Increasingly, COSIA has been looking at how we can help start-ups find the resources they need to advance their technologies. One of the more common challenges they have identified is getting access to funding at the right time in the development cycle to advance their innovation and reach field pilot.
There are many different Federal and Provincial funding programs, but also many technologies that do not fit neatly into a prescribed category. It’s also time-consuming and inefficient for start-ups to apply individually to different programs for the various types of funding that’s available.
COSIA wanted to understand how we could help start-ups better engage with funders and related advisory services. Industry may see a particular technology as promising, but further development may be required before it can be tested in the field. So, we developed what we’re calling Funder Discovery Meetings.
The process is fairly straightforward. Once oil sands companies express interest in a start-up’s technology, COSIA staff begin by searching our database of public funders to identify the different potential funding sources available. We then review them with the start-up CEO to develop a short-list of preferred funders.
COSIA then coordinates and hosts a Funder Discovery Meeting bringing together COSIA staff, the start-up leadership team and the preferred funders. Together, the group reviews the technology, industry interest, development timeline and the funding required to advance the technology to field-pilot.
With industry representatives at the table, the funders get a better sense of the potential opportunity and are able to question them directly on the merits of the technology. They gain a better understanding of the development timeline and the specific performance gates that will lead to a potential field pilot.
COSIA found the Funder Discovery Meeting benefits the start-up by demonstrating industry’s interest in and requirements for the technology. With this information, the start-up can more quickly identify what funding programs they can access.
After a Funder Discovery Meeting, the start-up still needs to formally apply to specific funding programs, but they now have the clarity and insight they need as to how different public funding programs can come together to support technology development.
One start-up that went through this process was Copperstone Technologies, an Edmonton based company that has developed a remote vehicle which can move across a tailings pond collecting tailings and water samples and reporting real-time data.
COSIA hosted a series of Funder Discover Meetings, in addition to a separate workshop between industry representative and the Copperstone leadership team in order to build a deep understanding of industry’s requirements for the innovation.
Craig Milne, Copperstone CEO says that COSIA helped connect the company with industry members and agencies in the innovation network. “This resulted in greater exposure for us and put a new innovation in front of the right people. It also helped kick off some funding from the National Research Council – Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP) that we are using to build the next generation of robots for industry,” he says.
Written by Peter Beaudoin, COSIA's Senior Advisor, Strategy and Partnerships
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