The Short Report - August 12, 2020: Feds invest in mining sector, CSIS warns universities about China, new Supercluster projects, and more

Mark Lowey
August 12, 2020

Natural Resources Canada is investing $98 million over five years to renew two flagship geoscience programs, led by the Geological Survey of Canada, that support the minerals and metals industry. Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan announced funding for the Geo-mapping for Energy and Minerals program, which provides geoscientific knowledge of the immense untapped resources in Canada’s North, and for the Targeted Geoscience Initiative, which provides next-generation geological knowledge and innovative techniques to target deeply buried mineral deposits. - Natural Resources Canada

Nearly half of Canada’s last fully intact ice shelf, the Milne Ice Shelf on Ellsemere Island in Nunavut, has collapsed into the ocean, an event captured by the Copernicus Sentinel satellite. The size of the ice shelf was reduced by 43% over July 30 and 31. The largest piece that broke away is 55 sq km, nearly the size of the island of Manhattan. Scientists say the Arctic has continued to warm far more rapidly than any other region across the world. - The Globe and Mail


The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) has warned Canada’s universities and research institutions about China’s academic recruitment programs. CSIS says Beijing is using these programs, such as the Thousand Talents Plan, to attract scientists to China in hopes of obtaining cutting-edge Canadian science and technology for economic and military advantage. - The Globe and Mail

Polytechnique Montréal has launched a Canada-wide “Collaborative Research and Training Experience in Sustainable Electronics and Eco-Design” (CREATE SEED) initiative. It is supported by a $1.65 million grant over six years from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s CREATE program. CREATE SEED will bring together about 20 Canadian and international universities and industrial partners to improve the way electric and electronic equipment waste is reused and recycled, and promote eco-design. The initiative includes 20 researchers from Polytechnique Montréal, Institut national de la recherche scientifique, McGill University, University of Toronto, University of Waterloo, and University of British Columbia. - CISION

McGill University has established a new Chair in Technology and Human Nature, supported by a $2-million gift from The Jarislowsky Foundation, matched by the university. The Stephen Jarislowsky Chair in Technology and Human Nature, in the Department of Philosophy, seeks to bridge the gap between technology and pressing ethical, social and political questions, and will conduct research on technology and its impact on individuals and societies. - McGill University

The Smith School of Business at Queen’s University has launched a Master of Financial Innovation and Technology program, which the university says is the first of its kind in Canada to address the “significant gap in financial technology education.” Designed for professionals already employed, the program will begin in November and be delivered in evening and weekend sessions. Graduates will receive training in finance, data science and machine learning technologies. - Queen’s University 

Dalhousie University’s College of Continuing Education has partnered with Vancouver-based blocksEDU to deliver courses in two growing global industries, blockchain and sustainable energy technologies. Both the blockchain and sustainable energy technologies certificates will be offered online starting this September. - Newsfile


Protein Industries Canada is investing $611,000, matched by industry partners, for a $1.2-million project to supply meat and other food processors with plant-based ingredients for the growing “flexitarian” market (consumers who eat mostly a vegetarian diet but occasionally eat meat and poultry). Partners Griffiths Foods, Persall Fine Foods and k2MILLING will focus on researching and developing new plant-based protein ingredients such as flours and texturized protein blends. The National Research Council of Canada will provide analytical testing of the raw and finished ingredients for nutritional purposes. - Protein Industries Canada

The B.C.-based Digital Technologies Supercluster has announced 16 new projects to complete its $60-million investment in its COVID-19 Program, launched in April. The 16 projects include a “digital telewound solution” that will allow patients in isolation or quarantine to remotely access wound care experts, and wearable technology that enables health professionals to assess real-time and historical biometrical data. Lead partners on the projects, which each have multiple partner organizations, are: Swift Medical, Myant, 16Bit, Wisebox Solutions, FoodMesh, Spectrum Mobile Health, Invixium, Cambrian, Canexia Health, HelpSeeker, BioConnect, Owl Labs, Molecular You, Seamless MD, 3D Bridge Solutions, and TTA Technology Training Associates. - Digital Technologies Supercluster


The federal government has announced an additional $40 million for Indigenous-owned businesses and projects, as part of Ottawa’s COVID-19 business support measures. Economic Development Minister Mélanie Joly announced the funding on August 9. Canada’s six Regional Development Agencies will direct the money to 73 initiatives from Indigenous communities, businesses and other organizations across the country. The new funding is separate from Ottawa’s $306 million in pandemic support, pledged in April, for the nearly 30,000 Indigenous-owned businesses in Canada. - The Globe and Mail

Canadian tech leaders are calling on the federal government to extend a National Research Council of Canada (NRC) program that has helped startups maintain operations amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Tech leaders said the NRC Industrial Research Assistance Program’s $250-million Innovation Assistance Program is “critical” to sustaining their own businesses as well as the broader innovation sector. The program essentially offered a wage subsidy for Canadian tech companies ineligible for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy. - BetaKit

About three-quarters of more than 1,430 graduate students across Canada reported that COVID-19 has negatively impacted their ability to conduct research due to institutional closures, according to a national bilingual survey by the Toronto Science Policy Network, a student-run science policy group at the University of Toronto. Among the findings: 78% of research-stream grad students planning to study or do research abroad had to cancel their plans; and 48% of in professional-stream programs reported that their internships for the summer and/or fall 2020 semesters had been cancelled or postponed. Toronto Science Policy Network

Three months after the Government of Alberta launched its COVID-19 contact tracing mobile app, the province is abandoning it in favour of the federal government’s COVID Alert app. The Alberta app had some problems; for it to work on an iPhone, the phone had to be unlocked and the app open. In the end, only 5% of Albertans downloaded the app, and the government said at least 20 % had to for the app to be effective. - CTV News


The Innovation Cluster, based in Peterborough and the Kawarthas region in Ontario, has launched Women Breaking Barriers, a six-month cohort acceleration program designed for women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and social innovation. The program will enable two cohorts, each of 10 women aged 18 or older, to fast-track their startups and will provide them the opportunity to pitch to angel investors at the end of six months. The program is supported by a $75,000 seed grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation. - Innovation Cluster

Toronto-based corporate catering startup Platterz has rebranded to Thriver following a $43.8-million Series B round of equity financing to support the company’s expansion. The Series B round was led by Viola Growth, with participation from new investors Vertex Ventures Israel, Union Tech Ventures, Journey Ventures, and FJ Labs, along with existing investors Aleph and Altair Capital. Thriver will use the funding to expand into new geographic markets and verticals, and grow its team. - BetaKit

U.S.-based startup BusPatrol has opened an office in downtown Montreal that will include the company’s technological development centre. BusPatrol, which installs AI-integrated cameras on school buses to record dangerous driving by other vehicles, was co-founded by Quebec entrepreneur Jean Soulière in 2017. The company aims to create 150 jobs at its Montreal office over the next two years, and hopes to take advantage of Montreal’s AI ecosystem to implement a new Quebec supply chain. - BetaKit

Lightspeed founder Dax Dasilva is being sued for allegedly stealing key technology and using it to launch his $3.8-billion firm. Lawyers acting on behalf of numbered companies linked to Frederick Rosenberg, then-president of Montreal-based Brenrose Solutions, allege Dasilva used the source code developed at Brenrose to build a point-of-sale software that would later become Lightspeed’s first product. Dasilva and Lightspeed have denied all wrongdoing and filed a countersuit. - The Logic


Dr. (PhD) Chris Herd, a professor, geologist and principal director of the Institute for Space Science, Exploration and Technology at the University of Alberta, is an advisor to NASA helping with a Mars probe that is to pick up rocks and soil on the Red Planet, study them, and then seal them away to be picked up on a later mission. Perseverance, the latest Mars rover mission, was launched July 30 and is scheduled to reach Mars next February. - The Canadian Press

Robin Abel has been appointed the first director of scientific research and development for MBC Group, one of Canada’s leading national construction consulting firms. Abel, based at MBC’s Edmonton office, is a forensic chemist who’ll lead MBC Group’s research and development department, with a focus on developing a national laboratory program supporting the company’s environmental and engineering teams in their forensic investigations. - Canadian Underwriter

Martha Casey has been named the CEO of Atlantic Canada innovation hub Volta. Casey has been interim CEO of the hub since late March, when former CEO Jesse Rogers left after four years. After joining Volta in November 2018 as chief operating officer, Casey stepped into the CEO role just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Casey said no Volta portfolio companies have folded amid the crisis. - BetaKit


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