Funds advance research-to-commercialization pipeline for medical devices, electronic and mobile health, and space and defence technologies

Pamela Hyde, Office of the Vice-President (Research)

This story appeared in UToday on September 6, 2023.

UCalgary’s innovation ecosystem just received a $20.3-million boost, thanks to Alberta’s Major Innovation Fund (MIF). On Sept. 5, Nate Glubish, minister of technology and innovation, announced that three UCalgary projects have received four years of funding to lead province-wide strategic initiatives to accelerate research and commercialization in the areas of medical devices, electronic and mobile health, and space and defence technologies.

“Provincial support for high-tech research and innovation will help our post-secondary scholars move from groundbreaking technological ideas to entrepreneurial realities, fuelling a more diverse economy and making a positive impact in the wider community,” says Dr. Ed McCauley, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Calgary.

Major Innovation Fund projects are highly collaborative, requiring the engagement of scholars from institutions across Alberta, industry partners, and the communities that the projects intend to serve. It is an outcomes-focused program, funding projects that will attract and retain top talent, diversify Alberta’s economy, support industries and local businesses, and leverage additional investments.

“UCalgary’s innovation ecosystem is growing thanks to the drive of our research community and investments like the Major Innovation Fund,” says Dr. William Ghali, vice-president (research). “These three projects will streamline the research-to-commercialization pipeline for their sector and create opportunities for both innovative research and widespread of adoption of novel, made-in-Alberta solutions.”

UCalgary’s projects are the Alberta Medical Device Innovation Consortium, Health Everywhere, and Space and Defence Technologies Alberta.

Alberta Medical Device Innovation Consortium (A-MEDICO)

Lead investigator: Dr. Michael Kallos, PhD, professor, Schulich School of Engineering, adjunct  professor, Cumming School of Medicine

A-MEDICO is a pan-Alberta network of researchers, industry, and health-care stakeholders poised to reorganize, reinvigorate, and redefine Alberta’s medical device sector.

The mission of A-MEDICO is to develop new medical technologies with the communities they will serve, and implement new, sustainable, accelerated access pathways for the adoption of transformative medical device technology solutions.

“The lessons learned from the pandemic have underscored the necessity of robust health-care systems capable of delivering timely and accurate medical solutions to all corners of society, making the integration of medical devices in remote and rural settings more pertinent than ever,” says Dr. Amir Sanati-Nezhad, PhD, associate professor in the Schulich School of Engineering and a collaborator on the grant.

“With the rise of technological breakthroughs and an ever-growing emphasis on patient-centred care, the urgency to bridge gaps in health-care accessibility and quality has become paramount.”

Connecting existing but underutilized strengths, A-MEDICO will drive innovations, create new industry leaders, and strengthen Alberta’s economy.

Learn more about A-MEDICO.

A-MEDICO is a UCalgary-led research project, in partnership with the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), Red Deer Polytechnic, the University of Alberta and the University of Lethbridge. 

Health Everywhere

Lead investigator: Dr. Mary Brindle, MD, professor, Cumming School of Medicine

Alberta has pockets of excellence in eHealth (digital health technologies) and mHealth (mobile health technologies), which include novel programs and innovations. However, much of this excellence is disconnected and has tremendous untapped potential for collaboration and commercialization, and widespread adoption.

The vision of Health Everywhere is a vibrant eHealth and mHealth ecosystem in Alberta that builds on a foundation of strength in innovation to drive economic and technological growth.

“The rapid evolution of technology, the increasing complexity of medicine and the limitations of our current systems of patient care underscore the need for a human-centered approach to digital health,” says Brindle.

“Health Everywhere will use digital-health technologies to allow patients to receive the best possible medical treatment whether it is in the hospital or in their own homes, and strengthen connections between care in the hospital and care in communities.”

Co-developed with community, industry, and academic stakeholders, Health Everywhere will be a provincial hub of digital health excellence that brings together integrated programs, leading experts, and resources to enable efficient and effective commercialization, spread, and scale of eHealth and mHealth technologies.

“The Health Everywhere program will create an ecosystem that puts exciting and impactful innovations in technology, computer science, and data analytics into the hands of teams who can use them to benefit the patients of today and tomorrow,” says Brindle.

Learn more about Health Everywhere.

Health Everywhere is a UCalgary-led project, in partnership with the University of Alberta, Athabasca University, Lethbridge College, MacEwan University, Mount Royal University, NAIT, Red Deer Polytechnic and Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT).

Space-Defence Technologies Alberta (SDTech AB)

Co-lead investigators: Dr. Emma Spanswick, PhD, assistant professor, Faculty of Science and Canada Research Chair in Geospace Dynamics and Space Plasma Physics, and Dr. Susan Skone, PhD, professor, Schulich School of Engineering

The world is entering a new space age — a turning point in human history where rapidly decreasing costs, new technologies, geopolitical ambitions, and unprecedented commercial opportunity are driving a bold era of space development.

This has led to a convergence of possibilities in space commerce and accelerated civil-to-defence pathways. Capitalizing on this opportunity, Space-Defence Technologies Alberta (SDTech AB) will engage over 400 researchers in joint academia-industrial partnerships to deliver disruptive solutions and train the next generation skilled workforce. The program will establish Alberta as a global hub for innovation in space and defence technologies central to the future global economy.

“Global markets are shifting to rely heavily on space-based technologies and services, and Alberta leads capacity in some of the fastest growing space-for-earth technologies and downstream applications,” says Skone. “With more than 18 secured partners, and an academic community that leads nationally in federal space and defence research funding, Alberta and its post-secondaries are advantageously positioned to attract investment, talent and opportunity in this exciting new sector.”

Learn more about SDTech AB.

SDTech AB is a UCalgary-led project, in partnership with the University of Alberta, Athabasca University, the University of Lethbridge, NAIT, Red Deer Polytechnic, and SAIT. 

The project teams include a multidisciplinary group of scholars from a number of faculties who exemplify the breadth and depth of the research and expertise at the University of Calgary including members of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute (ACHRI), the Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI), The Mathison Centre for Mental Health Research & Education at the HBI, the McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Health, the O’Brien Institute for Public Health and the Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases at the Cumming School of Medicine.