This generation of researchers and students – undergraduates or post docs - are passionate about solving the complex scientific and social problems that challenge humanity. In an age where innovation can mean robotics that steal jobs, opiates that steal minds or skimmers that steal bank card information - this is a refreshing change.
A few of the UBCO researchers and recent alumni undertaking the journey from research to commercialization include:
- Shahria Alam (PhD), associate professor of engineering in the School of Engineering, and 2018 UBCO Engineer of the Year, who is leading research into the development of the world’s first self-centring bracing system – the only system to protect buildings from collapsing or experiencing permanent damage during major earthquakes.
This innovation protects occupants from building collapse and eliminates the need for new construction. PhD student Anas Issa is leading commercialization of this technology. Industry partners on board to commercialize the technology includes S-FRAME SOFTWARE, a world leader in structural engineering software, Warnaar Steel-Tech Ltd., WSP/MMM Group, engineer of many of the world’s global high rise landmarks, Ausenco Limited, Maple Reinders and RJC Engineers.
- Deanna Gibson (PhD), associate professor of biology, is engineering commercially available probiotics to enhance colonization and survival of bacteria in the gut of people afflicted with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). IBD inflames and oxidizes the gut and may inhibit probiotics from adhering to the epithelial walls of the intestine, impeding colonization.
Millions are spent on probiotics by people who are afflicted with IBD and seeking relief – but they sadly provide no benefit. Gibson and an experienced biotech business team are commercializing the two novel engineered strains she has engineered in her lab.
- Mohammad Paknahad (PhD ’18 in electrical engineering) has founded Tribon and received a first round of funding by the VC firm TandemLaunch Inc. in Montreal. Tribon converts footsteps or body motion into energy for powering electronics in wearable devices. Tribon’s self-sustaining, battery-less platform can be embedded within wearable devices, from shoes to power sensors, and Wi-Fi to lighting. The technology is made of an inexpensive, environmentally friendly material that is easy to fabricate.
- Kenneth Chau (PhD), associate professor of engineering, and Cailan Libby (BASC ’17 in electrical engineering) founded iGen by Happipad, an inter-generational living program which houses young adults in the spare rooms of empty nesters. It’s a great way for hosts to make extra income and live more independently, and for young adults to overcome the student housing crisis by finding affordable accommodation and a sense of community.
- Robbie Sharma (BA Sc., ’14 in Mechanical Engineering) has developed safe, reliable, intelligent drone software for mission critical commercial UAV operations such as search and rescue, geographical surveys, forestry inventory, or cinematography. Think the technology that keeps the commercial airline industry flight worthy. He was recently accepted into the The Creative Destruction Lab – Quantum Machine Learning Program @ Rotman in Toronto
UBC Okanagan is, in essence, an innovation factory – creating a platform for developing innovations in sectors such as aerospace, manufacturing, agri-food, disaster management, sustainability and human health.
The challenge is researchers and students know how to investigate a subject and write about it, but not many know how to take a good idea and translate it into a viable, marketable product or service. These idea generators would benefit immensely from the support and services of mentors, angel investors, and other experts to help them develop their ideas and bring their products or services to market.
The newly created Entrepreneurship @ The University of British Columbia Okanagan ([email protected]) is working to tackle this gap – we build bridges from research findings to real-world impact through one-on-one coaching and connections to mentors in the community and beyond.
We are connecting researchers and students to industry mentors to help bring solid innovation out of the lab and into the Okanagan with a range of programs including Mentor to Market, Lean LaunchPad, Leadership Dinners and CEO Strategy Forum as well as work space for participating ventures.
[email protected] is partnering with Accelerate Okanagan (AO) to help expand our team’s mentoring support, programming and support services. AO will also be offering their tremendously popular Start-up Basics series on campus this fall and winter.
We are also drawing on the learning of the well-established venture accelerator and seed fund at the UBC Point Grey in Vancouver campus that provide support to UBC researchers, graduate and undergraduate students, and alumni.
Techstars, the worldwide network headquartered in California, which helps entrepreneurs succeed, recently singled out the Okanagan – the only region in Canada to be identified – for having one of the most fertile start-up ecosystems on the continent. Techstars indicated that, with the right stimuli, the region could leap forward rapidly in the further growth and development of a successful technology cluster – which translates into higher paying jobs and a demand for services.
[email protected] is working with our partners - The Innovation Centre, Accelerate Okanagan, Okanagan College and Metrabridge - to act upon the list of recommendations compiled by Techstars in order to bolster our region’s growth in innovation. We plan to help recruit more talent and train mentors, expand access to capital of all types and help identify emerging leaders and support their activities.
We are recruiting successful CEOs, angel investors, and domain experts with a track record of expertise in key areas to provide guidance to researchers, students, alumni, and staff, and to provide support for both our Mentor to Market and Lean LaunchPad programs. This network will increase the connectivity and intellectual capital of the region as well as assist in capital formation. In addition it will enable us to broaden our mentoring and judging pool for UBCO student entrepreneurship competitions such as the Entrepreneur Bootcamp.
If you are interested in volunteering as a mentor, enrolling your UBCO venture or interested in learning more about the innovation at UBCO please contact us: