NRC Annual Report 2016-2017
Table of contents
- Making Canada a global innovation leader
- Achieving research excellence
- Strengthening the NRC's national network of R&D facilities
- Addressing national priorities by building innovation capacity through strategic partnerships
- Breaking new barriers in the advancement of knowledge
- Supporting scale-up to success for high-performing SMEs
- The NRC Dialogue
- The NRC leadership
NRC Annual Report 2016-2017 (PDF, 7.09 MB)
Making Canada a global innovation leader
Welcome to the National Research Council's Annual Report for 2016‑2017—a year in which both the past and the future have figured prominently.
In the first instance, we celebrated the organization's centennial, looking back on a century of scientific and technical achievements, while simultaneously looking to the future with the launch of a wide-ranging exercise aimed at determining how the NRC can best support innovation in Canada in the years to come.
This internal consultation exercise, which we called the "NRC Dialogue", was central to the mandate letter I received from the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and the Minister of Science upon my appointment as President of the NRC in August of 2016.
Based on the findings of our internal consultations, we have embarked on a renewal of the NRC as we forge ahead to solve complex problems in areas of critical importance to Canada. Over the coming years, the renewed NRC will focus on: creating programs to deliver on government priorities including alignment with the federally- supported superclusters; research excellence in disruptive technologies; growing SMEs to scale and export; revitalizing the NRC research environment to include a more diverse workforce; and, enhancing environmental stewardship.
The strength of the NRC is founded on the passion, creativity, and dedication to excellence of its people. This excellence was demonstrated again this year by the number of individuals from the NRC's ranks whose achievements have been recognized by the award of some of Canada's and the world's most prestigious honours for scientific and technical accomplishment.
Like everyone at the NRC, these award winners, whose achievements and contributions are detailed elsewhere in this annual report, are driven by a commitment to scientific discovery and technological development that will contributeto the betterment of Canada and all humankind.
This commitment has enabled a number of truly significant and exciting advancements in research and business innovations. These range from the development of a promising new anti-cancer drug and a potential treatment for Alzheimer's disease, and the discovery of a supermassive black hole to the delivery of a computer-controlled flight system for a full-size Aphid helicopter. The NRC has also redefined the kilogram by a fundamental, unchanging law of nature for more accurate measurement and helped to establish the Canadian Quantum Security Research Centre—to name just a few of the examples cited in this report.
Access to the NRC's expertise and equipment provides our collaborators with the opportunity to accelerate their commercial development timelines, while a focus on industrial applications provides the NRC with insights into commercial direction for research and technology development activities.
In addition, the NRC's highly regarded Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) continues to play a key role in helping to accelerate the growth of innovative small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Canada. Through the program, the NRC works with an average of close to 7,500 firms each year, and in 2016‑2017, signed contribution agreements with more than 3,000 firms.
As Canada's contact point for EUREKA—a multinational network devoted to market-driven research and development—as well as an ever-growing number of bilateral and multilateral agreements with international research and technology organizations, the NRC is able to provide its industry clients and collaborators with access to opportunities to establish research and commercial relationships with partners in other countries, increasing their potential to grow and contribute to Canada's prosperity.
As demonstrated throughout this annual report, with a national footprint, a dedicated team of expert personnel and diverse collaborative relationships in Canada and around the world, the NRC is able to bring together diverse expertise from a wide range of engineering and scientific fields to tackle national challenges related to business innovation, scientific inquiry and public policy. Through our process of renewal, we look forward to seizing new opportunities for the NRC to refine its role in connecting the various components of the Canadian innovation system and help propel Canada into a position of global leadership in innovation.
"The NRC plays an instrumental role in delivering our Innovation and Skills Plan, resulting in the development of new solutions that will improve our quality of life, and more good-quality, resilient jobs for Canadians."
"NRC researchers provide our government with the scientific evidence we need to make decisions that will enhance our health, climate, environment and communities."
"The NRC's national network of specialized facilities, scientists and innovation advisors is critical to helping small Canadian companies grow and succeed. Without the NRC's support, these firms would be challenged to scale-up, export and compete on the global stage."
"The NRC has made tremendous contributions to the development of science and innovation in Canada and, through these powerful instruments, it has helped shape our lives today and the world around us."
Achieving research excellence
The NRC's pool of highly skilled professionals, from scientists, researchers and technical experts to business support specialists and advisors, is key to the organization's ability to incorporate excellence in everything that we do.
