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Winners named in i2I Venture Pitch competition

Oct 26, 2021

The finalists in the 2021 i2I Venture Pitch

An innovative electrochemical water treatment process and an advanced tool for use in genome sequencing applications were the winning innovation ideas at the 2021 i2I Venture Pitch Competition. The annual event – this year in Hybrid format – saw scientist-entrepreneurs graduating from the Invention to Innovation (i2I) program at SFU’s Beedie School of Business pitching their research-based innovation ideas to a panel of judges with a wealth of experience in mentoring scientist-entrepreneurs and in advising science-based ventures.

The year long, part-time 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. Within SFU, the i2I program plays a vital role in helping strengthen the SFU Innovates pillar of “Entrepreneurship”, by developing a mindset that applies creativity, adaptability and collaboration to solve problems that matter. It does this through educating graduate scientists and engineers to create economic and social value from their research.

Through preparing for and competing in the 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.

Dr. Macarena Cataldo and Viridis Research Inc. won in the Emerging Venture category. Viridis Research Inc. develops a core architecture to electrochemically treat a vast range of water contaminants such as polymers, microplastics, biofilms, and persistent organics.

The winner of the Product-Ready Venture category was Eric Cheng and Isolotrix, a bench-top instrument which leverages deep learning for performing highly precise single cell isolation for enabling next generation whole genome sequencing applications.

The judges’ duties were particularly challenging this year, as all six finalists gave compelling pitches for their nascent science-based ventures, and effectively articulated their value propositions, IP strategy and commercialization strategy.   Additional i2I finalists from the Emerging Ventures Category were:

  • SomaSense, presented by Justin Wyss, a biomedical engineering student. SomaSense is a soft flexible and stretchable pressure sensor array designed for pressure ulcer prevention.
  • GelPower, presented by Tan Nguyen. GelPower is the least expensive and low toxic rechargeable battery – a solution for grid-scale energy storage application.

And from the Product-Ready Venture Category:

  • Fibrilex, presented by Mirjam Mai. Fibrilex is an improved sand upgrading technology that makes the use of nonstandard sand in concrete more user friendly.
  • Poly V. Technology Inc., presented by Tong Li. Poly V. Technology Inc. is a game-changing polymer material that is lighter, stronger, and greener, helping to reduce vehicle weight by 20% and CO2 emissions by 40%.

“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 seven cohorts of PhD, post-doctoral fellows, and researchers to create greater impact on regional, national and international science innovation ecosystems. The programming uniquely addresses the high uncertainties, costs, challenges, and long timeframes that generally face science-based ventures.

Since fall 2019, aspiring scientist and technology entrepreneurs across Canada have also been able to access the i2I program, with the launch of the Mitacs i2I Skills Training. Delivered in partnership with Mitacs, the program now offers West, East and Atlantic cohorts with the Eastern offering being delivered in partnership with Queen’s University, and the Atlantic cohort in partnership with Dalhousie and Memorial Universities. The 2020-2021 cohort attracted PhD and postdoc students from top universities across Canada, including Queen’s, McMaster, Waterloo, Ryerson, McGill, U Manitoba, U Calgary, U Alberta, SFU, UBC and the University of Victoria. The second national Mitacs i2I Skills Training cohort launches on October 28, 2021, with scientist innovators from coast to coast.

This Skills Training adaptation of i2I won international recognition in 2020 after the pilot offering was highlighted among the annual Innovations That Inspire named by AACSB International (AACSB) — the world’s largest business education network. In 2021, i2I was recognized as a key component of the thriving innovation ecosystem at SFU, which was ranked by the World Universities for Real Impact (WURI) rankings system as being the number one most innovative university in the country, and third in the world for our entrepreneurial spirit.

Watch a video recording of the 2021 i2I Venture Pitch event here: