Mitacs i2I Skills finale highlights entrepreneurial mindset and innovation in research

May 16, 2024

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Amandine Gesta has taken home top honours at the 2024 Mitacs Invention to Innovation (i2I) Skills Training Final Pitch Competition and received a $5,000 prize from SFU Innovates for her compelling plan for the development of an ankle exoskeleton, designed to assist children with walking disorders.

Anh Tran Ly, co-founder of CO2L Tech, was named the second-prize winner, receiving a $2,500 prize from Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business to continue her new product development on converting CO2 into useful compounds and commodities.

This online national pitch event was the culmination of an eight-month experience for the national i2I skills training cohorts, developing entrepreneurial mindset and innovation skills in research scientists, engineers, and clinicians.

Developed at SFU Beedie from the research and practice of its faculty and staff, the i2I and i2I Skills Training Program has won national and international awards for transformational impact.

The program has expanded across the country in partnership with other nationally leading science innovation ecosystems including those anchored at Queen’s University, Memorial University, Dalhousie University, Polytechnique Montréal, Université Laval, University of Waterloo and University of Alberta.

Five finalists were selected from among the four regional cohorts and 17 national learning groups whose participants are working on research translation in a range of fields including clean energy, biomedicine and pharmaceutical sciences, biotechnology and advanced manufacturing.

The finalists were:

Robyn Binsfeld is a PhD candidate in neuroscience at Queen’s University. Her interests lie in researching and developing gene therapy drugs to treat genetic neurological disorders. Binsfeld specializes in pre-clinical development and testing of these therapeutics with the purpose of translating them to clinical use and commercial development.
Amandine Gesta is a doctoral candidate in biomedical engineering at Polytechnique Montréal. She is currently a research scholar in the Motion Analysis Laboratory at Harvard Medical School. Gesta completed her engineering degree in France before moving to Canada for a dual master’s degree. She is the founder of PERL, an exoskeleton company for children.
Shane Harrypersad graduated with a PhD in chemistry from SFU, with a focus on inorganic metal-based therapeutics. Harrypersad is currently at Bold Therapeutics, a Vancouver-based biotechnology company with a focus on taking metal-based oncology drugs to the clinic in difficult to treat indications. He is responsible for the chemistry program and oversees much of the manufacturing activities.
Anh Tran Ly received her PhD in materials science from ETH Zurich before becoming a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Chemical Engineering of Queen’s University. She co-founded CO2L Tech after winning the grand prize at the Queen’s Innovation Centre Summer Initiative, aiming to translate laboratory innovations into market solutions.
Siamak Seyfi is a PhD candidate in civil and environmental engineering at York University, with a foundational background in mechanical engineering. He has embarked on a groundbreaking project in experimental fluid mechanics known as EFM. This idea promises to revolutionize the field by enhancing the precision and efficiency of fluid dynamics research. Siamek’s commitment to this venture led him to participate in the acclaimed Lab2Market program.

Finalists presented to a panel of expert judges who are leaders in Canada’s science innovation ecosystems. This year’s expert judges were:

  • Melissa Chee, Board Member, Vector Institute and Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada
  • Francesco Matteucci, Program Manager, European Innovation Council
  • Kamaldeep Sembi, IP Lawyer, Technology Licensing Office, Simon Fraser University
  • Kaley Wilson, Principal and Director of Business Development, Quark Venture

Ridha Ben Mrad, chief research officer and scientific director at Mitacs, a leading science innovator himself, underlined the importance of supporting scientific entrepreneurial talent that is crucial for Canada’s innovation ecosystem. “Mitacs i2I is a shining example of the training that is a key part of solving Canada’s innovation challenges by unleashing entrepreneurial scientists and participants who will take the required skills to industry,” said Ben Mrad.

Jon Thomas, interim national academic director of Mitacs i2I and suite of programs, thanked the judges, mentors, faculty members, participants and supporters, saying: “i2I programs are built by researchers for researchers, and help our participants walk confidently between the worlds of academia, established industry, and new science-based ventures supported by our national network of experts and industry mentors.”

Applications for the next cohort of the i2I Skills Training Program are open until May 28, 2024. Applications (English) / Candidatures (French)

Information sessions in both English and French will be held May 23, 2024.
Registration for the webinar in English (10-10:30 a.m. PDT)
Inscriptions pour le webinaire en français  (10:30-11 a.m. PDT)

Contact us at to learn more about this transformational opportunity.