ARCHIVED - Helping Start-Ups Succeed

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August 07, 2007— Ottawa, Ontario

Life can be tough for new businesses: in Canada, two out of three firms fail before their fifth anniversary. And for small firms trying to bring an innovative technology to market, the going is even tougher. But NRC's "industry partnership facilities" (IPFs) can help.

"A poor survival rate is one reason why NRC works hard at improving the odds for Canada's smaller technology driven start-ups," says Jean-Jacques Ledoux, manager of an NRC IPF in Ottawa. "NRC's top concern is to help Canadian start-ups commercialize the technologies that come out of our own research institutes. We want Canadians to benefit from the jobs, products and services these companies will generate."

Ledoux sees all the challenges young technology companies face. And he knows what they need to survive the early years when they generate little or no revenue. "Feasibility and market studies, business advice, planning and access to funding are some of the first concerns," he comments. "Start-ups also need to work in secure facilities with phone, fax and computer networks, expensive equipment and technical support, but they don't have the money to set up by themselves."

For a reasonable fee, NRC offers young qualifying companies these services and continuous access to some of Canada's top researchers whose labs are just down the hall.

Iridian staff at work in an Ottawa-based NRC industry partnership facility.
Iridian staff at work in an Ottawa-based NRC industry partnership facility.

NRC is selective about the companies it supports. "To qualify, the business must be able to benefit strongly from NRC expertise," says Ledoux. "It must also show a convincing business plan with market analysis, sales projections, funding requirements and management background. In addition, the business must have a strong potential to expand and create jobs in Canada."

Since Ledoux's Ottawa-based IPF started in 1998, 17 firms have "graduated." Several of them have seen remarkable success, and all but two are still in business after five years.

Zelos Therapeutics has been very successful in attracting capital and marketing Ostabolin-C™, an injectable drug designed to fight osteoporosis. Its parathyroid hormone-based products evolved from work that originated in NRC.

XYZ RGB Inc., a licensee of NRC 3D imaging technologies, produced spectacular cinematic effects in the Lord of the Rings, King Kong and the Matrix sequels, garnering considerable recognition for its technical accomplishments. Arius3D Inc. also began inside the fold, as did Ionalytics Corporation, Luzchem Research and SiGe Semiconductor – all doing well in today's marketplace.


  • 10: Provinces with NRC IPFs
  • 15: Number of IPFs at NRC
  • 100+: Number of firms currently housed in NRC IPFs
  • 29,989 m2: NRC's national total for IPF space. Canadian firms benefit from full-service facilities (proximity to vibrant technology clusters; access to R&D expertise; design, testing and prototyping services; technical information and business planning services; and opportunities for research collaborations and networking).

Have a young company that needs a great home?

For locations and more details, visit:

Dr. Derek Houghton is a former NRC researcher who co-founded SiGe Microsystems (now SiGe Semiconductor), an NRC spin-off that started out with advanced silicon germanium process technology and evolved to develop radio frequency and mixed-signal integrated circuits for next-generation broadband cable and wireless devices. SiGe Semiconductor now has more than 100 employees worldwide and, in 2006, its revenues exceeded $50 million. Houghton recalls the tough early years of the company. "We couldn't have made it without NRC," he readily admits. "The help we received was essential to sustain our competitive advantage in the global market."

Despite his continuing involvement with silicon germanium technology, Dr. Houghton has also invested in Quebec-based Sixtron Advanced Materials, a small firm launched in 2003 for which he serves as chief commercial officer. Sixtron has a lot of R&D ahead to meet the ever-increasing demands of its customers.

Dr. Houghton recently dropped in on Ledoux to talk about bringing Sixtron into the IPF where SiGe had offices in its earliest days. He wants the company to benefit from NRC expertise as it develops special coatings that will increase the efficiency of solar panels. Dr. Houghton knows how big the market could be, and wants NRC's support to help the company capture it.

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National Research Council of Canada

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