As in past years, a number of members of the NRC's scientific community were recognized in 2016‑2017 not only for their scientific expertise or technical achievements, but also for their dedication and creativity. NRC personnel honoured this past year included recipients of some of the most prestigious and respected national and international honours.
The NRC workforce: driven by knowledge, enriched by diversity
The NRC has approximately 3,700 scientists, engineers, technicians and other specialists.
155 of NRC employees serve as adjunct professors at leading universities across Canada.
The NRC's employee base includes 375 visiting workers and 244 students, helping to create new opportunities for collaboration with other organizations in Canada and elsewhere, and nurturing the next generation of NRC scientists.
Dr. David Villeneuve
Dr. David Villeneuve was presented with the 2016 Quantum Electronics Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers for his outstanding technical contributions to quantum electronics. Dr. Villeneuve is one of the NRC's pioneers of attosecond science in which pulses of light from a laser measured in quintillionths of a second are used to see and potentially control the movement of electrons within atoms and molecules. Dr. Villeneuve was also a key player in establishing the Joint NRC-University of Ottawa Attosecond Science Laboratory (JASlab), a unique facility that continues to attract top talent in ultrafast physics from around the world to Ottawa.
Strengthening the NRC's national network of R&D facilities
With some 90 facilities located at 22 sites across Canada, the NRC runs a national system dedicated to research and commercialization, spanning a wide range of industrial sectors and scientific fields. Beyond its mandated activities of operating and administering all astronomical observatories established or maintained by the Government of Canada, the NRC operates a host of specialized laboratories and testing facilities, including one of the largest ice tanks in the world, six wind tunnels, and a Photonics Fabrication Centre. Combined with its wide range of technical and scientific expertise, the NRC's facilities continue to offer clients and partners a unique network of collaboration platforms that brings together universities, industry and all levels of government. In 2016‑2017, the NRC announced plans to enhance and expand its research capabilities at a number of its facilities across Canada.
Secured communications technologies
In November 2016, the government announced that a new Quantum Security Technology Access Centre (Q-STAC) would be established as a joint effort of the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), the NRC and other government departments, to be housed at the NRC campus in Ottawa. The emerging field of quantum communication promises un-hackable, secure communication that can be applied to protect digital infrastructure from malicious actors—adding a new level of protection from cyber attacks that can have significant impacts on public safety, national security and the economy. The Q-STAC works with academic institutions and industry to ensure leading experts can collaborate on research and technology projects and initiatives aimed at, among others, protecting existing government infrastructure, disseminating technology foresight, and prototyping quantum security sensing and communications technologies.
Safer air travel
Following the introduction of regulations requiring aircraft to be certified for operation in newly- identified icing conditions that pose a threat to flight safety, the NRC upgraded its Altitude Icing Wind Tunnel (AIWT)—one of the few wind tunnels in the world that can simulate and test aircraft surfaces, components and probes in icing conditions at altitude. Already able to simulate altitudes up to 40,000 feet and temperatures down to -40°C, the upgrades allow the production of high intensity levels of ice crystals within the wind tunnel, as well as supercooled large droplets in the form of freezing drizzle and freezing rain. Providing for consistent and repeatable testing conditions—and more cost-effective than flight testing—the upgraded AIWT offers a competitive advantage to aircraft manufacturers racing to certify to the new regulations.
Advanced research computing
In December 2016, the NRC and Compute Canada announced a new, multi-year collaboration aimed at enhancing what is already one of the world's foremost astronomy research platforms. The collaboration will bring expanded "big science" data management and processing capabilities to a much larger research community. The project's title—C3TP—references the "three Cs Transition Project": the NRC's Canadian Astronomy Data Centre (CADC), Compute Canada and the Canadian Advanced Network for Astronomical Research (CANFAR) platform established on Compute Canada infrastructure.
The advanced research computing needs of astronomers are evolving at the same time as Compute Canada's infrastructure is being redesigned to better serve Canadian researchers and collaborators in all academic and industrial sectors.
The project is the first of its kind to leverage the large-scale research infrastructure and funding from both the NRC and Compute Canada to advance common science goals. The CADC, also referred to as Canada's virtual observatory, is one of the first in the world to make the transition from data host to integrated systems.
Already, the massive calculations made possible by the existing CANFAR platform have helped guide the first close spacecraft encounter with Pluto and enabled the discovery of new dwarf planets and supermassive black holes.
The new, enhanced system will take the potential for such discoveries to a whole new level.
