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How Companies Like WeWork Are Dedicating Physical Footprint To Relevant Service

Explore how three retailers are going beyond the point of transaction by dedicating store space to on-site services, introducing shoppers to different activities and skills related to their product mix

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Montreal-based AEPONYX closes $7.9 million CAD Series A

AEPONYX, a Montreal-based micro-optical switch provider, has closed a Series A financing of $7.9 million CAD, led by Pangaea Ventures. The round includes current investors Fonds InnovExport and Ecofuel Fund, as well as private investors.
“We can now accelerate the commercialization of technology driving energy efficient innovation and positive environmental impact.”
-Philippe Babin
This funding will be used by AEPONYX to accelerate the commercial production of its planar micro-optical switch chips which combines silicon photonics with Micro-Electro-Mechanical-Systems (MEMS). This Series A round brings its total funds raised to $18 million.
“With the support of round leader Pangaea and previous investors, we can now accelerate the commercialization of technology driving energy efficient innovation and positive environmental impact,” said Philippe Babin, CEO of AEPONYX.
Founded in 2011, AEPONYX designs and manufacturers fabless micro-optical switch semiconductor chips for fibre optic access to the cloud. AEPONYX is an alumnus of Silicon Catalyst, the world’s first incubator focused exclusively on semiconductors.
AEPONYX is currently part of the CenTech incubator, a Montreal accelerator with a primary focus on hardware and deep tech. In 2016, it graduated from Ecofuel, a Cycle Capital Management-founded accelerator dedicated to growing cleantech startups. In 2016, the company was selected by Sustainable Technology Development Canada as part of $45 million investment to support 17 cleantech startups across Canada.
The company aims to build the fastest, most affordable, and smallest micro-optical switches in order to promote reduced energy consumption. The company says its developments could create new opportunities for optical circuit switching and a new generation of tunable transceivers, increasing the capacity on both ends of the optical fibre while lowering power consumption.
“This funding, combined with the deep expertise of our partners pave[s] the way for us to redefine switching technology for next-generation fibre optic telecommunications access networks, data centers, and 5G mobile networks which, combined, represent a multibillion-dollar opportunity,” said Babin.
Image courtesy Pixabay.

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Learn how tech leaders navigate the user experience era at #FutureMakers March 27

This March, RBC’s FutureMakers Talks series will look at how businesses build products at a time when user experience (UX) is driving businesses success.
Delivering intuitive, and aesthetically pleasing customer experience can make or break a tech product in today’s market. The March FutureMakers will address how companies can adapt their business models to better understand users and develop meaningful experiences.
Tickets range from $7-15, but BetaKit readers can get in FREE using the promo code “BetaKitPROMO” here.
Taking place March 27, the event will feature a talk from Huda Idrees, the CEO and founder of Dot Health. Dot Health operates a personal health data platform, looking to give Canadians access and management of their own health information. The former chief product officer at Wealthsimple, with product experience at Wattpad and Wave, Idrees will discuss how to design systems that make products intuitive to use.
“From my background designing mobile products for the masses, I’ve seen companies slowly shift from a traditional Sales and Business model to Product-centric companies with a big emphasis on user experience,” Idrees said. “In my talk, I will discuss how we can leverage this shift in companies to positively impact entrenched industries like food, education, health, and transportation.”
Andréa Crofts – Director of Design – League Inc.
The event will also feature a talk from Andréa Crofts, director of design at League, another health-focused startup looking to transform employee health benefits. Crofts will be speaking about the responsibility that creators have to develop products that promote mental health and enable users to disconnect from technology.
Attendees will also hear from RBC’s Inclusive Design Practice lead, Alicia Jarvis, who will talk about driving innovation through the lens of inclusion, as well as Ernest Yap, the co-founder and CEO of Shapetrace, who will discuss how to design for augmented and virtual reality.
“Not only is Diversity and Inclusion one of our core values here at RBC, it’s also one of the ways we bring our purpose of helping clients thrive and communities prosper to life,” said Jarvis. “What we have learned at RBC is that before we speak up for inclusion, we must speak about its meaning, which can be different for everyone. I’m looking forward to connecting and sharing ideas with the FutureMakers community, so that together, we can create a more inclusive world for us all to enjoy.”
Tickets for the March FutureMakers range from $7-15, but BetaKit readers can get in FREE using the promo code “BetaKitPROMO” here.
BetaKit is a FutureMakers media partner.

