Clean-tech membrane wins SFU science and tech venture pitch competition

Oct 13, 2016


From left to right: Chris Erikson, Partner at Pangaea Ventures; Michael J. Damiani, Lawyer & Patenting Agent of Borden Ladner Gervais LLP; Ben Britton, co-founder and CEO of Ionomr; Andrew Harries, Tom Foord Professor of Practice in Entrepreneurship & Innovation at the Beedie School of Business; Paul Geyer, CEO at LightIntegra Energy Inc; and Elicia Maine, academic director of the Graduate Certificate in Science and Technology Commercialization.

From left to right: Chris Erikson, Partner at Pangaea Ventures; Michael J. Damiani, Lawyer & Patenting Agent of Borden Ladner Gervais LLP; Ben Britton, co-founder and CEO of Ionomr; Andrew Harries, Tom Foord Professor of Practice in Entrepreneurship & Innovation at the Beedie School of Business; Paul Geyer, CEO at LightIntegra Energy Inc; and Elicia Maine, academic director of the Graduate Certificate in Science and Technology Commercialization.

A portable DUI-testing headset, a revolutionary clean tech membrane, and a home diagnostic for chemotherapy patients were just some of the pioneering ventures pitched to a panel of guest judges at SFU’s Invention to Innovation Venture Pitch competition.

The competition, held on October 12, was the capstone event for the inaugural cohort of The Graduate Certificate in Science and Technology Commercialization at Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business.

The certificate program equips scientists and engineers from SFU and UBC with the business skills required to make their inventions a commercial success.

Six of the students from the first cohort, which graduated on October 7, were chosen to pitch their ventures to a panel of judges with experience in angel and seed investment and mentorship for science-based ventures.

The Product Ready venture category was won by SFU chemistry PhD student Ben Britton.

Britton’s venture, Ionomr, manufactures the most pH-durable, mechanically strong anion-exchange membrane in the world, with potential for use in clean-tech energy, water purification and treatment systems, and next-gen fuel cells.

“The Graduate Certificate has taught me how to talk to investors in terms they understand, which as a scientist, you don’t always do,” says Britton. “Without the experience of the Certificate and the visibility it has given me I simply wouldn’t have made a successful company.”

SFU chemistry PhD student Finlay MacNab, placed first in the Emergent Venture category, for ventures that are not yet ready for market. His venture, N=1 is a home diagnostic device that monitors life-threatening infection during chemotherapy treatment, allowing doctors to intervene early.

“I have built a strong network with my cohort and I could envision each of them winning this competition,” says McNab. “As a scientist I have a deep technical knowledge but the ability to communicate in a business environment is something that requires a whole different set of skills. The Graduate Certificate helped me to learn those skills.”

Other ventures presented at the competition include:

  • Ophthalight: an accurate, portable, and automated eye test device that can monitor for a variety of diseases and also serve as a DUI test.
  • Renaissance BioScience: a unique yeast innovation company producing specialized yeast tailored for individual products.
  • CoPILOT: automated wheelchair technology, similar to Google’s self-driving cars.
  • PowerPad: non-toxic biodegradable single use paper batteries for use in portable electronic devices.

“The quality of the venture pitches on display this evening perfectly demonstrates the journey these students have made in the past year,” says Elicia Maine, academic director of the Graduate Certificate in Science and Technology Commercialization.

“The program was designed to help Canada’s world leading scientists and engineers get the perspective they need to lead innovation throughout their careers. The students showed this evening that they now have the knowledge and skills required to turn their inventions into viable innovation.

The panel of judges for the Venture Pitch competition consisted of:

  • Charles Chang, founder of plant-based nutrition company Vega, and venture growth equity company Lyra Growth Partners.
  • Andrew Harries, Tom Foord Professor of Practice in Entrepreneurship & Innovation at the Beedie School of Business.
  • Michael J. Damiani, Lawyer & Patenting Agent of Borden Ladner Gervais LLP.
  • Paul Geyer, CEO at LightIntegra Energy Inc.
  • Chris Erikson, Partner at Pangaea Ventures.

For more information on the Graduate Certificate in Science and Technology Commercialization, visit beedie.sfu.ca/commercialization-certificate/