At this stage, the University plays an important role with respect to incubating the research that would potentially demonstrate commercial value in the market. The UILO is a very important piece to the commercialization conduit at this early phase because they can advise on the direction of the research, the commercial viability of the concept, barriers to entry with respect to regulatory hurdles, IP validation, the competitive landscape, and business receptors to the innovation. Highlighting these issues at an early stage in the development of the innovation is critical. If the course is to commercialize, then knowledge at this juncture would provide the opportunity to pivot or adjust the strategy based on the current economic signals.
Applied funding at this early phase primarily centres on the University as the major contributor to the refinement of the research. The UILO assists in identifying the appropriate grant or other funding vehicle that would meet the needs of the commercialization endeavour. The following highlights several agencies that offer leveraged funds to move discoveries along the commercial value chain.
TRI-COUNCIL FEDERAL FUNDING:
NSERC: The National Science & Engineering Research Council maintains a suite of programs suited to building the market readiness level of your applied innovation and to contribute to its maturity. The range of programs spans a continuum from training in a University environment, to a progression into Industry. The program falls into 4 general categories:
ENGAGE – Connect, Engage and Create grants. These offer a first-engagement opportunity to explore an industry collaboration. Students would play an important role, which is emphasized in the CREATE grant. The funding available varies from a $5000 offering for engagement support, to $1.65M to build a student–focused industry-academic collaborative ecosystem. These grants ask for an in-kind leverage at minimum from the industry partner, whereas a cash contribution offers more weight. The proposal is relatively straight-forward though, a strong compelling argument in regards to the technology approach and chosen industry partner is essential.
COLLBORATE – CRD, ARD, and I2I grants. These build upon the initial exploration phase and focus on the development of the maturity of the innovation that is built collaboratively between academia and industry. The proposal structure is more complex than ENGAGE. Here, the proposal dives into the deeper issues of commercialization, such as the product development plan, business approach, stakeholder engagement, intellectual property, scale-up/manufacturing. The reviewers must be convinced that the go-to-market strategy is well vetted and logical.
COMMERCIALIZE – CECR and I2I. At this stage, the innovation should be matured to a point in which it is near-market or market-ready.
CELEBRATE – Time to celebrate! NSERC provides awards in 4 streams: SMEs – Large Companies – Two or more Companies – Colleges. The annual synergy awards recognize examples of collaboration that stand as a model of effective partnership between industry & universities/colleges.
ALBERTA INNOVATES - Four Focus Areas:
BIO-SOLUTIONS: Focused on Alberta’s Agriculture, food and forest sectors. Funding is available to support a continuum from knowledge discovery to applied commercialization. You can keep track of the following calls for submissions through their funding portal.
HEALTH – Support to develop, sustain and advance health system research and innovation activities to improve the health and well-being of the citizens of this Province. The innovation focus is in the areas of care, policy, and practice that meets the needs of the patients and solves clinician’s challenges to provide superior service.
ENERGY AND ENVIROMENT SOLUTIONS (EES) – Segmented into three streams: ENERGY, WATER/ENVIRONMENT MANAGEMENT and RENEWABLES AND EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES. This stream is narrowing in on clean technologies and meet world-recognized environmental standards. The due diligence to secure funding is a progressive process from pre-application review to full application submissions where the EES Board and expert reviewers make decisions based on criteria such as the alignment of the proposal to the strategic aims of the Province, the strength of the team, the feasibility of the approach, the commercial potential of the proposed solution, and whether the solution correctly addresses the current problem.
INNOTECH ALBERTA – Invests in entrepreneurs and businesses to commercialize products and services in Alberta and reach markets nationally and internationally. The focus includes: Agriculture, Energy, Environment, Forestry Products, Health and Emerging Technologies. Innotech provides funding with an industry focus, as well as providing services to accelerate commercialization, such as:
Industry Funding – Funds are available to facilitate students, product validation, market analysis, IP assessments and cross-jurisdictional collaborations. Programs include:
Product Demonstration Program
Industry Commercialization Program
Industry r&D Associates Program
AB Small business innovation & research initiative program
AB-ON Innovation Program
AB-Mexico Innovation Program
AB-China Innovation Program
Health Product Development Program
Clinical Development Program
Regional Innovation Networks (RINs): A integrated link of regional networks of which the UILO is a member of the Regional Innovation Network of Southern Alberta (RINSA). Services to move technology and innovation are available.