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Sci Innovation Competition returns to Toronto for third year

The Canadian branch of the China (Shenzhen) Innovation and Entrepreneurship Competition, an event aiming to help foreign innovation and entrepreneurship projects connect with China, will return to Toronto on March 23.
This is Toronto’s third year hosting the competition. The Sci Innovation Competition invites promising tech ventures to a pitch competition that will select 20 companies to represent Canada at the China Shenzhen Innovation and Entrepreneurship Competition (IEIC) in April 2019. The ten finalists from the Sci Toronto competition will be awarded cash prizes of up to $20,000 CAD each, plus an expense-paid trip to compete at what has been called “The International Olympics of Entrepreneurship.”
The Canadian branch of what has been dubbed the “Global Olympics of Innovation” will feature 20 finalists that have been selected through regional competitions in Toronto, Waterloo, Ottawa, and Montreal. Each competitor will pitch their projects to a panel of expert judges for a chance to win prizes from a pool of $2.09 million CAD.
RELATED: Mayor John Tory wants to show off Toronto’s startups at Shenzhen innovation competition
The IEIC aims to integrate innovation and entrepreneurship resources and help foreign innovation and entrepreneurship projects connect with Chinese high tech industrial resources and expand the Chinese market.
This year’s competition features:
Genecis Bioindustries – Developing a SynBio platform to create bacteria that take in low-value organic waste and produce high-value chemicals. The first product line is biodegradable PHA bioplastics.
ViWiSTAR Technology – A Camera-based Real-Time Intelligent Driver Safety System in order to reduce the increasing traffic accident rate, this project provides a comprehensive in-vehicle driver safety system (DSS) taking care of driver safety assurance, security demand, driving assistance, and driver-vehicle interaction.
INViCARE – A nanotechnology company bringing innovative and impactful biomaterials to the healthcare industry. It has successfully developed the first inorganic two-dimensional nanocrystalline biomaterials with proven implant disinfection and bone healing properties.
Autonom – Provides solution for telecommunications companies to power 5G equipment during power outages. Autonom frees up space within operators’ cellular sites by providing battery backup solutions that are half the size of conventional solutions, thus saving cellular operators money rolling out 5G.
Initiated by the Municipality of Shenzhen, the competition is being hosted by local governments in Toronto, Silicon Valley, Sydney, Tokyo, Boston, Tel Aviv, London, Stockholm, and Berlin. On top of $2.09 million in prizes, the competition will offer a venture capital pool of $4 billion by 34 investment institutions for all the nine divisions, to help support the remaining projects.
Learn more about the competition here.
Image courtesy Sci Innovation Twitter

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Start-Ups for Schools aims to enrich education for local youth

Start-Ups for School is a volunteer outreach initiative founded by two Waterloo Region startups, EnPowered and Kiiah. The initiative is an opportunity for small startups to give back to their community through outreach projects designed to help children access enriching educational experiences.
“Many tech communities in the U.S. are facing backlash from their local communities,” says Tomas van Stee, founder of participating startup, EnPowered. “We want to do our part to assist Waterloo Region tech community in building on its reputation of giving back to the local community. Creating this collective not only establishes a cohesive effort, but enables start-ups of all sizes to participate.”
The group will develop projects that will benefit the region’s children, schools, or other community organizations. Projects could include: fundraising, mentorships, educational workshops, tutoring, and more. Executed projects will be ones that the collective organization plans and selects.
The organization is gearing up for its first fundraiser with The Family and Children’s Services Foundation. Its goal is to raise CDN$5,000 for the Resilience Project, which endeavours to help children build confidence, self-esteem, and self-efficacy, factors which instill resilience. Children who develop resilience resist the effects of hardships and are able to bounce back, leading to better outcomes for

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Transport Canada taps ESCRYPT to ensure safety of connected vehicles

The Government of Canada welcomes innovation that will help to create Canada’s transportation system of tomorrow. That is why Transport Canada’s program to Advance Connectivity and Automation in the Transportation System (ACATS) is helping Canadian jurisdictions prepare for connected and automated vehicles.
In support of the program’s objectives, the Hon. Bardish Chagger, Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, on behalf of the Hon. Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, announced Thursday the award of a contract valued at up to $1.3 million to Waterloo-based ESCRYPT to advance the development of a Canadian Security Credential Management System (SCMS) for connected vehicles.
Connected vehicles will improve the safety and efficiency of road transportation by enabling vehicles to communicate with smart infrastructure (e.g. traffic signals, rail crossings, traffic signs etc.) and other road users (e.g. pedestrians, motorcyclists and cyclists). Potential applications include:

