Feds put $9.2M toward commercializing Atlantic Canadian research ideas

The funds will go to Springboard Atlantic, an organization owned by 19 academic institutions in Atlantic Canada.

Funding comes from ACOA, aims to connect researchers and entrepreneurs

Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains made the funding announcement at Saint Mary's University in Halifax. (Shaina Luck)

The federal government is putting $9.2 million toward turning Atlantic Canadian research ideas into marketable products. 

Federal Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains and Treasury Board President Scott Brison made the announcement Thursday at Saint Mary's University.

The funds will go to Springboard Atlantic, an organization owned by 19 academic institutions in Atlantic Canada. The funds will be used to hire 30 people. They will work to connect entrepreneurs and researchers, helping them turn their ideas into marketable products and money. 

Animator Ryan Cameron of Halifax's Copernicus Studios has already explored that kind of partnership. His studio is used to working in traditional mediums like television and film. For its newest venture, Cameron partnered with Aaron Newman, a Dalhousie University professor in the department of psychology and neuroscience.

Ryan Cameron and Aaron Newman (right) show off their virtual reality game for children's literacy. (CBC)

Together, Cameron and Newman developed a virtual reality game for children's literacy. 

"It's one of the first in the world to use speech recognition as part of the interactive component," Cameron said. 

"So a user, probably a child, would go into this virtual reality world called the Treehouse. They would interact with a little, high-quality character. They'd be able to talk to them, and the character changes their reaction based on what the user says."

Commercialization is next step

Newman said his lab has years worth of research into ways children learn. For example, speaking a word out loud can help a child remember the word in its written form. That's one reason speech is an important part of the game. 

But Newman said not all educational games are developed with that research in mind. 

"Parents are downloading these apps, that claim to be educational apps, but largely they're not based on scientific research or educational principles. They're just entertaining, and they're based on maybe somebody's intuition of what might be educational."

Right now, Cameron and Newman's work remains a demo version. Their next step is commercialization, and they hope Springboard's funding can help them out. 

"There's a lot of risk involved," said Cameron. "Initiatives like Springboard and [the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency] can really help us mitigate that risk." 

The funding is being made available immediately, and will last for the next three years.

About the Author

Shaina Luck


Shaina Luck covers everything from court to city council. Her favourite stories are about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Email: shaina.luck@cbc.ca