Supporting early stage startups

startup oil sands

Over the years, COSIA has developed different tools to engage the innovation community, from technology sprints and prizes to partnerships with technology accelerators. Each has unique advantages and can be applied at various stages of the technology development lifecycle. However, one of the most challenging areas for industry is supporting early stage startups, because, although we may see potential value in their emerging technologies, the question is how can we improve their ability to scale it up successfully so that we can assess it properly?

Early stage startups face significant hurdles. First, the science needs to be proven out at a larger scale. If that test is passed, the next hurdle is determining if the startup can deliver the solution at a competitive price and whether it will displace an existing solution at a price point that entices a customer to deploy the technology at scale. If any of these are a no, then the business may not be viable.

With finite resources, we asked ourselves at COSIA how we could best support these entrepreneurs to develop their technology to the point where we could adequately assess its commercial potential. We identified two key relationships that are important. One is an accelerator relationship to help them better define the value proposition and technology roadmap. The second is a relationship with Canada's leading innovation assistance program for small and medium-sized businesses, National Research Council Canada – Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP).

The NRC IRAP provides advice, connections, and funding to help Canadian small and medium-sized businesses increase their innovation capacity and take ideas to market. When COSIA identifies an early-stage technology of interest to industry (COSIA members), we introduce the entrepreneur to NRC IRAP and offer to host a meeting between the NRC IRAP representative and the entrepreneur.

Our goal in this introductory meeting is to provide clarity to NRC IRAP around industry’s interest and where and how we are seeking further proof of technical feasibility. But we also want to ensure a warm handoff between NRC IRAP and the entrepreneur and ensure there is transparency and clarity on the next steps.

We’ve found this approach ensures that innovators get the help they need faster. We also recognize that a few hours spent with a great innovator in the early stage of their journey can remove significant roadblocks and shorten their technology development path. 

Usually, funders like to see a technology roadmap that lays out how the entrepreneur envisions the steps required to prove out their technology. Many early stage tech ventures do not have a roadmap and often see this gap as a barrier to accessing funding. During our introductory meeting, we explore the options that are available to close the gap. This may include discussing with the IRAP representatives how they could provide assistance, or it could be pointing the entrepreneur to other resources in the innovation ecosystem.

“It’s important to set expectations at the outset and arrive at a clear understanding of what needs to happen next. That’s why these initial conversations are so valuable. Working with COSIA helps entrepreneurs understand COSIA members’ technology needs and the performance metrics that need to be delivered. At the same time, the entrepreneurs gain understanding of the innovation ecosystem partners including NRC IRAP,” Arvinder Kainth, NRC IRAP Industrial Technology Advisor (Prairies).

Interested in other blogs in the Innovation Hacks series?
Check out these:
•    Measuring the value of innovation 
•    Not just for startups!
•    How technology scans work 

Sign up for our newsletter to stay on top of what’s happening at COSIA! 

Share on:

Facebook LinkedIn Twitter