU computing science professor Martin Ester and Vancouver-based agritech company Terramera are working on a new computational platform.

      "The platform will incorporate Terramera’s proprietary Actigate™ technology, meaning an increased efficacy and lower use of the active ingredient that kills pests," Innovate B.C. stated. "This project will generate machine learning models built on details of Actigate™ and active ingredient chemistries, crop and pest genomics, varied growth conditions, and evaluate results including quantified phenotypes, to predict the best active ingredient formulations to kill specific fungi on specific crops."

      Rick Glumac, the parliamentary secretary for technology, says the Ignite program showcases groundbreaking work in B.C.

      “These projects are evidence of the remarkable companies and people leading innovation in the province," Rick Glumac, parliamentary secretary for technology, said on the Innovate B.C. website. "Innovate BC’s Ignite program continues to showcase groundbreaking work that will benefit people and sectors throughout the province, and reinforce the tremendous strength of B.C.’s tech sector.”

      This is done in a variety of ways—including through grants, offering partnership and business-development opportunities, offering expert guidance, and by facilitating strong relationships between the tech sector and public postsecondary institutions.  

      In November 2018, the KPMG British Columbia Technology Report Card described the tech sector as the province's "leading economic driver of growth".

      The report, which is issued every two years, stated that there were more than 10,000 tech companies in the province at that time.

      "The sector is comprised of numerous sub-sectors, including interactive and digital media, clean technology, life sciences, information and communication technology, and IT and engineering services," KPMG noted. "Combined, it facilitates more than 100,000 jobs for British Columbians and generates over $17 billion in GDP, nearly 90 percent of which is services."