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Meta To Buy Optodot IP for US$45.8M

Posted on: Jun 22nd 2022

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Source: Entrevestor

Author: Peter Moreira

Dartmouth-based Meta Materials Inc., which specializes in producing synthetic materials, is acquiring the assets and intellectual property of Devens, Mass.-based Optodot Corp., which signals a move into next-generation battery materials.

Meta, which is listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange in New York, issued a statement on Friday saying it has agreed to buy the Optodot assets, which include 67 issued and 22 pending patents, for US$48.5 million ($67.7 million) in cash and stock. The deal, which is expected to close this month, calls for a payment of US$3.5 million in cash and US$45 million in Meta stock.

Meta is best known for producing synthetic materials that can alter the properties of light, but it has been expanding into new markets in the last year through a series of acquisitions. With the latest deal, it is moving into materials needed for lithium-ion battery separators, a market that Yano Research estimates will grow from US$5.1 billion in 2021 to US$9 billion in 2025.

"The race to electrification and a new world in which electricity replaces gasoline and diesel is just getting started,” said Meta President and CEO George Palikaras.

"Optodot has developed disruptive, high-performance ceramic nanomaterials in partnership with leading battery and medical equipment OEMs. Through this strategic acquisition, Meta expands its nanomaterials library and core expertise to address key challenges in battery safety and other applications, opening multi-billion-dollar markets.”

Backed by LG Technology Ventures, Optodot specializes in the materials used in lithium-ion battery separators and infrared optical coating technologies. A battery separator is a porous membrane placed between the electrodes of a battery to prevent contact between the anode and cathode during transportation.

The Optodot team is led by President and CEO Steve Carlson, who was named the 2022 Inventor of the Year by the New York Intellectual Property Law Association.

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Partners Unveil STEM Indigenous Youth Program

Posted on: Jun 22nd 2022

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Source: Entrevestor

Author: Carol Moreira

In Nova Scotia, National Indigenous People’s Day is marked by a new STEM Program for Indigenous Youth

Dalhousie University-based SuperNOVA, along with Acadia First Nation and Ulnooweg Education Centre have announced their first STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program for Indigenous youth.

The August program will see 20 high schoolers from Acadia First Nation attend Melkiknuawti, a land-based education program that aligns STEM concepts with local Indigenous knowledge and culture.

For instance, the curriculum—which will be delivered at Windhorse, a 200-acre preserve of forest—will include learning about fish life cycles and constructing a sweat lodge to learn about engineering.

The program will use the principles of Etuaptmumk--Two-Eye Seeing, which blends Indigenous and Western thought.

“It has been a long-standing goal of SuperNOVA to establish STEM-focused land-based learning opportunities in Atlantic Canada,” said Executive Director of SuperNOVA Alexandra Fenton. 

“Through reconnecting with the land, learning becomes a way of being, rather than just a way of knowing,” said Ulnooweg Chief Operating Officer Chris Googoo in a statement. 

“Land-based learning programs allow all ages to experience their childhood innocence and wonder of the possible. We are honoured to provide this space to Elders and Indigenous Knowledge Keepers for the sharing of our ways of knowing to Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth for future generations to come.”

SuperNOVA, a multi-award-winning group founded at Dalhousie in 1996 and funded by CanCode grants, trains students to deliver free STEM outreach youth programs to communities across the region with a focus on rural and under-represented youth. 

Also new this year is its space technology program, ATLAS, which introduces regional students to space exploration, technologies, and artificial intelligence through an intensive two-week summer academy at Dalhousie. Applications have technically closed, but students can still apply.

The students will design, build and program a real satellite (CubeSat), and learn about the career opportunities in the Atlantic Canadian space sector.

Like other programs, ATLAS is free to attend.

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ELEVATE: Bringing Entrepreneurship to Cape Breton – Unama’ki Youth

Posted on: Jun 21st 2022

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Source: Saltwire

Author: Contributed

Early-2022 Program Participants received their certificates from Cape Breton Partnership Program Coordinator, Keith LeLievre (far left), and program partner Membertou Entrepreneur Centre Manager, Eileen Paul (centre, brown jacket). PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed.