In the summer of 2016, the NRC began upgrading the Canadian Centre for Housing Technology (CCHT) with construction of a semi-detached smart home to enable the evaluation of low-energy solutions and technologies for the multi-unit market. Scheduled for completion in summer 2017, the new building will support industry in assessing, testing and developing technologies in different areas, including exterior insulation systems, windows, renewable energy and energy storage, electric vehicle charging, micro-grid applications, and smart-building control. This new capacity will bring the CCHT to the leading edge of building technology innovation by providing a semi-detached smart-home that is net-zero energy ready.
The upgraded facility will also enable the assessment of how renewable energy sources such as wind and solar can be integrated seamlessly into the existing electrical grid using intelligent load-management strategies.
Addressing national priorities by building innovation capacity through strategic partnerships
The NRC collaborates with thousands of private and public partners each year to deliver targeted research, technology development, and direct technology support to Canadian industry. Many of these strategic partnerships supporting business innovation also contribute to Canada's capacity to address national challenges, from food safety and cleaner technologies to transportation, health, and security, among others. In 2016‑2017, the NRC continued to make significant progress toward the goals of existing research collaborations while exploring opportunities for new research initiatives and collaborations to address challenges faced by industry.
Under the Canadian Wheat Alliance with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the University of Saskatchewan and the Province of Saskatchewan, the NRC developed a genomics platform technology that can reduce the cost of genotyping a single DNA marker by approximately a factor of eight, increasing the cost efficiency and effectiveness of wheat breeding.
DNA markers identified by the NRC are now being used by breeders to help develop wheat varieties for insect and rust disease resistance, helping to protect Canada's multi-billion dollar wheat exports.
Safer, more sustainable aquaculture
KnipBio, a leading North American clean biotechnology firm, has been collaborating with the NRC to harness the potential of synthetic biology and metabolic engineering to pave the way for safer, more sustainable aquaculture. NRC experts in aquatic and crop biotechnologies helped to optimize KnipBio's microbial strain and fermentation process to improve the efficiency and cost competitiveness of its core production process. The partnership resulted in the development of a protein source that combines the attributes of protein-packed fishmeal and carotenoids in one effective, affordable replacement called KnipBio Meal —a more sustainable fish food with the potential to improve the sustainability of the aquaculture industry by increasing diversity, reducing costs and improving product quality.
Improved food testing
In collaboration with Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the NRC developed two patented microfluidic platform technologies for rapid isolation and identification of food pathogens, such as potentially deadly E. coli O157:H7. Both platforms are being used in federal food testing laboratories with the goal of expanding their use beyond government labs to the commercial market in the coming years.
Revolutionizing the management of carbon emissions
In November 2016, in collaboration with research partners at Pond Technologies and Votorantim Cimentos' St Marys Cement, the NRC brought the first algal biorefinery project in Canada online—showcasing a technology that could lead to a revolution in the management of industrial carbon emissions.
The process deployed by NRC experts and its partners is designed to rapidly recycle carbon dioxide (CO2) and other airborne industrial emissions into biomass through the use of photosynthetic algae. The demonstration facility's environmental remediation and biomass production potential has drawn significant interest from the public, the international algae community, and industry. The pilot scale algal biorefinery uses CO2 and other emissions captured from the cement manufacturing process as a food source to promote the rapid growth of algae in its 25,000 litre photobioreactor. The resulting algal biomass can be further converted into sustainable products, including renewable biofuels.
Transforming biomass into biogas
Using the NRC's biotechnology expertise and customizable anaerobic bioprocessing pilot plant facilities, NRC researchers developed a laboratory-scale version of a biomass to biogas system built by the Régie d'Assainissement des Eaux du Bassin de La Prairie (La Prairie Basin Water Sanitation Authority). The innovative system is designed to recycle more than 100,000 tonnes per year of wet, secondary sludge generated by the Régie's sewage treatment facility, transforming it into biogas that can be used to generate energy for heating and other purposes—the kind of technology that is turning the management of solid waste from a challenge to an opportunity in communities across Canada. By reproducing the Régie's innovative system and unique operating conditions at a laboratory scale, the NRC was able to validate the system's performance and suggest adjustments to optimize the Régie's biomass transformation process.
