Transforming great ideas and innovations into commercially viable products can be challenging without the right supports, connections and partnerships.
Recognizing this issue, Atlantic Canadian universities partnered six years ago to create Springboard Atlantic, a strategic network that maximizes the commercial potential of the research coming out of the region’s universities, and also links higher education expertise and facilities with the region’s industries.
Today the successes are evident and Springboard has expanded and evolved to include 19 university and college partners with an increased emphasis on industry collaborations that will bring innovations to the marketplace. Springboard participants include about 50 professionals who have a mix of industrial and research expertise - typically staff or heads of university or college technology /industry liaison offices.
Two local success stories – one from Dalhousie University and the other from St. Mary’s University – demonstrate the Springboard effect.
Developed by Dr. Richard Price, a practicing dentist and professor in the Faculty of Dentistry at Dalhousie, and his assistant, Christopher Felix, MARC provides a solution to a problem that has troubled dentists for decades – getting just the right amount of energy from a bright blue UV light to cure and harden filling resin. MARC solves the problem by using custom-designed software to measure the light output, factor in variables like tooth location and the resin type, and calculate the precise output.
Dr. Price knew that MARC could be a very valuable instrument but he didn’t know all the steps to get it into the hands of dental professionals. He approached Dalhousie University’s Office of Industry Liaison and Innovation, and Director Kevin Dunn was able to mobilize funding quickly from Springboard just in time to produce high-quality prototypes to take to a major U.S. dental conference. Springboard also supported the formation of a new venture, Blue Light Analytics, to develop and market MARC.
Expecting the Unexpected
Retired St. Mary’s University economics professor Andy Harvey, spent over 30 years studying the movements of people in cities. The Halifax Space-Time Activity Research (STAR) project began in 2005 with Dr. Harvey as the Principle Investigator. It collected data from more than 2,000 households across HRM using GPS technology to learn more about neighborhoods, including the nature, timing and location of the activities of residents.
With ACOA funding received through its Atlantic Innovation Fund (AIF) program, the STAR project team developed a complex suite of geographic information systems (GIS) software that had serious commercial potential. That’s where Nova Scotia-based IT solutions company Britech Information Systems came in.
Britech recognized the potential of STAR right away. With assistance from Springboard Atlantic and St. Mary’s Industry Liaison Office, Britech is packaging STAR as a traffic-flow management system for the trucking and transportation business and is considering other commercial applications. The suite of products is being sold under the brand name Nomad.
The partnership between Saint Mary’s and Britech exemplifies a level of collaboration that benefits both organizations.
Springboard’s Strengths and Success Factors
- identifying new ideas and concepts that have real potential as products or services
- making direct connection between industry and higher education research and facilities
- being at the front end of the innovative process
- working with a number of innovation partners, including the federal research funding councils (NSERC, CIHR, SSHRC), the National Research Council, and Innovacorp
- marketing and licensing technologies to industry and entrepreneurs
- supporting the creation of new companies based on platform technologies
Halifax is Canada’s smart city. We have one of the largest concentrations of universities and colleges in North America and one of the best educated workforces in all of Canada. This series explores and celebrates the numerous post-secondary assets in Halifax; the sector’s impact on our economy and community; research and commercialization; and partnerships between post-secondary and business.
This post was contributed by Springboard’s Central Office Team in Halifax, located in the InnovaCorp Enterprise Centre, at a new building on the Dalhousie Campus.. For information contact firstname.lastname@example.org