NGen supercluster’s new $30-million advanced manufacturing challenge seeks “transformative” products to combat COVID-19

Mark Lowey
July 15, 2020

The Next Generation Manufacturing Canada (NGen) supercluster is offering up to $15 million in a new challenge for Canadian companies to make and supply “transformative” products critical in the fight against COVID-19.

Industry will need to contribute matching funding for NGen’s new Made Smarter – Strategic Supply Challenge. The initiative aims to develop sustainable and globally competitive manufacturing capabilities in Canada “for products critical to protect the health of Canadians during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“We in NGen are committed to building world-leading advanced manufacturing capabilities in Canada in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” John Laughlin, NGen’s chief technology officer, said in a webinar on July 9.

NGen will provide a maximum of up to $2 million per project and will waive its usual administration fee (equal to 2.5% of total project cost) for projects with a total value of up to $4 million, which includes partners’ matching contribution. NGen’s admin fee will be charged for the remaining amount on any project exceeding $4 million.

The four strategic requirements for projects are that they must be: transformative (either technically or commercially); collaborative (involving at least two industry partners); applied (promising significant long-term commercial potential); and enduring (contributing to the legacy of Canada’s advanced manufacturing ecosystem).

Laughlin said the challenge is targeted on critical products, including personal protective equipment; medical devices; materials and components required for health care products; disinfecting and sterilization products; and drugs, vaccines and other therapeutic products.

NGen will work with Health Canada to review all potential projects to ensure they meet Health Canada’s guidelines and priorities, Laughlin said. For example, home test kits for COVID-19 aren’t eligible because Health Canada doesn’t consider that the benefits of such devices outweigh the risks.

The deadline for project applications is August 11, with projects expected to start by October 1.

NGen funds five “disinfection robot” projects

In a separate NGen challenge to manufacture disinfection robots, the supercluster announced it will co-invest $5 million in five projects with a total value of more than $10 million. The projects, selected from 19 proposals, are led by:

  • A&K Robotics (Vancouver), which will develop a self-driving robot capable of autonomously disinfecting large areas of floor spaces and high-touch surfaces;
  • AIS, Advanced Intelligence Systems (Burnaby, B.C.), which will produce a robot that maps large-scale environments such as hospitals, navigate to interest points, and perform hands-free ultraviolet light disinfection;
  • CrossWing (Aurora, Ontario), which will manufacture two next-generation robots that overcome serious limitations of first-generation disinfecting systems;
  • GlobalDWS (Toronto), which will develop a fully autonomous, voice-enabled service robotic platform with advanced cognitive capabilities and a comprehensive disinfection solution for essential businesses and public workplaces; and
  • Prescient (Cambridge, Ontario), which will develop and deploy a fleet of self-driving mobile robotic vehicles integrated with a UV light disinfection system for essential workplaces.

NGen, which now has 2,532 members across Canada, has to date provided $65 million in funding out of its original $200 million from Industry, Science and Economic Development, for a total of 38 projects. More than half of them are related to COVID-19, Laughlin said.

Projects supported by NGen to date involve 78 NGen partners (70 of them SMEs) and have a total value of $109 million. Projects have come from British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia.


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