Archive for March, 2010

Re-posted from the Cross-Border Biotech Blog

By Jeremy Grushcow

Ontario’s 2010 budget, released last week, contains no new innovation-related initiatives, leaving the province to fall further behind competitive jurisdictions. Read on for more detail, but also see this post noting that signs point to further announcements.

Despite recent strategic initiatives in Québec and across the U.S., and despite opportunities to improve funding for biotech companies without any new expenditure, the 2010 budget chooses to rest on last year’s now questionable laurels.

The section on “Innovation” in the 2010 budget’s Sector Highlights reads, in its entirety, as follows:

“From the discovery of insulin to the BlackBerry ®, the impact of Ontario inventions has reached around the world.

Today, Ontario’s economic and social prosperity has come to depend on its ability to innovate and compete in the global marketplace. Recognizing this, the McGuinty government is investing in an aggressive innovation agenda to ensure the province is one of the winning economies in the 21st century.”

The remainder rehashes prior years’ initiatives.

There are two hints  of possible improvements directed at innovation:

  1. A bullet in the “Small and Medium-Sized Businesses” section says the government is “[p]roposing to extend the refundable Ontario Innovation Tax Credit to more small and medium-sized businesses.”  There is no further detail that I can locate on this proposal anywhere in the budget documents.
  2. The Ministry of Research and Innovation gets an increased budget, from $295 million in 2008-2009 to $343.8 million in 2009-2010 and $411.5 million in 2010-2011.  There is no information that I can locate on how these additional funds would be deployed.

No detail is provided on either item, so the underlying goals or likely effects are impossible to determine.  Although there are increases for post-secondary education and general improvements to the corporate tax environment (the net effect of which against the HST is uncertain), the overall impression is undeniably disappointing.

Jeremy Grushcow  is a Foreign Legal Consultant practising corporate law at Ogilvy Renault LLP. He has a Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology. His practice focuses on life science and technology companies.

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By David Pasieka

One of my passions for the past couple of years has been the translation of Sustainability principles into bottom line profits.

To this end, I am an active CleanTech Advisor at the MaRS Discovery District and have been a lecture leader at Shulich, Sheridan, McMaster, University of Toronto – Mississauga and The Directors College on such topics as Climate Change, Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility.

Recently, Tom Rand the CleanTech Practice Lead at MaRS released his long-awaited book: Kick the Fossil Fuel Habit10 Clean Technologies to Save Our World – my copy arrived on Monday. As I did a quick scan of its content, I was reminded of one of the famous Seinfeld episodes featuring Cosmo Kramer and his “Coffee Table book about Coffee Table Books” . When on Regis and Kathie Lee, Kramer demonstrates that the book is so practical that its cover actually converts into a Coffee Table itself”. As my friend Sbrolla might highlight, I am not comparing Tom Rand to Kramer by any means(!). I am simply underscoring that this book is one of the “more practical” purchases that you could make. It walks us through the 10 technologies that will allow us to kick the fossil fuel habit. These include: Solar, Wind, Geothermal, Biofuels, Hydropower, Ocean, Smart Buildings, Efficiency & Conservation, Transportation and the Energy Internet.

I found it

  1. ENGAGING – Tom does a great job in keeping it upbeat and ensures that it has elements of his keen wit
  2. INFORMATIVE – the text walks us through the basics, issues and opportunities associated with each technology
  3. TECHNICAL – simple diagrams and photos take the complicated technology and make it easy to understand
  4. LOCAL CONTENT – lots of references to Canadian technology and even some Ontario based companies
  5. PROVOKING – gets you thinking about having a Trillion dollars to spend and what the impact would be of this money
  6. HOT TOPICS – in addition to the 10 technologies, Tom tackles Climate Change, Nuclear, Carbon, Hydrogen and Peak Oil
  7. VISUAL – the photo’s are stunning and reinforce the fact that Windmills and Solar arrays are simply Majestic.