Supporting new applications for UAVs
In collaboration with Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) and private-sector partner Meggitt Training Systems Canada, the NRC used its world-class aerospace lab and expertise in mathematical modelling to develop and test new sensors, electronics and computer programs that would enable future military Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs or "drones") to perform above and beyond their original design specifications. NRC engineers outfitted a single-occupant Aphid helicopter with a series of sophisticated sensors to collect data on the aircraft's movement. A small, unmanned prototype helicopter was then used to test the instrumentation suite—including a GPS receiver, remote control, ground station, sensors, air data system, and autopilot system—before transferring guidance and navigation control back to the Aphid. After six years of design and development, the research has delivered a computer-controlled flight system that allows the full-sized Aphid helicopter to safely take off on its own, perform manoeuvres via remote control and then return to an automated state for self-landing.
The Aphid helicopter has recently completed a series of flights in the Arctic to test the viability of using unmanned systems in the North. Longer term, DRDC will employ the new control technology in a variety of potential UAV applications, from search and rescue to military uses. The technology will also support the Canadian aerospace sector as it pursues new opportunities created by the growing demand for increasingly complex control systems, navigation equipment and communication technologies needed to enable new applications for UAVs.
Strong industry partnerships
Relying on strong partnerships to help develop and market specialty mix products within the powder metallurgy market (including an almost 25-year long relationship with the NRC) Quebec-based Rio Tinto Metal Powders (RTMP) technology solutions continue to make impressive gains in Canada and abroad. RTMP's flagship FLOMET™ mix technology—a combination of binder-treated powders that bond small additive particles to larger iron powder particles as a way to increase the productivity of compacting presses and part-to-part consistency—has been a particular success.
A collaborative effort from the very beginning, the NRC and RTMP have seen a steadily growing demand for the FLOMET™ technology platform from countries around the globe. The technology has been especially popular in the automotive sector, where it is being used in the manufacture of a wide range of parts, from lighter and lower-cost camshaft pulleys to electric sunroof mechanisms. The use of RTMP's proprietary technology continues to expand, and now includes warm pressing mixes, green machining products, soft magnetic composites and environmental applications.
The ongoing collaboration with the NRC has also enabled RTMP to obtain several technology patents, and helped the company to establish itself as a key player in the manufacturing and development of essential end-user products for the automotive industry.
Advancing cancer treatments
A recent collaboration between the NRC and Formation Biologics has led to the development of a drug that has proven successful in shrinking tumours in preclinical models and is now achieving positive results in Phase 1 clinical trials. The new treatment, AVID100, is an antibody-drug-conjugate (ADC)—a type of biotherapeutic that uses an antibody with a drug attached to it to target and destroy cancer cells with minimal impact on surrounding tissue.
By accessing the NRC's knowledge of the antibody's DNA sequence, Formation Biologics was able to win Investigational New Drug approval for AVID100, allowing trials in humans to begin.
Working with Formation Biologics enabled the NRC to further its expertise in ADC development, leading to a cutting-edge platform for ADC development and screening. The company is ready to pursue the development of other innovative treatments to benefit Canadians living with cancer, and plans to continue working with the NRC on a second molecule arising from NRC labs, AVID200, that has the potential to treat a number of diseases in addition to cancer.
In October 2016, Kalgene Pharmaceuticals and the NRC announced an agreement to further develop, scale up, and transfer the technology needed to manufacture a promising new treatment for Alzheimer's disease, extending a partnership launched in 2015. The potential treatment is based on a custom-engineered biologic molecule developed at the NRC. The molecule is composed of a peptide believed to reduce amyloid beta deposits in the brain—deposits that have been strongly linked to Alzheimer's—coupled to an antibody designed to carry the peptide into the brain. Human trials of the treatment are expected to begin in 2018.
As the population ages and the incidence of Alzheimer's and other diseases of the central nervous system rises, the NRC's expertise in coupling drugs and other therapeutics with antibodies designed to ferry them across the barrier between the blood and the brain may help overcome some of the greatest medical challenges of our century.
Improved magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
In collaboration with Sunnybrook Research Institute in Toronto, the NRC developed a new device capable of improving pancreatic magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Tests on healthy subjects showed sharper images with clearer definition of the pancreas compared to techniques currently in common use. Pancreatic cancer is one of the most aggressive and difficult to diagnose forms of the disease, and early diagnosis is crucial if treatment is to be successful. If the results are validated in a larger group, this new Canadian technology could significantly impact diagnostic MRIs of the pancreas and other internal organs such as the liver, kidneys and prostate.
Authentic, accurate and traceable time
The demand for secure and accurate time has been growing in recent years in telecommunications, infrastructure, navigation and finance, with these sectors requiring traceable time with sub-microsecond precision. Currently available methods have technical or reliability limitations in achieving this goal, so the NRC has developed a remote time system with uncertainty reduced to the nanosecond level. Based on a high quality local oscillator and GPS for time transfer, the remote clock is continuously monitored and adjusted to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) to ensure traceability, and minimize vulnerability to GPS signal jamming and spoofing.
Infrastructure to de-risk next-generation quantum security technologies
Together with the Communications Security Establishment, Defence Research and Development Canada and Sherbrooke, Calgary, Toronto and Waterloo universities, the NRC was a key player in establishing the Quantum Security Technology Access Centre (Q-STAC) in 2016‑2017.
The Q-STAC will support advanced research activity in the security sector, contributing to the growth of Canada's vibrant photonics industry through the transfer of NRC scientific expertise in chemical detection sensors, perimeter sensors, high-sensitivity imaging, quantum networks, quantum key distribution, and quantum-resistant algorithms. Drawing on expertise from across government, this joint initiative houses a quantum key distribution switch and standard network gear that will allow NRC researchers to perform work on quantum telecommunication technologies. This joint activity is aimed at developing critical infrastructure to de-risk next-generation quantum security technologies and advise government and industrial partners on the future landscape of communications, sensing, and security.
Next-generation armour products
The NRC led the development of the Security Materials Technologies Roadmap (SMTRM) during 2016‑2017—an initiative built on the previously developed armoured vehicle and personal protection roadmaps, and aimed at accelerating the development and adoption of innovative armour products and systems in Canada. The SMTRM is now being used to guide the development of a Built-in-Canada Program pilot initiative that would better connect the needs of government departments with the innovation capabilities of Canadian industry, setting the stage for a new, demand-based procurement model.
The roadmap is complemented by a new, virtual collaboration environment launched by the NRC, enabling stakeholders to cooperate in advancing technologies and developing next-generation products and systems to increase the competitiveness of Canadian industry and enhance protection for Canadian soldiers, first responders and security personnel. By identifying future market demands in Canada and internationally, and the technologies required to meet those demands, the SMTRM will help align, plan and coordinate technology development opportunities for Canadian industry and target R&D investments.
Breaking new barriers in the advancement of knowledge
The NRC at the forefront of icing modelling and simulation technologies
In order to safeguard aircraft against the potentially dangerous threat of icing, it is critical to understand and predict how ice accumulates on aircraft structures in various conditions. A 3D morphogenetic icing prediction code, developed by Dr. Krzysztof Szilder and the Aviation Aerodynamics group at the NRC, represents a significant improvement on traditional icing models used by top aerospace labs to calculate ice formation under different conditions.
The new model's accuracy puts it at the forefront of the ice prediction field and, with successful testing completed, it is ready for the next step—licensing to a Canadian company for commercial distribution. For the aerospace industry, the development of this highly-accurate ice-predictive capability will support the certification of new aircraft designs to meet increasingly stringent regulations. In addition, the model can be used in other engineering and industrial applications to predict, for example, how ice may accumulate on wind turbines, transmission lines and bridge cables—as demonstrated as part of recent work performed for the new Champlain Bridge in Montreal.
Making our world smaller
In collaboration with researchers at the University of Alberta and international partners, the NRC published a report in Nature Communications in 2016‑2017 detailing how switches for electricity based on the behaviour of a single atom could be created. These so-called atomic switches would be many times smaller than anything currently in use, allowing for the development of much smaller and more energy efficient computers and other devices.
Meanwhile, as reported in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, the NRC, the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary developed a first-of-its-kind miniature magnetic sensing device with extreme sensitivity. The device's small size and portability—the magnetic sensor is on a silicon chip smaller in diameter than a human hair—would allow for its use in a broad range of applications, such as probing and characterizing the magnetic properties of new materials being developed for applications in electronics and quantum computing. Among other uses, it could conceivably be a feature of future smartphones, enabling consumers to quickly and easily test food for bacterial contamination
NRC research to weigh heavily on the redefinition of the kilogram
Researchers with the NRC's Measurement Science and Standards have produced the most accurate measurement of the kilogram yet recorded—a result that will ensure recognition of the NRC's contribution to the redefinition of the international system of units planned for 2018/2019, and position Canada as a major contributor to international measurement standards.
The kilogram is the one international measurement unit still defined by an actual artifact—a small metal cylinder locked in a secure vault in Paris—the value of which can be altered by something as simple as breathing on it. As with other units of measurement, the Comité International des Poids et Mesures wants the kilogram to be defined by a fundamental law of nature that does not change so anyone with the proper tools will be able to measure out a perfect kilogram whenever they need one.
Following the installation of a Watt (or Kibble) Balance in 2009, NRC researchers have worked tirelessly to improve the accuracy of the device, which measures weight using electromagnetic force with such precision that it can "see" earthquakes happening in the United States. While many labs around the world are working to redefine the kilogram, the NRC's recent results of 9.1 parts per billion represent the most reliable measurement of Planck's constant ever achieved—and make the NRC Watt Balance what is effectively the most accurate quantum scale in the world. In addition to being a crucial component in the redefinition of the kilogram, the work of NRC researchers in assigning a more precise value to Planck's constant will have far-reaching applications in the field of quantum mechanics and other disciplines.
Advancing scientific knowledge
In March 2017, the NRC's National Science Library partnered with six other federal science-based departments and agencies to launch the Federal Science Library portal. This new self-serve portal enables researchers to search and have remote access to the vast collection of publications in science, technology, engineering and health and other related economic, policy and program information held in the seven federal libraries. Wherever possible, departmental publications, reports, data sets and other content are freely available for anyone to access or download. It also gives users the option to expand their search beyond the holdings of the seven libraries to include millions of publications from around the globe.
Massive black hole discovery
An international team of astronomers uncovered a supermassive black hole in unlikely isolation at the centre of galaxy NGC 1600. As part of the team, NRC astronomers working out of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory contributed the critical observational data required to map and model the unexpectedly sparse environment around the black hole.
As well as being one of the largest ever measured, the newly discovered black hole is the first of its size to be found outside of a dense cluster of galaxies, putting in question astronomers' current understanding of how and where gigantic black holes form—and may suggest that more gigantic black holes are lurking in the universe, waiting to be discovered.
While the galaxy NGC 1600 has been subject to previous investigations, this recent breakthrough black hole discovery was made possible by the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph. This instrument, designed and built by the NRC in collaboration with the United Kingdom, resides atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii on the Gemini North 8-metre telescope. Gemini is one of the few telescopes in the world with the power to collect enough starlight and with the optical quality to make observations at the centre of an elliptical galaxy.
Supporting scale-up to success for high-performing SMEs
As one of the Government of Canada's longest-running innovation support programs for small and medium-sized enterprises, the NRC's Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) works with approximately 7,500 firms every year—helping these businesses identify and pursue opportunities to accelerate their growth through the provision of advisory services and financial support. In 2016‑2017, NRC IRAP signed Contribution Agreements with over 3,000 firms involving some 3,200 projects which, in turn, supported well over 12,000 jobs—including more than 1,300 jobs for young Canadians.
NRC IRAP is recognized around the world for the success of its innovation assistance program; providing the technology, tools and funding to accelerate expansion of high-growth firms, create new jobs in growing industries, and enable them to compete internationally and contribute to Canada's prosperity. During 2016‑2017, NRC IRAP played a key role in the successful scale-up of a range of SMEs representing a variety of social and economic sectors. Here are a few examples.
Monitoring hearts from afar
m-Health Solutions benefited from NRC IRAP support in several areas, including business analysis, technical advice, financial assistance, and regulatory guidance and support during the certification process of an improved heart monitor kit called m-CARDS. This new wireless technology enables data needed for diagnosing heart conditions to be collected remotely. This capacity offers particular benefits to Canadians living in remote communities without resident cardiologists, as well as people living in urban environments who may have difficulty getting to and from appointments in clinics or hospitals. The faster diagnoses provided by m-CARDS may also lead to healthcare cost savings by reducing the number of Canadians requiring hospitalization for heart disease and stroke.
Eye in the sky for a smoother commute
A series of innovations by Kitchener firm Miovision is helping to set the foundation for tomorrow's "smart cities." Listed as one of its "Technology Fast 50" by Deloitte —the consulting firm's annual ranking of the fastest growing tech firms in Canada—Miovision is reinventing the management of traffic data. The firm's innovative video streams and algorithms are already being used by city planners in more than 50 countries, enabling real-time traffic management decisions to optimize city-wide traffic flows by monitoring vehicle and pedestrian volumes and controlling multiple traffic signals. Data collected and analyzed by the system also informs planning for more efficient roads decades into the future.
Founded by three University of Waterloo engineering students and based in Waterloo's Accelerator Centre, Miovision accessed support from the NRC IRAP's Youth Employment Program to start developing its long list of hardware and software innovations. The firm has grown steadily, from six employees in 2005-2006 to 115 in 2017, and is expected to double its current workforce within the next three years.
Recharging battery research strategies
While new designs are improving the performance of the lithium-ion batteries that power more and more of our world, the cost and complexity of preparing the materials that go into the product is a major challenge for manufacturers. With support from NRC IRAP, Vancouver-based Nano One has taken a giant step toward overcoming that challenge, developing a process that eliminates a number of time-consuming, expensive steps needed to create the lithium cathodes that are a key element of these batteries. While some processes involve as many as 100 steps and production cycles of up to seven days, Nano One's technology has 75 per cent fewer steps, a production cycle that can be completed in one day and uses less expensive, lower-grade raw materials.
NRC IRAP was instrumental in helping the company refine this technology for immediate commercial application, enabling it to pursue the tremendous opportunities that exist—Lux Research has predicted that the market for these batteries will grow to $50 billion by 2020 from the current $35 billion, as the demand for batteries for small, portable devices grows to include larger formats, such as power supplies for vehicles and storage of electricity generated by solar and wind generators.
Environment and Clean Technology
NRC IRAP network helps bring environmentally-friendly culvert on stream
Lethbridge, Alberta-based Enviro Span designed a new, modular culvert system to reduce the environmental impact of stream crossings. Unlike the conventional steel tube, the Enviro Span culvert is a semi-circular design, allowing it to be placed in a stream with minimal disturbance to the stream bed or sensitive habitat. Made from a lightweight but strong and durable thermoplastic material, the culvert is also easy and inexpensive to install. With NRC IRAP assistance and a partnership project with Lethbridge College and the City of Lethbridge to showcase the technology's environmental and cost-saving features, Enviro Span increased sales and signed on a new distributor. The company's culverts have been installed in locations across the United States, as well as Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia.
Government partnerships increase international access for SMEs
NRC IRAP continues to invest in international networks and partnerships to open doors for Canadian SMEs. Over the past year, NRC IRAP has extended its reach by partnering with 13 other government departments to deliver different departments' innovation programs to SMEs in a coordinated way. In particular, NRC IRAP is working with the Trade Commissioner Service of Global Affairs Canada to co-deliver the CanExport program. This program is designed to support SMEs in managing export development costs such as business travel to target markets; participation at trade fairs and trade missions; market research; and, adaptation of marketing tools for new markets. Applications have been approved for exports to over 70 markets.
Canadian companies, such as 4Deep inwater imaging, are already benefiting from the program. The Nova Scotia company has used its patented holographic technology to create powerful yet simple microscopes that enhance undersea research and discovery. With CanExport's support, 4Deep is marketing and promoting its submersible microscope system in India to monitor water quality in lakes, rivers and oceans.
Canadian company has global success with help from NRC IRAP and EUREKA
Jones Packaging, of London, Ontario, is set to transform how both prescription pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter medications are purchased, through the introduction of interactive "smart labels" and "intelligent packaging". The new packaging, aimed at enhancing both product integrity and consumer safety, is the result of a successful research and development collaboration with Thin Film Electronics ASA of Norway and Sweden—a collaboration made possible by support from NRC IRAP, Sweden's national innovation agency (Vinnova), and Canada's membership in EUREKA.
Facilitating "EUREKA!" moments through international partnerships
Canada's associate membership in EUREKA—an intergovernmental and transnational network for market-driven industrial research and development—continues to open doors for Canadian innovators.
With its decentralized and flexible approach, EUREKA provides Canadian innovators with the support and contacts required to develop new products, services or processes through transnational collaborations with entities in dozens of countries in Europe and beyond. EUREKA is also giving Canadian industry a competitive advantage by facilitating access to key global value chains and foreign markets, as well as the potential to access greater capital.
EUREKA at a glance
EUREKA is the largest innovation facilitation network of its kind, providing a mechanism for international, market-oriented cooperation among 40-plus economies across Europe, and in Israel, South Korea, South Africa and Canada.
The NRC houses and manages Canada's EUREKA National Office and provides companies with a first contact point for Canadian innovators seeking access to EUREKA's global network. Using the EUREKA network, the NRC connects Canadian organizations with potential partners and opportunities and, through IRAP, offers funding support to eligible Canadian SMEs participating in EUREKA projects.
In less than four years since becoming an associate member, Canada has received approval for more than 50 EUREKA network projects valued at $77 million.
In 2016‑2017 alone, NRC IRAP supported 39 SMEs in initiating 16 bilateral EUREKA projects worth a total of $11.7 million, and in labelling 11 multi-lateral EUREKA cluster projects valued at $158.6 million.
In March 2016, Canada joined the EUREKA "Eurostars" program. During the September 2016 Eurostars call for projects, Canada's engagement was strong with participation in 12 project submissions. Ultimately, six of these projects (valued at $12 million) were approved and received funding from all international partners—a 50 per cent success rate compared to the average 30 per cent success rate for Eurostars submissions.
Collaborative projects underway involve 76 Canadian SMEs, three large firms and five universities. To date, EUREKA has enabled Canadians to partner with organizations in Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, The Netherlands, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom, among others.
The NRC Dialogue
As part of his mandate, the NRC's President, Iain Stewart, was asked to take stock of the current state of the NRC in several key areas and propose a way forward to support the government's Innovation and Skills Plan.
Discussions, consultations, and an extensive exchange of views and ideas were essential to the success of this internal assessment that engaged employees throughout the NRC in an organization-wide process called the NRC Dialogue. In all, 3,180 employees, 15 external experts, town-hall discussions in 10 provinces, and 350 consultation sessions at 18 NRC sites across the country contributed to the process—and the renewal of the NRC is now taking shape.
External expert advisors
Long description of Figure 1
18 sites visited to consult employees
350 consultation sessions held
3,180 attended consultations and town halls
3,096 feedback forms received and surveys completed
As its primary objective, the NRC Dialogue was to determine how the NRC could support the Government of Canada's Innovation and Skills Plan, and to present options for how we could enhance the NRC's capacity to advance scientific knowledge, support government priorities, and spur business innovation in Canada.
Tiger Teams comprising a crosssection of employees were created to support the roll-out of the NRC Dialogue. Each Tiger Team was to consult widely across the organization; make a critical examination of specific areas of the NRC; and, propose a desired future state for the NRC. Throughout the process, the Tiger Teams were supported with guidance and advice from expert external advisors who also performed a challenge function as the teams carried out their work.
This year was quite unique as we embarked on a journey to renew the NRC, while we continued to forge ahead to solve complex problems in areas of critical importance to Canada. Over the coming years, the renewed NRC will focus on: creating programs to deliver on government priorities including alignment with the federally- supported superclusters; research excellence in disruptive technologies growing SMEs to scale and export; revitalizing the NRC research environment to include a more diverse workforce and enhancing environmental stewardship.
The ideas and actions brought forward in the NRC Dialogue were developed by staff, challenged by external advisors, discussed with our Ministers and will now be implemented through a four-year action plan.
Taken together, these changes will result in an organization that emphasizes collaboration and is better aligned with federal priorities, and that is more balanced across its three core areas of delivery: support to business innovation; support for federal mandates; and, advancing science and innovation through exploratory research.
"The NRC Dialogue has been an opportunity for the NRC to take stock of what is working well and to identify where we can make improvements to better support Canadian research excellence and innovation to achieve the goals of the federal Innovation and Skills Plan."
The NRC leadership
Council Members (2016‑2017)
President, National Research Council Canada
P. Thomas (Tom) Jenkins
Chair of the NRC Council, Chair of the Board, Open Text Corporation, Waterloo, Ontario
Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Ondine Biomedical Inc., Vancouver, British Columbia
Karimah Es Sabar
Chief Executive Officer and Partner, Quark Venture Inc., Vancouver, British Columbia
Counsel, Ricketts Harris, Toronto, Ontario
President, Nova Bus and Prevost, Saint-Eustache, Quebec
Director, Cold Climate Innovation Centre, Yukon College, Whitehorse, Yukon
Former executive in the healthcare sector, Shediac Cape, New Brunswick
Senior Executive Committee (2016‑2017)
Vice-President, Business and Professional Services
(retired, December 2016) Vice-President, Industrial Research Assistance Program
Vice-President (Acting), Engineering
Vice-President, Human Resources
Vice-President (Acting), Industrial Research Assistance Program
Vice-President, Corporate Management and Chief Financial Officer
Vice-President, Life Sciences
Vice-President, Emerging Technologies, National Infrastructure and Future Technologies Vice-President (Acting), Emerging Technologies, Platforms
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