Innovate BC awards more than $600,000 to clean, bio and marine tech companies

3 min
Mar 7, 2019 2:21:00 PM

Innovate BC, a Crown agency that connects local innovators with government funding, resources, and support, has awarded $613,850 in round six of its Ignite Program to spark the commercialization of technologies that will solve industry problems in the natural resources and applied sciences.

Three BC research projects in diverse fields such as clean technology, biotech, and marine technology will split the funding. To date, Innovate BC has awarded $4.9 million in Ignite funding since the program launched in 2016.

The successful projects were selected based on their promising commercial and technical viability as well as their ability to be market ready within three years. To be considered, projects must also address an industry problem with the potential for significant benefit to British Columbia and be realized by a group of academic and industry members.

The three awarded research projects, with their academic and industry members, are:

SIFT Process for Extraction of Battery-grade Lithium Salts from Waste Brine

Dr. Jason Hein of UBC and industry partner Standard Lithium are developing a novel process, known as the SIFT technology, for recovering high purity lithium from waste brine using a unique crystallization process. The high-quality lithium carbonate is ideal for use in a range of products from lithium-ion batteries to precursor components in nuclear fusion reactors. The growing demand for high-grade lithium is being driven by the rapid adoption of both electric vehicles and solar, wind and tidal power systems to reduce environmental emissions. The SIFT technology will solve the significant supply, cost, and logistical problems facing the lithium mining and recovery industry globally.

Award amount: $300,000

mWaveWind: Real-Time Wind and Wave Data from Fleets of Compact Buoys

Dr. Brad Buckham of UVIC and Marine IoT company MarineLabs are developing a compact, robust, cell-network connected ocean monitoring buoy called the mWaveWind. Using advanced algorithms deployed on a cloud platform, these novel buoy fleets will provide real-time, high resolution data to service industries such as ports, ferries, and marine operators. Most maritime operations currently lack quality wind and wave conditions data to make operational decisions for safety and efficiency. These high-tech monitoring buoys promise a more cost-effective and reliable solution compared to the existing legacy buoy systems being used globally.

Award amount: $228,850

RNA Mango: Sensitive and Rapid Nucleic Acid Detection Kits

The innovation team of Applied Biological Materials and Dr. Peter Unrau's lab at SFU are collaboratively developing the "RNA Mango" technology. These cutting-edge RNA molecules can generate fluorescence at unprecedented brightness and affinity towards their targets, mainly the detection of viral and bacterial contaminants in lab tissues and cultures. This new pathogen detection method will have many unique applications that will help solve pressing problems in the multibillion-dollar food and biotechnological industries. Current detection and screening kits can be subject to high variability and require long experimental time, while these new kits promise to be a cheaper, more reliable, and rapid solution.

Award amount: $85,000

“The winners of this year’s Ignite Awards demonstrate the creativity and specialized knowledge required to drive B.C.’s tech sector forward,” said Bruce Ralston, Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology. “Innovation provides a critical competitive advantage and it is through innovation our province will secure its future prosperity.”

A total of $2.9 million is being contributed to the three projects as a result of Innovate BC’s Ignite cost-shared funding model. Innovate BC Ignite requires applicants to leverage award funds at a ratio of two matching dollars to every Innovate BC Ignite dollar. More than $17.7 million, including leveraged funds, has been contributed to Ignite projects to date.

The Innovate BC Ignite Program has supported the hiring, training, and retention of more than 70 highly qualified personnel in the first three years of the program. Furthermore, several projects have reported that receiving the award has elevated the credibility of their research and helped attract additional investment.

“The Ignite Program showcases some of the most innovative, inspirational, and impactful research projects happening not just in B.C., but all over the world,” says Raghwa Gopal, Innovate BC’s President + CEO. “The industry and academic collaborations provide a unique opportunity to stimulate our innovation economy while addressing real, market driven challenges that impact the lives of British Columbians all over the province.”

The Ignite Program is funded by the Natural Resources and Applied Sciences (NRAS) Endowment Fund, which was established by the Province of British Columbia to enhance the quality of life for British Columbians by building strong environments in research and development, advanced training, technology transfer, and commercialization.

Several Ignite-funded research projects will be featured at the #BCTECHSummit, which takes place March 11-13 at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

For more information about the program and past winners, visit the Ignite program page.