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Finlay MacNab


Simon Fraser University

PHD candidate in the Department of Chemistry

“The ability to communicate with investors, and with partners who don’t have a background in science, is critical to bringing a technology from the lab to market. The i2I program helped me see my work through a business lens. I not only learned to communicate but how to value technologies appropriately and to identify market opportunities and their associated risks and uncertainties.”

As a member of the first cohort of SFU Beedie’s Graduate Certificate in Science and Technology Commercialization, SFU chemistry PhD student Finlay MacNab continued a personal trend in breaking new ground. Finlay spent 15 years using his critical thinking skills and technical training as a research scientist with startup companies. He worked 80-plus hours a week on world-class research and pioneering technologies but watched in frustration as many of his innovations failed to reach market due to a lack of business knowledge and experience. Looking to break this cycle, he sought out SFU Beedie and the Invention to Innovation (i2I) program to develop a set of business skills and an entrepreneurial mindset that would complement his scientific background

My experience at SFU Beedie

“What makes the program unique is that your cohort is comprised entirely of scientists and engineers, and faculty present the material in a way that is palatable to analytical thinkers. I felt better able to absorb the material because I was with people who thought like I did. The framework and the material developed by Professor Maine provides a new way for scientists to think about how science and business are complementary.”

“The program offers a holistic view of how science and business are practiced together. Curriculum leverages past learning to allow you to analyze the business challenges related to your innovations and approach problems logically.”

My Journey

“When I graduated with my Master's Degree, I had no idea how to work in the real world. I did great research, but I kept working as if I was in a laboratory. If you are researcher today, you need to be concerned about all aspects of what you were working on and adopt a holistic view of your work on technologies for commercialization.”

“ I was near the end of my first year as a PhD student when the Graduate Certificate in Science and Technology Commercialization launched. It struck me that it could be a means of understanding where my previous business endeavors went wrong and to learn to identify and avoid the pitfalls I had experienced in the past.”

“Exploring what I could do differently to be successful as a start-up researcher was the main reason I was attracted to the program. I was also motivated to never again work 80 hours a week on a project that is doomed to fail from the start because of poor business practices.”


“I entered SFU’s Invention to Innovation Venture Pitch competition with a product I developed through the i2I program. My innovation, a home diagnostic device that prevents life-threatening infection during chemotherapy treatment, took first place in the Emergent Venture category. The real prize, though, was the feedback I received from successful mentors, and the experience of presenting my ideas in a way that is palatable to non-scientists. It let me dig deep into my project and fully evaluate whether my product was commercially viable. Exposure to real entrepreneurs and mentors—through the program and the new Ventures competition—broadened my understanding of the science of business.”

“The program also helped me to build my professional network. I was eventually invited to join the InnovateBC Ignite Panel, which distributes grant money to enable academic and private partnerships aiming to commercialize technologies relevant to BC. It's enabled me to impact BC’s technology environment, to voice my ideas, to advocate for viable projects, and to share my i2I teachings. It’s an experience I wouldn't have been able to access without my combination of research experience and the i2I Program.”

Where I am today

Finlay is currently a PHD candidate in the Department of Chemistry at SFU. A scientist entrepreneur, he is part of a team working on two technologies under patent review through the Industry Engagement office, including a shortwave IR sensor commissioned by the Department of National Defense and Metamaterial Optics technology.

With his PhD supervisor, Dr. Gary Leach, Finlay applied the i2I framework for commercialization to build a suite of technologies that stem from a generic research program applicable to many different disciplines and innovations.