Findings from a 2019 research study on barriers to women in business have grown into an opportunity for Indigenous youth in Cape Breton – Unamak’i, to develop and refine their entrepreneurship and employment skills.

In 2019, the Cape Breton Partnership developed and led a research study with First Nationscommunity partners titled, Barriers to Success For Indigenous Female Entrepreneurs in Cape Breton – Unama’ki. Through this research, it was clear that Indigenous communities wanted to offer local youth the unique experiences of building, growing, and developing their own businesses with supportive programming offered in their own communities. 

With support from Unama’ki College, Mash-up Lab, and an Indigenous women advisory committee, the Cape Breton Partnership launched the Indigenous Youth Entrepreneurship Program in 2021 as a response to the findings. The program began with the aim to deliver generalized entrepreneurship skills for 18-to-30-year-old Indigenous youth in all five First Nations Communities of Cape Breton – Unama’ki. 

With support from Employment and Social Development Canada, and through the Youth Employment Skills Strategy, participants would learn about important and valuable entrepreneurship skills, while engaging with experienced local entrepreneurs and professionals. They will also have support from program partners at the Membertou Entrepreneur Centre.

As the program began to roll out, it was discovered that many participants had a passion for craft-specific business ventures. It was from this community feedback that a program expansion was developed to focus on the skills most needed for craft entrepreneurs.

“I am very privileged to get to support these aspiring Indigenous entrepreneurs in following their dreams,” says Denis Thibeault, Indigenous Youth Entrepreneurship Program Coordinator for the Cape Breton Partnership. “Some join the program with strong ideas on what to work towards and others are open to inspiration. All go through self-discovery and growth through the program and it’s amazing to be part of these positive transformations.”

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Commercial success: Dal Innovates picks up international award for helping researchers commercialize their innovations

Posted on: Jun 21st 2022

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Source: Dal News

Author: Andrew Riley

Spencer Giffin, director in the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, receives the Deshpande Symposium Award for Technology Commercialization. (Provided photo)

On Thursday, June 16 at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Dalhousie received an international award for its work facilitating the transformation of student and researcher innovations into commercially viable products and services.  

Dal Innovates staff accepted the prize at the annual Deshpande Symposium on Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Higher Education in Cleveland, Ohio. The event, founded in 2012 by the Massachusetts-based Deshpande Foundation, brings together global academics, policy planners, and practitioners to focus on accelerating innovation and entrepreneurship within higher education.

Dalhousie received the “Deshpande Symposium Award for Technology Commercialization,” along with fellow recipient the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras. The award recognizes leading universities globally for excellence in delivering programs that empower students and researchers to turn their research-based innovations into market-ready enterprises.

“It was a tremendous validation of the programs we’ve partnered to build at Dalhousie over the past several years to help students and researchers gain the skills and mindset to turn their ideas into innovations, and innovations into start-ups,” says Jeff Larsen, Dalhousie’s assistant vice-president, innovation and entrepreneurship. “It has been amazing to see our students and researchers learning how to commercialize research and start companies to make a positive impact in the world.”

Every step of the journey


Rafaela Andrade, a Dalhousie postdoctoral fellow and co-founder of the start-up Myomar Molecular says she attributes a good deal of her success to Dal Innovates. 

“From the very early stage, when I had an idea and research findings and I didn’t know what to do with them, they guided me. They helped me see how I could elevate that idea to be a business. And then they gave me training on the business side that I didn’t have as a scientist,” says Dr. Andrade. “Finally, I got the tools and knowledge to apply to ​grant funding that allowed me to work full time on the company, which was key for its rapid development.”

Now the biochemist has a patent submitted for her diagnostic tool to identify early stages of muscle atrophy. She is about to announce an initial round of funding and will be going to market in the winter of 2024 with her health tech product that will give individuals and health care providers immediate access to patient information about muscle health from urine, without sending them to a lab for analysis.

Dr. Andrade completed the suite of Dal Innovates programming, beginning with Path2Innovation where she identified her product, then Lab2Market, which is based on the U.S. I-Corps program, where she tested market demand, and then Ready2Launch, which is based on MIT’s delta V student accelerator, where she gained the skills to run her business and seek financing.

She also leveraged the Emera IdeaHub – Dalhousie’s deep tech incubator – to build her prototype, and CDL– Atlantic, which is hosted at Dalhousie and part of the Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) network. This objectives-based mentorship program for massively scalable, seed-stage, science- and technology-based companies is comprised of eleven universities, including the University of Toronto, University of Oxford, Georgia Tech, and University of Washington.

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Regional Partnership in Bio Trials

Posted on: Jun 20th 2022

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Source: Entrevestor 

Author: Avery Mullen

A new initiative will allow clinical trials to span the whole region, instead of being limited to one province.

The four Atlantic provinces have launched a new initiative to collaborate on clinical trials for medtech and pharmaceutical research, dubbed the Atlantic Clinical Trials Network, or ACTN.

Health authorities from each province, along with industry groups BIOTECanada and Innovative Medicines Canada, have said they will “streamline” the clinical trial process and reduce barriers to patients participating in the trials. They will also offer companies looking to trial products a consolidated bureaucratic infrastructure within which to operate.

“Access to therapeutic clinical trials is part of the best practices in terms of offering quality care to our patients,” said Dr. France Desrosiers, CEO of the Vitalité Health Network, one of New Brunswick’s two health authorities.

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Startup Observers on Overcoming Recruitment Barriers

Posted on: Jun 20th 2022

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Source: Entrevestor

Author: Avery Mullen

Four industry watchers weigh in on housing, healthcare and messaging strategies.

In the wake of a PEI BioAlliance white paper that described systemic barriers to recruiting life sciences talent from outside Atlantic Canada, startup community observers say the same stumbling blocks exist for information technology companies across the region.

But the Atlantic provinces still enjoy comparative advantage even in some domains where they are troubled — a distinction industry watchers recommend emphasizing to prospective newcomers.

Kathryn Lockhart, CEO of remote startup accelerator Propel, said a sweeping housing shortage and the poor reputation of Atlantic Canadian healthcare systems are impairing startups’ abilities to recruit employees. As a potential workaround, she recommended the Atlantic provinces shift their focuses from marketing themselves individually to marketing the region as a whole.

“I fundamentally believe an Atlantic Canadian recruitment voice is much stronger than any individual province,” said Lockhart. “Having a talented individual relocate to any of our beautiful provinces, actually accomplishing that is a different story and a very harsh reality these days. We pique their interest in lifestyle, and potentially cheaper housing, and a really new, interesting job. But those deals are lost on access to healthcare and housing shortages right now.”

In a May publication titled HR Strategy 2025: Breaking Barriers - Driving Growth, the PEI BioAlliance said externalities to the life sciences industry are hampering recruitment in an already tight labour market. It described a lack of available housing and high prices as key issues, along with the generally increasing cost of living.

Lockhart said the same problems are significantly affecting the IT companies her accelerator works with.

“We've heard these stories before, like, ‘Great, I found a senior developer who's willing to relocate to whatever (Atlantic) province’ … And then they find out that they can't get a family doctor, and they're like, ‘Oh, forget it. I have young kids, and my partner is expecting. We’re not moving.’”

But, Lockhart stressed, even in the domains of housing and healthcare, Atlantic Canada is still largely either more attractive than urban centres west of the St. Lawrence, or at least not less attractive.

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Data Shows Two-Tier Startup Community

Posted on: Jun 14th 2022

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Source: Entrevestor

Author: Peter Moreira 

Scaling companies are increasing their staff and sales while younger companies are having problems.

The growth of the startup community has slowed in recent years.

A troubling divergence has developed in the Atlantic Canadian startup community as early-stage companies have difficulty launching even as their elder comrades grow rapidly.

This is the main conclusion of the 2021 Atlantic Canada Startup Data report, which we are unveiling today. This is the first of our annual data reports in which we have warned about early-stage founders experiencing undue hardship.

The East Coast Startup community comprised 771 companies at the end of 2021, an increase of 4.5 percent over 2020, the slowest growth we’ve ever recorded. Though the pandemic is one reason for the slowdown, we believe the main reason is increasing payroll costs – especially for software developers – making it difficult for young companies to get started.

“Developers specifically have been poached out of our regional workforce with significant pay increases,” said Propel CEO Kathryn Lockhart, after being briefed on our findings. “Though they remain in the region, we've lost their brain power – a different kind of brain drain.

“We are supporting founders at Propel by ensuring they are more equipped than ever before to recruit talent. Salary matters and so does culture, flexibility and opportunities for growth. Our population trajectory is a clear indication that people want to live here and it's up to us to ensure they can achieve success in doing so.”

Click here to download the 2021 Atlantic Canada Startup Data report. 

Developers, if they can be found, now command salaries above $80,000 annually. This is one reason we witnessed 100 or more failures in both 2020 and 2021 and a factor in the startup community growing more slowly.

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Verschuren Centre Receives $2M from ACOA

Posted on: Jun 14th 2022

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Source: Entrevestor

Author: Carol Moreira

The grant will allow the centre to boost capacity.

With one of only three bioreactors in Canada, Sydney’s Verschuren Centre, which helps cleantech companies develop sustainable technologies and bring them to market, has received funds to expand its lab facility and increase its bioreactor capacity by 10 times.  

The centre, which  is working with more than 40 companies to develop new bioeconomy and green energy ideas, has received a grant of $2 million through the Canada Coal Transition Initiative (CCTI) Infrastructure Fund, via the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.  

With this expansion, the Verschuren Centre will create a first-of-its-kind facility in Canada, ACOA said in a statement.

“Biomanufacturing has been cited as the internet of the future in relation to speed of development and impact on sustainable procurement,” said Beth Mason, President of the Verschuren Centre.

“As such, companies in this field need to scale rapidly in a capital intensive and unencumbered environment. The Verschuren Centre’s new business model was created to provide just that, development speed, capital efficiency and open access technical capacity not readily available elsewhere.”

A spin-off from Cape Breton University, and working in partnership with Innovacorp and ACOA, the centre is becoming a go-to destination for companies that need fermentation facilities to scale up from their lab-bench prototypes.

The centre’s infrastructure allows startups to ferment chemical compounds for their products. Its fermentation facilities are the right size to bridge the gap between laboratory prototypes and industrial production, with equipment that lets companies create batches of chemicals as large as 70 to 100 litres.

That ability to make larger product batches is crucial for companies seeking funding for mass production and still needing more proof-of-concept to attract investors.

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Breathe Halfway in $5M Raise

Posted on: Jun 09th 2022

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Source: Entrevestor

Author: Avery Mullen

The NB cancer testing startup’s technology also shows promise for identifying COVID-19 pneumonia.

Moncton medtech startup Breathe BioMedical is halfway through a $5 million funding round, with soft commitments for more.

CEO Steve Graham said in an interview that of the $2.5 million breathe has raised so far, about 80 percent has been drawn from New Brunswick investors. He said one reason for this is New Brunswick’s Small Business Investor Tax Credit, which offers angel investors a non-refundable personal income tax credit worth 50 percent of their investment. Investors can receive a tax credit of up to $125,000 annually.

One of Breathe’s supplier companies has also “soft circled” a $1.25 million investment, not included in the $2.5 million figure, to be made once Graham’s team finds another backer with experience in the medical device space, he said. And one venture capital firm has promised to invest contingent on Breathe securing other financing.

“It's straight up the investment tax credit,” said Graham. “It's a big deal for startups in New Brunswick, and I've got to give the government credit for that.”

He added that he supports a push by Atlantic Canadian business leaders for the four provinces to offer a similar tax credit that applies to invesments anywhere in the region. Among the idea’s advocates are startup accelerator PropelBioNova, the Atlantic Chamber of Commerce, the New Brunswick Business Council and the Wallace McCain Institute.

Originally founded in 2005 under the name Picomole, Breathe struggled to make progress with fundraising until Graham became CEO in 2018 and led a successful push to revivify the business.

He arranged a joint research project with the National Research Council and leveraged the results to build out Breathe’s board of directors. The changes proved effective at winning over investors, he said.

Breathe now has 20 employees and three product lines in various stages of development: a tool for collecting breath samples, which can then be shipped to a laboratory for analysis; a “spectrometer” for determining the contents of breath samples; and an artificial intelligence system for interpreting the spectrometer results.

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