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Winners named in first virtual i2I Venture Pitch competition

Nov 05, 2020

The i2I Venture Pitch competition went ahead in a virtual format for the first time in 2020

The annual i2I Venture Pitch Competition went ahead in a virtual format for the first time this year, as scientist-entrepreneurs graduating from the Invention to Innovation program at SFU’s Beedie School of Business pitched their research-based innovation ideas to a panel of judges with science commercialization, seed investment, and legal expertise.

The year long, part-time Invention to Innovation (i2I) program develops entrepreneurial mindset in graduate scientists and engineers and enables them to create and commercialize solutions for some of society’s great challenges. The 2020 i2I Venture Pitch competition featured innovation ideas solving climate and biomedical challenges.

Through preparing for and competing in the Invention to Innovation (i2I) Venture Pitch, scientists apply i2I course material to their innovation ideas, often based on their own scientific inventions. In the process, they develop into more business-savvy scientist-entrepreneurs, innovation leaders, or translational scientists who know how to attract investors and alliance partners, commercialize their inventions, and sell the value of their product or service.

Six finalists were selected from the graduating i2I cohort to compete in two categories, both with $3500 prize money for the winning pitch:  the earlier stage Emerging Venture category, sponsored by SFU’s Charles Chang Institute for Entrepreneurship , and  the more developed Product-Ready Venture category, sponsored by SFU Beedie.

Ryan Jansonius, a UBC Chemistry PhD student and a 2020 SFU i2I graduate, whose ThorTech reactor produces useful chemicals using water and electricity as the only inputs, won the Emerging Venture prize. Ryan and his UBC co-founder incorporated ThorTech last month.

Dr. Nabil Shalabi, a UBC Nanotechnology post-doctoral researcher and a 2020 SFU i2I graduate, pitching his novel product NANEXE, a ‘smart’ ureteral stent for remote and early diagnosis of kidney stones, won the Product-Ready Venture prize.

Additional i2I finalists pitching their Emerging Ventures were:

  • Maryam Bari, SunnyHome – SunnyHome produces solar panels that convert sunlight into electricity with higher efficiency (> 35%) than the current silicon-based solar panels, while also competing in price. Maryam is a Chemistry PhD student at SFU and a 2020 i2I graduate.
  • Evan MacQuarrie, Photonic Inc. – Photonic Inc. is developing a modular approach to building a quantum computer. Evan is a Physics Post-doctoral fellow at SFU and a 2020 i2I graduate. Evan also recently published this interdisciplinary research on the Emerging Commercial Landscape of Quantum Computing in Nature Reviews Physics.


Additional i2I finalists pitching their “Product Ready” Ventures were:

  • Darren Sutton, PhotoGro Scientific Ltd. – PhotoGro Scientific Ltd. is developing harvest time prediction and sorting technology for the cannabis industry. Darren is a Computer Science PhD student at SFU and a 2020 i2I graduate.
  • Sogol Borjian, ARTMS Inc. – ARTMS Inc. produces novel technologies and products for automatic, high yield and local production of medical radioisotopes used in cancer diagnosis and treatment. Sogol is a research scientist at ARTMS and a 2020 i2I graduate.


“We are very proud of our i2I alumni, who are making an impact in our regional and national innovation ecosystems as scientist-entrepreneurs, as champions of innovation in industry, as translational scientists, and through research knowledge mobilization,” says Elicia Maine, W.J. VanDusen Professor of Innovation & Entrepreneurship as SFU Beedie and Academic Director of Invention to Innovation program.

The i2I program has empowered six cohorts of PhD, post-doctoral fellows, and researchers to become scientist-entrepreneurs, champions of innovation in industry, translational scientists, and knowledge mobilizers. The programming uniquely addresses the high uncertainties, costs, challenges, and long timeframes that generally face science-based ventures.

Since fall 2020, aspiring scientist and technology entrepreneurs across Canada have been able to access the i2I program, with the launch of the Mitacs i2I Skills Training. Delivered in partnership with Mitacs, the program offers an East and West cohort with the Eastern offering being delivered in partnership with Queen’s University. The first cohort has attracted PhD and postdoc students from top universities across Canada, including Queen’s, McMaster, Waterloo, McGill, U Manitoba, U Calgary, U Alberta, SFU, UBC and the University of Victoria.

This Skills Training adaptation of i2I won international recognition earlier this year after the pilot offering was highlighted among the annual Innovations That Inspire named by AACSB International (AACSB) — the world’s largest business education network.