Traffic signal priority for emergency response vehicles, like ambulances, police and fire trucks
Real-time road condition advisories to warn drivers about potential hazards, like slippery surfaces, accidents or construction
Warnings to advise commercial truck drivers about bicyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists

The SCMS will help ensure that connected vehicle communications are secure and can be trusted. The SCMS incorporates privacy-by-design principles, and enables communication without revealing

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St. John’s-based Genesis announces $775,000 micro fund for early-stage companies

The Genesis Centre has announced the launch of its $775,000 Genesis Micro Fund, to provide grants of up to $20,000 to approximately 38 companies based in Newfoundland and Labrador.
“Genesis is tuned in to the needs of the startup community and provides a supportive, mentor-driven environment.”
The fund received contributions of $300,000 from the federal government and $125,000 from the provincial department of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation. The Genesis Centre’s funds will be released in increments based on milestones that the parties agree on. The companies set to receive funding are all members of Genesis’ Enterprise incubator, which supports early-stage companies.
“Genesis is a driver of innovation and an essential partner in our province’s economic future,” said Christopher Mitchelmore, minister of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation for Newfoundland and Labrador. “We know the importance of building and strengthening Newfoundland and Labrador’s emerging tech sector. Our government is pleased to support this new micro fund launched by Genesis, to improve access to capital and to help fill the gap in those critical early stages of development.”
St. John’s-based Genesis is Memorial University’s support network for tech-based businesses. It provides incubator space and access to marketing, finance, and management mentorship to companies with high growth potential. Through the new three-year micro fund, Genesis Centre’s clients will be able to access capital for early-stage business development in order to assist in areas ranging from technical development to financial management.
Related: Newfoundland and Labrador replaces Research & Development Corporation with InnovateNL
The federal government is providing a non-repayable contribution of $300,000 towards the initiative, and the provincial department of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation is contributing an additional $125,000. Support for this project is part of the federal government’s Atlantic Growth Strategy, which was first announced in 2017.
“Genesis is tuned in to the needs of the startup community and provides a supportive, mentor-driven environment where companies can thrive,” said Navdeep Bains, minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. “The Government of Canada is pleased to support Genesis’ new micro fund, which fills a gap for tech companies in the crucial early stages of business development. It will provide access to much-needed help for new businesses to accelerate their innovative ideas, develop entrepreneurial skills and advance their businesses.”
The Genesis Centre is an innovation hub for technology startups that accelerates startups through all stages of idea development, from pre-incubation and business model development, to investment phases. The hub connects portfolio companies with top mentors and advisors to help entrepreneurs commercialize ideas and build successful companies in the province.
“This fund will be a vital resource to our companies in the Enterprise incubator program, and a means to empower local entrepreneurs,” said Michelle Simms, president and CEO of Genesis. “It will lower the barriers to launching a successful technology business and enable accelerated growth.”
Image courtesy Genesis Centre.

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Emissions Reduction Alberta announces $100 million for cleantech projects

The Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) has announced 16 projects that will receive $100 million CAD in funding through its BEST Challenge, a funding opportunity for biotechnology, electricity, and sustainable transportation.
The funded projects, worth a combined value of $600 million range from new solar opportunities in coal-impacted communities, to electrification of bus fleets, to energy storage, and bold new uses for hydrogen.
“Clean technology investments lead to made-in-Alberta solutions.”
 