Overall a quick, visual and information book that deserves the read and an ultimate place on your coffee table. As a Science, Sustainability and Academic Guy, this is Great work Tom!

Let’s hope you don’t follow Kramer’s lead and spill the coffee all over the book when you get a chance to be on Regis.

David Pasieka is the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the RIC Centre. Learn more here. Visit Our Contributors page for more information about David. Read his blog at www.cedarvue.blogspot.com

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By Pam Banks

Both the federal and provincial budgets focus on green investment.  Strategically, green sounds great but we need to see real investment and support for commercialization.

The Ontario budget proposes a new water strategy to protect our water resources and create jobs.  It’s important that those funds get into the hands of companies that create and commercialize innovations that help protect our water.

Recently RIC Centre sponsored the Caledon Chamber of Commerce Innovation & Technology Award.  The recipient was IONICS Mass Spectrometry Group.  IONICS is a company from Bolton that has an innovation that seeds new innovations in the environmental and life science sectors.

Mass spectrometry may sound a bit a Star Trek or CSI –like.  In fact, it is an essential tool used by scientists to measure compounds with very low molecular weights.  While this may not seem significant, it is essential in the development of new natural-based health products and the environment.

IONICS’ 3Q Molecular Analyzer measures much smaller amounts of compounds.  Reza Javahery, President & CEO IONICS provided an impactful description of how they support clean water resources.  If you were to hide 10 drops of oil in Lake Ontario, IONICS could find it in a matter of seconds.

IONICS is a significant brain trust for the community with a staff of more than 40 highly skilled scientists and engineers.  They are focused on continual improvements and are self confessed “mass spec junkies”.  These are the kinds of companies that with a little economic stimulation will continue to innovate, export and create jobs.

Pictured RIC Commercialization Director Pam Banks presents the award to Reza Javahery, President & CEO IONICS. Photo courtesy of Bella Photography Inc.

Pam Banks is the Commercialization Director for RIC Centre.  RIC Centre helps new entrepreneurs and seasoned business people take the next great idea to market in the field of advanced manufacturing, aerospace, life sciences and emerging technology.

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By Jeff Bowman

I have long been an advocate of independent thinking and keen on “inventions”.

I developed my first invention when I was about 5 years old, and it was not built out of necessity, but out of a desire to bother my siblings. There was not a sealed piggy bank in the house that I could not get into!

Technology today has made the invention and improvement of products much easier, with computer calculations, CAD capabilities and a world-wide market at your finger tips. There are still some basic rules which govern marketability, and sales for cost efficiencies to be maximized in production.

I came across an article that I had saved for the last several years about an inventor named Stanley I Mason. It was from 1998, 12 years ago. Mr. Mason passed away in 2005 at the age of 84. If you don’t know anything about Mr. Mason, here is a quick review; the squeezable ketchup bottle, the granola bar, microwave cookware, the Playtex plastic underwire bra, a new method for making cat litter, a sonic method of sealing chip packages, hair dye, baby wipes, and the peel open band-aid.

Mason consulted for dozens of the largest companies in America. He was not simply an inventor, he recognized the importance of planning, need recognition and marketing and created 4 rules for his inventions:

1. Create something people want
2. You have to be able to demonstrate it
3. There must be a large “anxious” market
4. It must be able to be modified to create product lines.

Mason recounted the time he was fired by American Can after being called in for a meeting. “”I thought it was for a raise. I understand you are working on a disposable diaper,” Mason quoted the chairman as saying. “Don’t you know that no one will ever use a disposable diaper? We got along without you before you came, and we’ll get along after you leave. Good-bye.”

I wonder if that chairman kept his job after Mason took disposables to another company.

Later in his career, Mason developed an alternative fuel derived from Tallow seeds, with edible oil and cattle feed utilizing the entire seed. It even smelled like honey when it was burned. The Government resisted the idea and refused funding. The “green” project was not a great success. (although today it may warrant further investigation and funding). Mason later described trying to present it to government officials; “it was like trying to brief a bunch of hummingbirds in an airplane hangar.”

