The Canadian government recognizes a need to share with the general public the importance of technology transfer in an accessible way and has taken steps to encourage such education.
As stated in the House of Commons report, Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer: Promoting Best Practices:
“The lack of reliable and useful information capable of supporting policy making and
economic activity is perhaps one of the greatest obstacles to technology transfer in Canada.”
The AUTM Foundation is proud to create the Canadian Impact Project, which will feature a growing collection of stories about Canadian post-secondary innovations.
Each story will chronicle a certain technology’s journey from the lab, to investment and expansion, and into the hands of every-day people.
From an obscure inedible oilseed, to a multi-billion dollar crop, hailed as having the healthiest edible oil on the market today, canola is a superstar in Canada’s agricultural arsenal. Today, the production of canola contributes over $26 billion annually to the Canadian economy and supplies 250,000 jobs with over $12.5 billion in wages. The Prairie Region of Canada dominates global production of canola at all of its stages – as a seed, oil, or meal for livestock – and is so truly Canadian, “Canadian oil, low acid.” The development of canola has been described as a “Cinderella story” because of its humble start and its diamond-in-the-rough character. Canola’s story started when Keith Downey at the University of Saskatchewan and Baldur Stefanson at the University of Manitoba rid the rapeseed crop of its bitter taste, and thus made it palatable for humans and animals. Over the years, the University of Alberta’s Canola Breeding Program has produced new varieties that resist diseases, thereby maintaining canola’s status as a stable and sustainable source of economic growth. Although a household staple like canola oil may not elicit images of cutting-edge academic research, it should, as we have the expert researchers at Canadian universities to thank for this versatile source of omega-3 fatty acids. The innovation of Downey and Stefansson made what was bitter better, and Canada is richer and more delicious as a result.
LivingWorks, a sustainable social enterprise, began when four University of Calgary colleagues volunteered together on a suicide prevention training initiative supported by the Canadian Mental Health Association and Alberta’s Suicide Prevention Strategy fund. With the help of start-up funding from Innovate Calgary, the researchers expanded their evidence-informed suicide intervention model into an international program that now boasts over 8,000 trainers and 2,000,000 alumni, who, in 2017 alone, performed over 880,000 suicide interventions. Richard Ramsay, Bryan Tanney, Roger Tierney and William Lang at the University of Calgary conducted research, ran pilot tests and field trials, and finally created the evidence-based suicide intervention model they called Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training(ASIST). LivingWorks was founded as a social enterprise to administer and disseminate ASIST around the world. Today, LivingWorks continues to grow and develop cutting-edge, innovative solutions for a suicide-safer world. Although the link between mental health and suicide is well established, treatment, interventions, and prevention are still lacking and people continue to be lost. LivingWorks demonstrates the value of university research and innovation, and is an example of what can be achieved when the boundlessness of scholarship is supported and research can push the limits of our humanity to be more efficient, more effective, and more compassionate.
“Had we not spun out our company, the type of work we’ve done would never have gone beyond the borders of Alberta, and maybe not even that far,”
“This program could be the great equalizer in the future of childhood education. Red River College faculty and students are developing a unique approach to knowledge mobilization, that is, transferring the emerging science of early childhood development to practitioners, academics, and policy makers to the four corners of the world,”
Science of Early Childhood Development Team
Partnered with the University of Toronto and the Aga Khan Network, the Science of Early Child Development (SECD) team at Red River College has mobilized the emerging science of early brain development, putting new research into the hands of early child educators worldwide. The partnership has influenced over 6,000 parents, caregivers, educators, and policy makers in 43 countries across seven languages. The teams have certified over 70 new trainers who consult with educators and policy-makers in their areas of expertise. Additionally, SECD materials have recently been used to train 20 fellows as part of the World Bank’s Africa Early Years Fellowship, which prepared the fellows to advocate for early child development in their fields of policy, education, and health. Pushing the limits of research, the SECD Team began in response to a need to make ground-breaking science on early brain development accessible to educators. By making these resources available online, the team has revolutionized primary caregivers’ ability to construct environments most conducive to a child’s advancement. This innovative approach covers child rights, literacy, and the importance of play, while highlighting the interaction of nature and nurture from as early as conception to age three. For many of us, the brain remains a complex and elusive organ. Thanks to rapidly growing neurological research, experts are able to guide us with increasing specificity on how our earliest life experiences, beginning in the womb, can affect gene expression and brain architecture -– and ultimately who we become. Thanks to the Red River researchers and their supporters, we are closer to advancing human development at the point of its highest potential.
Mass Spectronomy and Proteomics
The building block of life, the cell, holds important answers to our world’s greatest medical challenges. Recent developments in the field of proteomics, the large-scale study of proteins, allow for the observation of growth and change in a cell’s proteins, which has important biopharmaceutical implications. University of Manitoba professors Dr. Kenneth Standing and Dr. Werner Ens have made great strides in proteomics through their work with mass spectrometry. Their inventions allow a closer and clearer study of large biomolecules like proteins and have led to improved interventions during public health crises like the SARS outbreak of 2003. The work of Standing, Ens, and colleagues is transformative; in 2010, they were awarded an EnCana Principal Award by the Manning Foundation – the Canadian Nobel Prize. The enhancements, patented by the University of Manitoba, have increased demand for mass spectrometers with sales exceeding several hundred million dollars. The vast majority of sales are exports, thus making Canada a key player in the global market for sophisticated lab equipment.
The AUTM Foundation is looking for motivated sponsors to help create a platform for communication and promotion of innovation successes in Canada. It is the Foundation’s hope that this will spur growth of the technology transfer field throughout the country. Specifically, the project will create material that highlights the postsecondary human and economic impact of discoveries via print, website, and video that will be accessible to all organizations for dissemination. Its overarching objective is to associate Canadian universities with dollars, job growth, and social impact in a way that is easily understood by the general public. Learn more here.
If you are interested in getting involved with the Canadian Impact Project, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.