The initiatives are expected to contribute to cumulative greenhouse gas reductions of 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalents by 2030, equivalent to the emissions from 530,786 passenger vehicles driven for one year. These projects are also anticipated to reduce operating costs, the cost of energy, and create new economic opportunities.
“Innovation is a key part of Alberta’s economic and environmental success, and our industries continue to show tremendous leadership on this front,” said Shannon Phillips, the minister of Environment and Parks, as well as the Climate Change Office. “Clean technology investments lead to made-in-Alberta solutions that support jobs, protect our environment, and point Alberta toward a healthy, prosperous future.”
These projects aim to create new economic opportunities across electricity, transportation, and biological industries, and scale innovative technologies that can be adopted in communities across Alberta.
Related: Alberta government announces $70 million cleantech challenge
One of the projects to receive funding is eCAMION, a Toronto-based turn-key solution provider for the community energy storage industry. The company’s project will attempt to shift Alberta’s diesel-fueled transit buses to electric. eCAMION’s charging system is expected to reduce the impact of e-buses on the electrical grid and lower installation and operating costs, which would facilitate the faster adoption of electric buses across the province. A trial of this technology will take place in partnership with the City of Edmonton.
The ERA receives grants from the Alberta government from the Climate Change and Emissions Management Fund. To date, ERA has committed more than $572 million in funding to 164 projects with a total value of approximately $4.3 billion. These projects are estimated to deliver cumulative greenhouse gas reductions of 43 million tons by 2030.
In other Alberta cleantech news, Amarjeet Sohi, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, has announced federal investment of $72.3 million to Alberta-based Canadian Natural Resources Limited and Titanium Corporation Inc., to fund three cleantech projects in Alberta’s oil and gas sector.
Related: Government announces $13 million investment in Calgary-based cleantech companies
Canadian Natural will receive $5 million through the Clean Growth Program (CGP) to further develop an in-pit extraction process that separates oil sands ore into solids, bitumen, and water at its Horizon Oil Sands mine site. The project’s goal is to reduce the number of diesel trucks and the amount of power needed. Titanium Corporation will receive a total of $45 million through the CGP and Low Carbon Economy Fund for a technology designed to remediate oil sands tailings at the Horizon Oil Sands site. An additional $10 million has been committed by ERA to further support this project.
“These projects provide Alberta’s oil and gas sector with solutions that will help reduce pollution, drive clean innovation and create good jobs,” said Sohi. “Accelerating clean technology development is a key component of our government’s approach to promoting sustainable economic growth as Canada moves toward a low-carbon economy.

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How Stores Like Levi’s Times Square Engage Customers With Co-Creation Studios

These three leading retailers are raising the bar in experiential retail by offering shoppers a selection of create-your-own products and services

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Kelowna tech company receives $595,000 to develop sailing safety app

The Government of Canada is making an investment of $595,000 in LRC Consulting Solutions, a technology company from Kelowna, BC, to develop a sailing plan mobile app. The company aims to provide boaters with a dedicated mobile app to support boating safety.
LRC Consulting Solutions will use the funding to develop an app and dashboard application looking to speed up and simplify the process of creating and submitting a sailing plan. The company said sailing plan data will be more accessible and actionable by marine search and rescue operators, which would increase the efficiency of first responders.
“This app will immediately increase the likelihood of saving lives on Canadian waters by improving the efficiency, accuracy, and ease of completing sail plans for Canadian boaters.”
“We have been working closely with Canadian boaters and marine safety professionals to develop a new Sailing Plan mobile app, providing an intuitive, usable and robust sailing plan reporting solution,” said Nelson Jatel, CEO of LRC Consulting Solutions. “Sailing plans are an important part of the marine safety toolkit, and this innovative project supported by Public Safety Canada SAR NIF funding will make the completion and submission of sailing plans easier and faster for boat captains and in turn make the large quantity of data more accessible and actionable by search and rescue staff.”
The mobile app will be ready for beta testing in April, with developers anticipating the app’s rollout in 2020. It will be designed to operate for both inland and coastal waters. Boaters will create a profile on the app, which will include data about the vessel and how many people and animals are on board. The boat’s departure, destination locations, and the route will be then be sent to three people of the boater’s choice.
Related: Accelerate Okanagan receives $473,000 from Canadian government
Jatel said although the app does not track boats, if a boater does not arrive at his or her destination at the planned time, the app will notify the three contacts and coastguard. First responders will wait one hour before initiating a search, but in the meantime, they will make calls to track down the boater.
In recent years, Kelowna’s tech industry has experienced significant growth, earning $1.3 billion in 2016 alone, according to a 2017 economic impact report by Accelerate Okanagan. The report found that in the technology software and services sector, software and app development is the highest reported business activity, sitting at 27 percent as of 2016; more than double the activity reported for the data processing management and IT consulting sector.
The funding for LRC Consulting Solutions’ mobile app was made available through the Search and Rescue New Initiatives Fund (SAR NIF). The SAR NIF aims to fund projects that deliver on the objectives of the National Search and Rescue Program. The federal government contributes $7.6 million annually to support both new and ongoing projects under SAR NIF.
“This app will immediately increase the likelihood of saving lives on Canadian waters by improving the efficiency, accuracy, and ease of completing sail plans for Canadian boaters,” said Stephen Fuhr, member of parliament for Kelowna–Lake Country. “The Government of Canada is proud to support innovative initiatives like this one that makes boating safer and results in more effective and coordinated marine search and rescue capacity.”
Image courtesy Pixabay.

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