Entrepreneurs will face the same kind of opposition today as Stanley Mason encountered with a number of his inventions, however the lesson that he presents is one of moving ahead, believing in what you have created and simply finding the right backer to make it work.

Disposable diapers, who would ever use them?

Jeff Bowman is a Sales and Marketing Specialist with The Marketing Pad Inc.. Follow Jeff’s blog at Blogpad or visit www.themarketingpad.com.

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By Sarah O’Neill

Want to build  new collaborations with an academic researchers? Check out Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Strategic Workshops Program.

The Strategic Workshops Program is intended to fund (up to $25,000) workshops for building new collaborations between Canadian academic researchers and the industry and government receptor community that will result in future economic, environmental or societal benefits to Canada.

The objective of the program is to bring together academic researchers with non-academic end users and create new partnerships through workshops that develop collaborations addressing research and technology needs identified by the user community. The workshops are intended to generate new university-industry-government partnerships that will lead to new collaborative research activities.

Workshops are intended for small, highly focused groups, with attendance expected to range from 20 to 40 participants from multiple Canadian universities and non-academic organizations. An award may support the participation of Canadian academics and up to two foreign participants who can provide examples of best practices in the field and help build collaborations among Canadian organizations. The workshops must be held in Canada. Funds may be used to organize a single workshop or several events of more limited participation.

The workshops must be organized by at least one university and one non-academic leader. The university leader may hold an academic appointment, or an administrative position at the university.

The workshop discussions must strengthen interchanges between the academic and non-academic participants, and focus on forward-looking collaborations rather than review past accomplishments. Workshop discussions are intended to find common grounds among the participants with topics that include:

  • research priorities and knowledge gaps from the perspectives of industry, government and university;
  • current research capacity and future needs;
  • HQP training and skills needs;
  • knowledge/technology transfer potential;
  • funding challenges and opportunities;
  • existing and potential new collaborations;
  • next steps for proceeding toward collaborative activities.

The delivery of the Strategic Workshops Program will be transferred to the NSERC Regional Offices on April 1.  For more information on the program, contact the NSERC Ontario Regional Office in Mississauga.

Sarah O’Neill is the Communications and Promotions Officer at the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council’s Ontario regional office.  Sarah can connect you with the information you need to know regarding NSERC’s partnership opportunities.

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By James Burchill

Everyone loves to speculate on things like future technologies, what our lives will be like in a decade, or how one or another prophecy will turn out to be true or false or misread.  In a practical sense, many prefer to stay with reality and look at how things will be for their business in the next few months or the next year (or two).

Internet marketing is a heavily laden term with a lot of connotations.  For some people, the mere mention of the phrase is enough to have them delete your email or hang up the phone.  For others, it’s the very basis for their livelihood.  Regardless of your thoughts on what Internet marketing really is (or isn’t), it exists and is here to stay.

So how will Internet marketing evolve as we continue to interact through the World Wide Web?

New ways of interacting and socializing

The Web is an ever-changing place and every day brings new and more inventive ways to interact.  The current trend that will probably shape most of our networking is not going to be as flamboyant and loud as it has been in the past.  The new trends will be more subtle.

There are three of them that I see budding as we speak: location-based interaction, semantic processing, and expanding data mining.

Location-based socializing is the next “big thing”

The Web grew globally, building an ever-expanding network of human interaction across borders, oceans, and more.  As the number of people populating the Internet grows, the networking begins to diminish.  Why?  Because our interactions are becoming less and less meaningful as their numbers grow.

Consider Twitter. Those with a hundred or so followers are generally more engaging (measured by responses and re-tweets) than those with thousands of followers.  Twitter, like most other social networking apps, is like a hotel conference room.  The more people you put in there, the louder it gets and the harder it is to keep up with the conversations happening around you.

So the new trend has been for social networking to begin to narrow itself into geo-location or location-based networking.  Several new tools have appeared and now Twitter, Facebook and others are getting in on the game or will be soon.

How about you?

Semantic processing and the continued growth of data mining

The idea of using regular language to search, ask questions, or otherwise interact with your computer and its applications has been around for a very long time, since before computers were  invented, in fact, when science fiction authors just guessed at how intelligent machines would operate.

So far, true semantics (like we all saw in Star Trek) haven’t really happened.  We’re getting closer, but we’re not there yet.  As the amount of data has grown, though, the semantics are getting better.  Google, for instance, mines data from billions of resources that include satellite images, websites, written materials in dozens of formats, photographs, live feeds, video, and more.  All of this mining is for one reason: so they can let people find it.

Search engines are evolving beyond the usual “keyword” basis they’ve been using for their backbone and are moving into real language searches and relevance based on themes rather than simple words.  As this happens, SEO will change with it and those who come out on top will be those who understand the human involvement in semantics.  Johnny Keyphrase will be out on his ear.

So what do you see happening in the future of internet marketing?  I see a world that constantly changes and stays interesting.  I hope you do too.

JAMES BURCHILL shows individuals and companies how to profit from the innovative use of Internet technologies, strategic content and social media marketing. James’ innovative and creative solutions are the select choice for those seeking an advantage, and Jim’s valuable money-making, marketing, technology and business advice is published regularly on his website. You can find out more at James’ website and you can subscribe to his J-List and get over 40 articles, reports and advice on Internet Marketing today.

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By David Crow

There’s been a lot of bitching about the state of SxSW and why it sucks!

“Too many people, not enough tech.”

Jay Baer provides the best observations about what is working, what is broken, and some general themes from the event.

  1. There is more than one SxSW
  2. Bigger Isn’t Necessarily Better
  3. The Conference isn’t that Good
  4. The Periphery Exceeds the Core

The great news is that there are fantastic opportunities for entrepreneurs in Toronto (and across Canada, but we’ll come back to that). There are a number of small focused events. MeshU and Mesh are firecode limited at MaRS to 450 attendees. They are excellent opportunities to connect with entrepreneurs, designers, developers, marketers and funders. The event is tight and there are multiple tracks, however, the core keeps getting stronger every year. The core speakers are fantastic.

MeshU is a one day event. Perfect. My attention span can’t handle 5 days (never mind the 5 nights). It is happening Monday, May 17, 2010, which is right before Mesh Conference and OCE Discovery. MeshU is the supporting event to these 2 larger events. The supporting role has allowed it to focus on delivering great value.

Education-based aka the strong core

MeshU, Toronto, ON May 17, 2010 

The mesh team has always put on a great set of events, however in 2010 they have added one speaker that will justify the entire price of the ticket for me. Sean Ellis runs Startup-Marketing.com and 12in6 Inc.

12in6 specializes in helping startups unlock their full growth potential.  Our metrics, survey and experiment-driven approach has evolved over 15 years of taking startups to market as VP marketing, interim VP marketing and as an outside advisor/consultant.  The first five startups our principal (Sean Ellis) helped take to market were:

  1. Uproar (IPO)
  2. LogMeIn (IPO)
  3. Xobni (Khosla Ventures – rapid user and revenue growth)
  4. Eventbrite (Sequoia Ventures – rapid user and revenue growth)
  5. Dropbox (Sequoia Ventures – rapid user and revenue growth)

Five projects that include two IPOs, and funding from Khosla and Sequoia Ventures. Startups that have opportunity to learn about the Customer Development methodology from one of the best executors. This session will justify the price of the MeshU ticket for most startups.

There are other fantastic speakers including Aza Raskin from Mozilla Labs, Joe Stump from Digg, and Meredith Noble from Usability Matters

David Crow is an emerging technology and start-up advocate/evangelist. At Microsoft Canada, he is responsible for helping Canadian start-ups gain access to software, support and visibility in the Microsoft ecosystem through programs like BizSpark (details at microsoft.com/bizspark). David blogs at http://davidcrow.ca/ and http://startupnorth.ca/ or follow him on Twitter @davidcrow

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